The UN climate change talks at Cancun, Mexico, are now over. On the plus side they weren’t the fiasco that Copenhagen was, and they have restored some confidence in the negotiating process. There is agreement on the need to cut emissions, and on side issues such as a fund to support vulnerable nations. On the minus, targets for reductions are still voluntary and still too low. We’re still on a catastrophic collision course with the laws of physics.
Here’s the Guardian’s summary:
Deal is reached at Cancún summit
All major economies agree to cut emissions and establish a fund to help nations most vulnerable to climate change
The UN climate change talks produced a modest deal today that for the first time commits all the major economies to reducing emissions, but not enough to meet their promise of keeping the global temperature rise to 2C.
The agreement, which took four years to negotiate, should help to prevent deforestation, promote the transfer of low-carbon technologies to developing countries and, by 2020, establish a green fund, potentially worth $100bn (£63bn) a year, to shield the more vulnerable countries from climate change.
However, governments failed to reach agreement on how far overall global emissions should be cut, and there are many loopholes for countries to avoid making the deep reductions that scientists say are needed.
Researchers from the Climate Action Tracker said the pledges would set the world on course for 3.2C warming – a catastrophe for many of the poorest countries. …
Friends of the Earth International called the agreement a slap in the face, and warned that it could still lead to a temperature rise of 5C. “In the end, all of us will be affected by the lack of ambition and political will of a small group of countries. The US, with Russia and Japan, are to blame for the lack of desperately needed greater ambition,” said Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth’s international director.
Remember that these projections of warming are if all countries actually meet their voluntary targets. Like that’s going to happen. More likely we are still to hit 6 degrees or more. Just a reminder of what that will be like:
Such a rise which would be much higher nearer the poles would have cataclysmic and irreversible consequences for the Earth, making large parts of the planet uninhabitable and threatening the basis of human civilisation. …
[science writer Mark Lynas] said: “It would cause a mass extinction of almost all life and probably reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles.”
Very few species could adapt in time to the abruptness of the transition, he suggested. “With the tropics too hot to grow crops, and the sub-tropics too dry, billions of people would find themselves in areas of the planet which are essentially uninhabitable. This would probably even include southern Europe, as the Sahara desert crosses the Mediterranean. “As the ice-caps melt, hundreds of millions will also be forced to move inland due to rapidly-rising seas. As world food supplies crash, the higher mid-latitude and sub-polar regions would become fiercely-contested refuges.
Copenhagen wasn’t enough. Cancun wasn’t enough. We’re never going to agree to do enough. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.