The main aim of Cop27 was to reinforce the emissions-related pledges made at last year’s climate summit in Glasgow. These are required to ensure that global heating is limited to 1.5°C. No such commitments were made in Egypt, and most observers now conclude that the world is destined to go beyond that.
“I find it hard to understand how anyone could go on saying 1.5°C is still alive,” said James Dyck, of the University of Exeter’s Institute of Global Systems. “We are now entering a warmer and more dangerous world.”
This point has been supported by Professor Kevin Anderson at the University of Manchester’s Tyndall Centre. A year after the Glasgow 26 conference kicked off, another 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere. Another miserable facade of climate fears grinds to a ‘groundhog’ end.
loss and damage
As might be expected, the Cop27 was dominated by arguments about climate compensation due to poor countries. Global warming is caused by industrialized countries that have used fossil fuels to enrich themselves. The countries that suffer the most from climate change should therefore be compensated. These “loss and damage” claims include Pakistan’s recent $30 billion flood bill.
Hopes have been raised that a deal may be imminent, but the details of the agreement are shrouded in confusion. “The only bright spot on Cop27 was the renewed seriousness with regard to loss and damage, with hundreds of millions committed through various schemes,” said geographer Laurie Parsons of Royal Holloway University in London. “However, significant concerns remain. The total financing required for adaptation is at least $2.5 trillion by 2030, so we are still out of funding.”
Global warming threatens to destroy habitats around the world, putting thousands of species at risk of extinction. These species range from polar bears and tigers to monarch butterflies and sea turtles. However, the most dramatic threat is the one facing the planet’s coral reefs which provide habitats for thousands of species. A planetary warming of 1.5°C will see between 70 and 90% of coral reefs disappear. In 2C, 99% will be destroyed.
Such threats will be discussed extensively at Cop15, the United Nations biodiversity summit next month. However, the conference in Egypt was not mentioned despite the strong link between climate change and species loss. On the other hand, on a more positive note came the arrival of Lula da Silva, Brazil’s new president, who vowed to do everything he could to save his country’s rainforests – in contrast to the gloom of previous years about their fate.
No more gas or coal
Hopes were raised at Cop27 that significant reductions in humanity’s burning of coal, gas and oil, the main causes of climate change, could be made. This optimism stemmed from India’s call for phasing out fossil fuel burning – although not phasing out, it should be noted. But the proposal has not led to major follow-ups and the issue has yet to be resolved.
“Now it’s about damage limitation,” said Professor Richard Bates of the UK Met Office. “We all still need to do more to urgently reduce emissions to keep further planet heating as low as possible while also adapting to the changes we have already caused.”
Adapting to a warmer world
Reducing the heating of our planet by trying to reduce carbon emissions is only one way to tackle global warming. The world also needs to adapt so that it is less vulnerable to the floods, droughts, sea level rise and crop disasters that lie ahead as the planet warms. These modifications would come in the form of better flood defenses, sea walls, relocation of communities to higher ground, and protection of roads and railroads from storms and floods.
Some improvements to previous commitments at COP27 have been proposed, as reports suggest a doubling of funding for adaptation can be agreed upon. However, scientists warn once again that the levels of funding promised are still far below the investments that will be required in the near future.