World has nine years to avert catastrophic global warming, study shows - The Washington Post

The Global Carbon Budget, an annual assessment of how much the world can afford to emit to stay within its warming targets, found that greenhouse gas pollution will hit a record high this year, with much of the growth coming from a 1 percent increase in carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. Emissions in both the United States and India have increased compared to last year, while China and the European Union will probably report small declines, according to the report.

To have a chance of keeping global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius, humanity can release no more than 380 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent over the coming decades — an amount equal to about nine years of current emissions, the report says. To meet reduced emissions goals, the world will need to curb emissions by about 1.4 billion tons per year, comparable to how much emissions shrank in 2020, during pandemic stay-at-home orders.

Yet even as scientists warn of the world’s dangerous trajectory, leaders here at the U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP27, have advocated for natural gas as a “transition fuel” that would ease the world’s switch from fossil energy to renewables. At least four new gas projects have been reported or announced in the past 10 days, with several African countries pledging to expand export capacity and supply more fuel to Europe. Representatives from both Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, the host of next year’s climate conference, have made clear they view COP27 as an opportunity to promote gas.

But if fossil fuel use does not dramatically decline, “in a few years we will no longer be able to say it’s possible,” Pongraz said. “And then we would need to look back and say we could have done it and we didn’t. How do we explain that to our kids?”

Yet activists say they are also encouraged by other countries’ growing willingness to embrace a phaseout of fossil fuels. The Pacific island nation of Tuvalu this week joined Vanuatu in calling for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. Kenyan President William Ruto declared that his country would not develop its hydrocarbon deposits but instead invest only in clean energy. Norway’s state owned energy company on Thursday put a hold on plans to develop a new Arctic oil field.

The planned expansion goes beyond what is needed to replace interrupted Russian fuel supplies, the study said. And it runs counter to findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency that there can be no new gas, oil and coal development if humanity wants to prevent dangerous warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Meanwhile, an analysis of conference attendees by the advocacy group Global Witness found a sharp rise in representatives of the fossil fuel industry since last year’s COP. Some 200 people connected to oil, gas and coal are included in country delegations, the group said on Thursday, and another 236 are here with trade groups and other nongovernmental organizations.

“I’m really worried,” said Lorraine Chiponda, an environmental justice activist from Zimbabwe who co-facilitates a coalition of advocacy groups called Don’t Gas Africa. “This is supposed to be a space to discuss climate solutions, but instead it’s being used to drive fossil fuels.”

African nations are among the most vulnerable to climate change, and can’t afford to build out new fossil fuel infrastructure that will continue to heat the planet, she said. Local communities have also suffered as gas projects displace residents and generate air pollution.

Catherine Abreu, director of the nonprofit Destination Zero, which calls for an end to fossil fuel use, said the push for gas was intertwined with the other issue dominating discussions in Sharm el-Sheikh: developing countries’ demand for more financial support from wealthier nations as they cope with the consequences of climate change.

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