We’re Falling Short: Climate Report Grim

November 29, 2019

Popular Mechanics:

The United Nations released an exceptionally bleak report today, which warns that, at the current pace of greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures will rise by as much as 3.9 degrees Celsius (almost 7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. 

The report, published by the United Nations’ Environment Programme, aims to compare current rates of greenhouse gas emissions to the chief goals set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement: limiting an increase in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). 

In order to hit our target by 2100, greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 7.6 percent annually starting in 2020, according to the report. “Every year of delay beyond 2020 brings a need for faster cuts, which become increasingly expensive, unlikely and impractical,” the report’s authors state. “Delays will also quickly put the 1.5C goal out of reach.”

Inside Climate News:

To be on track for 2°C of warming, the report said, emissions in 2030 would need to be 25 percent lower than today.

To limit warming to 1.5°C, emissions would need to be slashed by 55 percent. Last year, global carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.7 percent.

“Every year that action is delayed, emissions reductions need to be steeper,” said Joeri Rogelj, climate change lecturer at Imperial College London and an author of the report. This is the 10th year in a row that the UN has released an emissions gap report. “It is really the accumulation of bad news every year.”

Confirmation that rising emissions are putting existing global goals further out of reach came on the eve of the COP 25 climate summit that begins in Madrid on Monday.

The meeting will be the first big climate gathering since President Donald Trump began the process of withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement. Brazil’s president has also questioned the deal’s relevance.

New data from the World Meteorological Organization published on Monday showed that global average concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose to 407.8 parts per million in 2018, up from 405.5 parts per million in 2017.

The increase is the result of man-made carbon dioxide emissions, primarily from burning fossil fuels. Another UN report last week showed that if the world’s top fossil fuel-producing nations follow through on their current plans, they will produce about 50 percent more oil, gas and coal by 2030 than would be compatible with the international goal of keeping global warming under 2°C, and two times more than would be allowable to stay under 1.5°C.

Greenhouse gas emissions have risen 1.5 percent each year on average over the past decade, despite a slight levelling off during 2014-16.

“There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, in greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere despite all the commitments under the Paris agreement,” said Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization.

“It is worth recalling that the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3 to 5 million years ago,” he added. “Back then, the temperature was 2 to 3°C warmer, and sea level was 10 to 20 meters higher than now.”

33 Responses to “We’re Falling Short: Climate Report Grim”

  1. Ron Benenati Says:

    Isn’t it just pure folly to think we can keep warming below 1.5C??
    At this point it sees like just another level of denial

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Look at the graph—read the text. The “prediction gap” over the next 20 years is so large that it’s a joke to even call it a prediction—-it’s more of a SWAG or PFTA (Somebody’s Wild-Ass Guess or Plucked From Thin Air). AND—-it gets worse every time a new study comes out. AND the web thickens as more and more studies come out about different facets of the problem and tend to reinforce the bad news, just as they will all interact and amplify the catastrophe when it occurs

      It is beyond “folly” to think at this point that we can keep the warming below 1.5 or 2 degrees, perhaps even 3+. It IS a form of denial of course, but of a kind that refuses to look very far into the future for ANY reason and to rely on bright-sidedness and wishful thinking rather than scientific fact. Humans living in their little “tribes” are simply NOT able to deal with such a global problem.

    • redskylite Says:

      “Isn’t it just pure folly to think we can keep warming below 1.5C??”

      It is if populations are going to continue to vote for conniving, don’t give a damn about climate change, leaders like Donald Trump, Scott Morrison and possible Boris Johnson.

      Still populations have a choice to vote for leaders who do give a damn and do something very positive about it.

      Yes you can lay back and be morose and fatalistic, infectiously killing any spirit that innocent youngsters have, or you can think that human nature is not that repulsive, repulsive enough to kill any hope of a decent future.

      • jimbills Says:

        Sorry, redsky. I give less than a handful of thumbs down on this site a year, but this is one.

        The problem of a failure to act is compounded by the more than blind optimism that just voting for the right people is going to solve it. It’s much, much deeper than that.

        We need to do the crazy sheet that J4 goes on and on and on about for us to avoid 1.5 or 2 degrees C, and we can’t wait a day to start it, for there to be any realistic hope at avoiding those outcomes. And, just as correctly as DOG indicates, we ain’t a gonna do that. It’s crazy to think we will, and it’s crazy to think we can avoid less than 2 degrees warming without it.

        No politician will ever question economic growth and be elected. All of the U.S. candidates have plans that are certainly better than Trump’s, but nowhere near what’s needed for “greenhouse gas emissions [to] fall by 7.6 percent annually starting in 2020”.

        And this has nothing to do with being morose or fatalistic or killing the dreams of little children. It’s just math. Look at the numbers for where we are today and what it will take to avoid that level of warming. It’s just fact. And it is denial to pretend otherwise.

        • redskylite Says:

          Of course it is going to take more than that, understood no need to say it in verbose style, but it will take that as a minimum starter. And the spirit we fought World Wars. But not just repeating how hard it will be. We know that.

          • redskylite Says:

            There are a handful of people I really trust on the subject of Climate Change, Richard Alley is probably #1 – as a paleoclimatologist he can envisage what has gone before and the extraordinary timescales nature works on.

            If he says it is folly to to think we can keep warming below 1.5C, then it’s folly. Meanwhile it’s speculation.

            Why is Alley’s threat assessment greater than the people who are preparing reports for IPCC? Bureaucracy, mostly. They are written in collaboration with a large group of scientists and are often watered down by endless debate and consensus-building. In total there are 18 lead authors and 69 contributing authors on the chapter that considers sea-level rise. Also, by the time the final reports are written, the underlying data is often not the most current available.


          • jimbills Says:

            Richard Alley:
            “There’s momentum in the energy system, there’s momentum in the climate, we really are committed to that second degree fairly clearly already.”

          • redskylite Says:

            Why does that 1.5 degree marker matter?

            The report said a 1.5 degree global temperature rise is the point where major things start to happen — sea level rise, extreme heat and major changes in precipitation can cause ecosystem collapse and could force some species into extinction. Some of those changes could be irreversible.

            But Liverman and many other scientists caution against drawing “end-of-the-world” conclusions about 1.5 degrees of warming — or even 2 degrees of warming. Both are scenarios we should be contemplating as real possibilities at this point, they said.

            “I’ve had a lot of people ask me, including the media, whether the 2030 date is the apocalypse. And I’ve said, ‘No, that is not what we said,’” Liverman said. “The differences between 1.5 and 2, they’re serious, but they’re not apocalyptic.”

            Penn State University scientist Richard Alley agreed.

            “We in the IPCC have bent over backwards not to tell anyone what to do and never to say it’s too late,” he said.

            Alley and Mike Hulme of the University of Cambridge have both served on the UN’s climate change panel in the past and also participated in the Gustavus conference.

            Hulme said the “artificial deadlines” that are often repeated aren’t very helpful.

            “Because it’s never too late to do the right thing. There’s no end point, you know. This is a constant dimension of the human experience and life,” he said. “Whatever happens to the climate, we will still be thinking about what it is to be a virtuous human being, even if the world is four degrees warmer.”


          • jimbills Says:

            Most of that is moving the goal posts to say that 2 degrees is at least better than 3 degrees.

            Here is a study edited by Mike Hulme, who is mentioned in your comment:

            On the political feasibility of climate change mitigation pathways: Is it too late to keep warming below 1.5°C?


            Quote from the abstract:
            “The evidence on the political feasibility of required climate actions is not systematic, but clearly indicates that the costs of required actions are too high in relation to capacities to bear these costs in relevant contexts. In the future, costs may decline and capacities may increase which would reduce political constraints for at least some solutions. However, this is unlikely to happen in time to avoid a temperature overshoot.”

          • jimbills Says:

            The other scientist mentioned there is Diana Liverman, Regents Professor of Geography and Development. I just read her testimony to Congress in April of this year, which is very relevant to the topic of this post. Search “diana liverman written testimony” for the PDF of 4/30/19.

            She doesn’t talk about the likelihood of political action – it’s not her purview.

            But in the article you linked, she says the difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 is not “apocalyptic”. Here’s what she says in her testimony to Congress:

            “The Arctic would be ice free in summer once per century at 1.5°C compared to once per decade at 2°C.”

            “The IPCC cites studies suggesting that the loss of habitat for many insects, plants, and animals doubles from 1.5°C to 2°C.”

            “At 1.5°C we lose about 70% of corals, at 2°C they disappear.”

            “Water stress is higher by up to 50% in many regions at 2°C.”

            She does argue that limiting warming at 1.5 degrees is possible, but here are some of the things she says need to happen for that: 47% less global emissions by 2030, 83% more nuclear power by 2030, and -5% less total energy demand by 2030.

            So, okay then.

        • redskylite Says:

          The solutions exist

          The study points out that it is possible to reach the 1.5 degree goal by 2030; the technology exists, and there is increased understanding of the additional benefits of climate action, in terms of health and the economy. Many governments, cities, businesses and investors are engaged in ambitious initiatives to lower emissions.

          Developing countries, which suffer disproportionately from climate change, can learn from successful efforts in developed countries, says UNEP, and they can even leapfrog them, adopting cleaner technologies at a faster rate.

          The UNEP chief said that despite the figures, it was possible to avert disaster: “Because of climate procrastination which we have essentially had during these (past) 10 years, we are looking at a 7.6 per cent reduction every year” in emissions. “Is that possible? Absolutely. Will it take political will? Yes. Will we need to have the private sector lean in? Yes. But the science tells us that we can do this.”


          • jimbills Says:

            Have you considered that that is just political BS? Inger Anderson, the person quoted there, is an economist and former World Bank VP. Her job at the UN is to get people motivated, and she thinks the reality of the situation isn’t going to do that.

            I believe strongly that BS in any form isn’t helpful, but I won’t go into that.

          • redskylite Says:

            Daisy Downer – You can believe what you like and judge what is bullshit or not, all I was saying is that as long as great countries like the U.S.A vote fossil fuel heads (like Donald Trump) as a leader, the fight to stop polluting our atmosphere becomes so very much harder. !.5 degrees was an aspiration from 2015, if we had really rallied it was totally doable – it is still theoretically possible, but exceedingly unlikely. Yet the spirit that the 1.5 target was set, should remain, and all encouragement to all the good people who are actively striving to reduce emissions.

          • jimbills Says:

            Debbie Downer – it was an SNL skit here in the States. The skit was basically Debbie is in a place where everyone should be having a good time, and all she talks about is negative factoids. The humor was in the social inappropriateness of it. But, in this case with climate change, the discussion is entirely appropriate. We shouldn’t be having a good time here – we should be staring at the horror of this situation unblinkingly, acknowledge it, and not pretend we are anywhere even close to solving it.

            And that’s what the UN spokesperson is pretending. She makes 1.5 degrees sound completely doable, when anyone looking at this rationally sees it is ridiculously not so. She might as well be lying. And the harm that comes from that is that in 2030, when we’ve blown the lid off emissions to that time, the UN will have lost some credibility on what can or can’t be done.

            We absolutely need to do everything we can. Electing the ‘right’ people is maybe step one in a hundred step process with a timer running like a bomb countdown in a James Bond film.

          • redskylite Says:

            Then I’m grateful to read this headline.

            Pelosi to lead group of Democratic lawmakers to UN climate change conference


        • J4Zonian Says:

          At 38:00 in your Alley video he says any economist will say taxing work reduces work. Actually this is a good indication of the utter idiocy of every economist’s model of human psychology, since taxing work increases work.

          In any case, Alley seems to be one of a number of well-known scientists so stuck in their conservatism that they’re still running under the delusion that a non-draconian carbon price can do the job. Can’t. It’s too late for economic, aka conservative-friendly, solutions. It will take the power and activism of strong progressive government, forced by massive uprisings by citizens, to fix what we can still fix here. And it will involve
          1. vastly reducing the income and wealth of the richest and
          2. adjusting our psychology to reality rather than pushing a boulder uphill trying to do the opposite.

  2. doldrom Says:

    Even basic measures such as a CO² dividend cannot be implemented. Governments are toying with all kinds of other measures, mainly very complicated, trying to spread the costs around. In general these are efforts to obscure real benefits and costs, and to exempt all kinds of favored industries (such as the fossil fuel industry which is still benefiting from 5× the level of subsidy as renewables or the airlines which generally pay 1/10 the amount for kerosine as consumers do for gasoline). Most absurd are measures to help EV’s by having consumers subsidize $80,000 (often second) cars by people who themselves cannot even afford an old clunker. All of it is guaranteed to get us into a political quagmire as people revolt against these sort of measures, and perhaps that is the intention.

    We need to drop all military spending and rededicate the entire budget to fighting for renewable energy, before the day strikes when we no longer have the means to ramp up new forms of energy (which it will, even if we first burn up all the CO² stored from the past few million years of life).

  3. Sir Charles Says:

    Climate emergency: world ‘may have crossed tipping points’

    Warning of ‘existential threat to civilisation’ as impacts lead to cascade of unstoppable event

  4. jimbills Says:

    On other source related to this topic:

    On the first page, click off all those countries rates at 2 degrees or higher – leaving just those nations at 1.5 or role models.

    Corresponding chart to the one from the UN:

    I notice the historical line doesn’t include the emissions rise to 53.5 GtCO2e in 2018. Last year was also a little over 37 GtCO2, which is higher than the UN chart’s red line above shows.

  5. Clearly it’s important to be realistic about where we are relative to where we need to be. The fact of a significant and growing gap is the point of the report.

    But it’s also relevant to ask: how does the question of whether the situation is dire, extremely dire, or catastrophic change what we DO?

    It would be unfortunate if the perception that avoiding catastrophic climate change is not possible would lead to disengagement. It seems that reducing the impact is still worthwhile, i.e. we should absolutely do what we can and should do more.

    When people declare we are doomed, I wonder sometimes whether they really know what they’re talking about. Doom in this context is your own mortality (a given), added to which is the greater loss of so much we hold dear, all at our own hand. Call me a fool if you will, but this gets me motivated.

    What do we do involves why we’re falling short. Prices of renewables are dropping but not fast enough, fossil fuels are cheap and abundant and their use is increasing, even in the U.S. We need policy to make faster progress, and it should be rigorously designed to get the maximum CO2 reduction at the lowest cost. A new tool by Climate Interactive called En-ROADS, for simulating impacts of particular policy or technology options, is now scheduled for release on Dec. 3rd. Here’s a discussion of the tool from Climate Interactive’s Drew Jones, for a meeting with Citizens’ Climate Lobby this July (his portion starts at ~ 2.5 minutes in:

  6. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    We’ve understood the inertia of social behavior for a long time, now.

    Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

  7. indy222 Says:

    Look at Schur, Mann et al 2017 on the actual temperature for “pre-industrial”, and it’s 0.20C lower than the old conventional (and poorly motivated) 1880-1910 average. Then look at the GISS GisTemp data and the red curve that is the Lowess smoothed temperature for the last year available – 2018. Then calibrate to the Schur, Mann et al baseline, and you’ll see we’re already at +1.43C now. So yeah; 1.5C is a pipe dream, BS as Jimbills would quite rightly say. With a +0.83 w/m2 latest determined radiative imbalance, the unavoidable inertia of the ocean system and the global energy system (still at about 85% FF ‘d, same as in the 1970’s), then we’ll sail far past 2C. 4C by 2100? If we’re lucky. The only way we could avoid that is to do an immediate cooling and halt the permafrost tipping point before it goes too far (Vaks et al 2013, at +1.5C), so that means GeoEngineering no matter the moral hazard or the dangers.

    Our actual reaction to what we don’t like, it to sweep fascists into the governments of the biggest countries on Earth; the US, Russia, Brazil, …
    Sounds a lot like the 1920’s/30’s.

    Techno-porn is not going to save us – not with our unshakable addiction to economic growth and plenty for all. We sailed past ecological footprint break-even in 1970, and are above 1.7 Earth’s worth of unsustainability right now. We got away with it because we have millions of years of accumulated Earth Natural Riches to exploit at an amazing pace, indulging our denial of what we’re doing. Millions of years of solar energy burned through in a geological instant, in deep denial it’s a poison scientists have known for over a century.

    Tech is essential of course, but I’ll only get hopeful if we FIRST change our very nature as a species addicted to “me-first and freak our children’s world if we haf-to.” Otherwise, it’s yeah…… just more Techno Porn to distract us and sooth our conscience hopefully until we die, long before the STHTF happens. I don’t see any hint of it in the general population or the way we make civilization decisions.

    Happy thanksgiving, everyone.

  8. redskylite Says:

    I feel extremely upset and angry, why ? if you remember back in 2015 it was the small island states who pushed for the 1.5 degree celsius target, obviously it was important for them to slow down the loss of their low island estate. Now four years later armchair responders are saying the target was a folly and bullshit. Well don’t simply say this in a blog,look those Islanders in the face and say it, and tell them U.N scientists and enablers are bullshit artists and cheated them with BULLSHIT -Donald Trump has been saying this – now you who show an interest in the mess are joining him agreeing with him and saying it.

    Find a group of decent CLIMATE scientists let them say this as a consensus. Let them say The 1.5 window is closed. Let them say it loud, confidently and clear. Is it really closed ?

    And if you cannot trust the U.N – who will you trust ?

    The 21st century seems to be the century that “Divide and rule” became the new paradigm.

    FLASH BACK – 2015-12-01 23:14:43 UTC

    Why COP21 matters: These islands will disappear if nothing changes

    No one at the U.N. Climate Summit in Paris has more on the line than these small island states, many of which stand to slip beneath the sea within the next several decades if global warming is not significantly and quickly curtailed. For this reason, no other countries spoke with as much passion on Monday than the leaders of these countries, from Tuvalu to the Bahamas.


    • jimbills Says:

      You’re in denial, redsky, and when your eyes are opened about this you will feel more than upset and angry.

      You said you trusted Alley. I sent a video showing him saying we’re going to pass the threshold. You sent another link with Mike Hulme. I linked a study edited by him showing the threshold is almost certainly going to be passed. The math on what needs to be done bumps squarely against what that actually entails to our economies. It doesn’t fit.

      The call from the scientists that prompted this post (and supported by the UN) is saying that we are way off the targets needed for 1.5. Only two countries in Africa are meeting their promises from the Paris agreement, and the Paris agreement as it was only gets us to 3+ degrees. There are multiple sources on this:

      In effect, we will come nowhere close to what we need to do by 2030 to avoid 1.5. (In my book, the only thing that can get us in the ballpark to that time is a massive recession or depression.)

      The UN is composed of politicians. Politicians bend the truth all the time. They aren’t going to come out and say we can’t meet 1.5 degrees until we actually pass it. Shame on them for that, but it is what it is.

      You don’t want to accept this – okay. A handful of commenters on this blog aren’t the problem, though. This is a systemic and global issue that has been building in intensity for over a century. It’s not going to stop on a dime, which is what we’re need for less than a 1.5 degree C warming.

    • jimbills Says:

      Also, the same three commenters on this post expressing less than optimistic views DID consider the Paris agreement less than satisfying at the time:

      The Paris agreement promised 1.5 without actually doing what was needed to meet 1.5.

  9. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Studies will continue providing information, of varying probity and timing. All useful data. For one, suffering reduced synapses and damn all attention span, like me, it is the equivalent of debating angel dancer numbers on a pinhead.

    What is sure?
    CC is happening and will get worse. Timing will still be under debate next century.

    We, the human race, is (are?) not doing enough.

    Are we, the undefined activists, having an effect? Hell yea! (Personally wishing to be more effective.)
    Positives are, CC is front and center all over the media. Countries, states and cities are officially calling climate emergencies. ( OK, that is a woopie until further notice.)
    Then there are the Kids. Sign of the week : “We are skipping school today to teach you a lesson”
    In short, fight is better than surrender, regardless of the result, Got something better to do?

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