COP26 is over and where does it leave us. We can pretend that global leaders accomplished a path forward that will address green house gas emissions and set us on the path to a climate resilient future, or we can get honest with ourselves and start thinking about what it is actually going to take to achieve a liveable future.
COP26 has not, and was never meant to accomplish what is needed to transition us as quickly as we need to from our dependence on fossil fuels and our trajectory towards catastrophic climate impacts. Relying on national governments to solve the climate crises is unrealistic. The plans they are promoting such as ‘net zero by 2050’ present simple and appealing targets, precisely because they promote the idea that we can slow or stop global warming with gradual changes that allow for a version of ‘business as usual.”
Net zero is the point at which our global carbon emissions are balanced by the removal of carbon out of the atmosphere, and it is, in theory, where the warming stops at 1.5 degrees Celsius (for more on net zero and other related terms see: https://netzeroclimate.org/what-is-net-zero/). To achieve this target requires radically cutting our emissions while also rapidly increasing our ability to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere. This in turn requires rapidly shifting from our global reliance on fossil fuels, while also rapidly increasing our ability to capture and store carbon through technologies we either do not yet have, or have at small scales with no proof that we can scale them up to the vast level we would need in order meet such a target. Net zero goal is about changing, without really changing too much – it is a form magical thinking and a continuation of the deferral of the costs of our choices and actions today, to tomorrow – a “burn now, pay later” approach that got us to this point in our collective history…which may be why it is supported by fossil fuel companies like Shell (for more discussion of this see the Conversation
And let’s remember, 1.5 degrees Celsius still represents an enormous change in our global environment with enormous consequences for humanity and all the species with whom we share this planet. At 1.1 degrees of change, our current level, we are we are already experiencing radical shifts in weather patterns, increases in wildfires, extreme weather, extended droughts that are wiping out crops and generating increasing food insecurity for millions of people. Sea level rise (record high of 3.6 inches above 1993 levels; for more see Union of Concerned Scientists) is already contributing to deadly and destructive storm surges, and threatening livelihoods and economies, critical infrastructure, and land. Wildfires have erupted across the globe causing deaths, great suffering and enormous economic losses, and releasing even more carbon into the atmosphere. 1.5 degrees warming is not the happy rainbow future but, rather, the point at which scientists predict that climate impacts go from devastating to catastrophic. And most scientist and climate activists agree, that our current policies and actions have us not on track not for 1.5 degree Celsius global warming, not even 2 degrees Celsius, but somewhere between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius global warming by the end of the century. (for more see: this Global Citizen Blog; Climate Reality Project)
So let’s get honest. We need to do more. We need our governments to do more. And we need to stop pretending that this crises will be resolved without real leadership, real change, and honesty.
If you want a hit of that honesty, enjoy satire, and you aren’t offended by foul language check out Juice Media’s Honest Government Ad on Net Zero by 2050.