We’re heading into the second and final week of talks at this year’s COP24, the United Nations’ climate summit that will determine exactly how we reach the goals of the Paris Agreement and curb global warming.
Back in October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a landmark report stating that the world is not doing enough to limit climate change and that we must keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-Industrial levels by 2100. To achieve this, greenhouse gas emissions must be slashed by 45 percent by 2030.
The target set out by the Paris Agreement was originally no more than 2°C (3.6°F) warming, but the IPCC report deemed this too lax, citing the many problems that would accompany this temperature rise – from the death of 99 percent of the world’s coral reefs to a vast amount of human suffering thanks to climate-induced poverty.
So, unsurprisingly, the IPCC report came up at COP24, which is taking place in Katowice, Poland. It’s clear that the report is important and that it should seriously be taken into account as leaders discuss how best to tackle climate change – something that legendary natural historian David Attenborough described as “our greatest threat in thousands of years” while speaking at the summit last week.
However, a motion to “welcome” the report at COP24 has been blocked, all thanks to four nations – Russia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the US. Rejecting the motion, these countries said the report should just be “noted”, making it much easier for them to ignore its findings and avoid acting upon them.
Although nearly 200 other nations were in favor of endorsing the IPCC report, the lack of unanimous support is preventing COP24 from doing so. Australia has also been described as a “de-facto supporter” of the four countries as it was particularly silent during the heated debates.
“A number of delegates privately shared their frustration that countries like Australia stood on the sidelines while Trump’s, Putin’s and King Salman’s representatives laid waste to the fundamental climate science,” Richie Merzian of the Australia Institute told The Guardian.
The nations making things difficult are all major oil and gas producers, so they’re unwilling to back the IPCC report’s suggestion of phasing out fossil fuels by 2050. Australia and the US are also big players in the coal industry, and we’re all too aware of the Trump administration’s climate-change-denying stance.
"It's really an embarrassment for the world's leading scientific superpower to be in this position of having to disbelieve a report that was written by the world's scientific community including a large number of pre-eminent US scientists," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, CBS News reports.
Meanwhile, St Kitts and Nevis delegate Rueanna Haynes told The Guardian: “It’s very frustrating that we are not able to take into account the report’s findings: we are talking about the future of the world – it sounds like hyperbole when I say it, but that’s how serious it is.”
The COP24 talks end on Friday, December 14, so officials are running out of time to establish their climate-tackling rulebook, and the handful of nations attempting to ignore key scientific evidence are only slowing things down.
As Meyer noted, “the science won’t go away. The law of thermodynamics can’t be ignored.”