Climate 'Whisper' Now Will Soon Be a 'Roar'

So says lead author of new UN report on how we're closing in on blowing past global climate threshold
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 20, 2023 8:43 AM CST
UN Chief Warns of an 'Emissions Canyon'
The AES Petersburg Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant, is seen in Petersburg, Indiana, on Oct. 25.   (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

The globe is speeding toward 2.5 degrees Celsius to 2.9 degrees Celsius (4.5-5.2 degrees Fahrenheit) of global warming since preindustrial times, set to blow well past the agreed-upon international climate threshold, a United Nations report has calculated. To have an even-money shot at keeping warming to the 1.5-degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) limit adopted by the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries have to slash their emissions by 42% by the end of the decade, said the UN Environment Program's "Emissions Gap Report" issued Monday. Carbon emissions from the burning of coal, oil, and gas rose 1.2% last year, the report said, per the AP.

This year, Earth got a taste of what's to come, said the report, which sets the table for international climate talks later this month. Through the end of September, the daily global average temperature exceeded 1.5 degrees Celsius above mid-19th-century levels on 86 days this year, the report said. But that increased to 127 days because nearly all of the first two weeks of November and all of October reached or exceeded 1.5 degrees, according to the European climate service Copernicus. That's 40% of the days so far this year. On Friday, the globe hit 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels for the first time in recorded history, per Copernicus' Samantha Burgess.

"It's really an indication that we are already seeing a change, an acceleration," said the report's lead author, Anne Olhoff of Denmark's climate think tank Concito. "Based on what science tells us, this is just like a whisper. What will be in the future will be more like a roar." The 1.5-degree goal is based on a time period measured over many years, not days, scientists said. Earlier reports put Earth reaching that longer term limit in early 2029 without dramatic emission changes. To keep that from happening, the countries of the world have to come up with more stringent goals to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and implement policies to act on those goals, Olhoff said.

story continues below

In the past two years only nine countries have come up with new goals, so that hasn't moved the needle, but some countries, including the United States and those in Europe, have put policies in place that slightly improved the outlook, she said. The world in 2022 spewed 57.4 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, and to limit warming to the 1.5-degree mark, emissions in 2030 have to be down to 33 billion metric tons. That's an "emissions gap" of 24 billion metric tons. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said "the emissions gap is more like an emissions canyon—a canyon littered with broken promises, broken lives, and broken records." He reiterated his call for countries to phase out the use of fossil fuels in time to keep the 1.5-degree limit alive, saying "otherwise, we're simply inflating the lifeboats while breaking the oars." More here.

(More carbon emissions stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.