UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. climate chief says world leaders must recognize there is no option except to speed-up and scale-up action to tackle global warming, warning that continuing on the current path will lead to “a catastrophe.
Patricia Espinosa stressed in two recent interviews with the Associated Press that climate scientists are saying there’s still a chance to make things right “but the window of opportunity is closing very soon” and the world has 12 years until carbon emissions reach “a point of no return.”
That means the world needs to accelerate all efforts to keep from reaching that level, “and therefore all efforts are absolutely indispensable” to cut carbon emissions and keep temperatures from rising, she said.
Some top scientists say reaching the “tipping point” in 12 years is an oversimplification of a U.N. report last year.
Espinosa said carbon emissions were expected to rise in the immediate future after the landmark Paris agreement was adopted in 2015 to address climate change because the transformations needed to go to a downward trajectory “cannot be done overnight.” In addition, global population is growing and more people demand more energy and resources, she said.
“What has become clear, however, is that if we continue to grow or to behave in a way that this kind of trajectory is maintained we will not be able to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement,” said Espinosa, who is executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The Paris agreement called for global temperatures to rise a maximum of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times and as close as possible to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The world has already warmed 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, so the goal is really about preventing another 1.8 or 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit increase from now.
A report last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, concluded that while it’s technically possible to cap global warming 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, it is highly unlikely because this would require a dramatic overhaul of the global economy, including a shift away from fossil fuels. Deep in the report, scientists say less than 2 percent of 529 of their calculated possible future scenarios kept warming below the 2.7 degrees F goal.