It’s Time for COP26. Here’s Where We Stand.
With a pivotal United Nations climate summit in Glasgow set to begin this weekend, there’s been a barrage of new research looking at how much progress the world is actually making in the fight against climate change. And that data offers reason for both hope and alarm.
There’s some good news, as I explain with my colleague Nadja Popovich in this recent article: Over the past decade, the world’s nations have slowly started bending the curve of future emissions downward, thanks to the rapid rise of clean energy.
But the bad news is that those efforts still aren’t nearly enough to avoid a dangerous rise in global temperatures in the years ahead. And it will take a herculean effort by governments and businesses to shift course.
The numbers: In 2014, the world was on pace for about 4 degrees Celsius, or about 7 degrees Fahrenheit, of global warming, according to data from the Climate Action Tracker. Things are slowly improving: Current policies now put the world on track for a bit less than 3 degrees C, and some of the most ambitious promises by countries to zero out their emissions could keep us at around 2 degrees C.
The catch: That assumes nations will actually follow through on their lofty climate pledges, which is far from assured. And scientists increasingly say that even 2 degrees Celsius is too risky and that we should aim for a lower limit of 1.5 degrees. (The world has already warmed 1 degree since preindustrial times.)
Quotable: “The pathway is extremely narrow,” said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency. “We really don’t have much time left to shift course.”
Speaking of Glasgow, you can join us there
As world leaders meet at COP26, The Times will host the Climate Hub, a forum featuring Greta Thunberg, Al Gore and others. You can participate, either in person or online. Tickets are available here. (Climate Fwd: newsletter subscribers can use code CF-50 to save 50 percent on in-person events.)
Warming poses a widening security threat
The Biden administration issued several reports last week about climate change and national security, laying out in stark terms the ways in which our warming planet is beginning to significantly challenge stability worldwide. The reports signal a new stage in United States policy, one that places climate change at the center of the country’s security planning.
Among the key points:
From bad to worse in the Middle East and North Africa: Countries like Iraq and Algeria could be hit by lost revenue from fossil fuels, even as their region faces worsening heat and drought.
More trouble close to home: Intelligence agencies identified 11 countries as being particularly exposed to the effects of climate change — including four countries near the United States, among them Guatemala and Haiti.
You can read the full article here.
Related: Climate change poses an ‘emerging threat’ to the global financial system.
Looking ahead: Oil executives to testify on disinformation
The heads of Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron and BP will be on Capitol Hill on Thursday, where they’ll face questions about industry efforts to hinder action on climate change.
La Niña will probably prolong the Western drought
It’s déjà vu all over again in the equatorial Pacific Ocean: With sea-surface temperatures there falling below normal, the climate pattern known as La Niña has developed for the second year in a row.
Like its opposite, El Niño, La Niña causes changes to the jet stream, shifting the location of these high-altitude winds. That can affect weather in parts of the world. In the United States, La Niña usually means warmer and drier conditions across the South.
Warmer and drier — sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Much of the West and Southwest has been warmer and drier for months, even years, gripped by a severe drought. Even the extreme rains that hit California this week barely improved the situation in the state.
Given the development of La Niña, forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration late last week issued their outlook for the winter, and, not surprisingly, they expect the drought to continue and even spread into some areas in the Southern Plains. But they took pains to point out that La Niña sometimes surprises by not producing the expected effects.
On the bright side: La Niña also usually brings wetter conditions to the Pacific Northwest. If that holds true, NOAA forecasters said, the drought in that region should improve, and in some coastal areas end entirely.
Also important this week:
After losing the centerpiece of his climate agenda, President Biden has come up with a Plan B: tax credits, regulation and state action.
Global warming poses grave dangers around the world, but for one tiny Russian town on the Arctic Ocean, it’s become a ticket to prosperity.
As the risks of climate change rise, investors are seeking greener buildings.
Coal mining stocks are generating astonishing returns, even as the planet warms.
Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a climate scientist who pioneered ways to help the public see the influence of climate change in extreme weather disasters, has died at 59.
Diane Weyermann, an executive who championed “An Inconvenient Truth,” has died at 66.
In Australia, it’s ‘long live king coal’
With just a few days to go before a crucial United Nations climate conference, Australia this week promised to reach net zero emissions by 2050. But the plan, built mostly on hope and emerging technologies, largely disappointed analysts.
“This is an update on the marketing materials used by the federal government to claim it’s doing something when it’s really doing nothing new,” said Richie Merzian, the climate and energy director at the Australian Institute, a research organization. “It’s kind of ridiculous.”
The announcement did not include any toughening of emissions targets for 2030 — something that scientists have said will be needed from world leaders at the climate summit, which opens this weekend in Glasgow.
Australia’s defiant inaction is already affecting the country’s image. As I wrote in a news analysis, at a time when coal is being treated more like tobacco, as a danger wherever it’s burned, Australia increasingly looks like the guy at the end of the bar selling cheap cigarettes and promising to bring more tomorrow.
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