Ever get that sinking feeling?
That could literally be the case given data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicating the rate of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions hit a new record last year, raising the risk of dangerous increases in the earth’s temperature.
At the current rate of emissions, the IEA warned that global temperatures could increase by 6 degrees Celsius by 2050, with devastating consequences for the planet.
Adding to the gloom, German climate research consultancy Climate Analytics said the planet could warm by more than 3.5 degrees Celsius, far exceeding the UN’s target of keeping the temperature rise below 2 degrees beyond which could have devastating and unpredictable consequences.
Which such emissions levels the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that sea levels could rise between 26 and 59cm (10-23 inches) in the 21st century. This would pose a grave threat to the nearly one quarter of the worlds population that lives near coastal zones.
Coastal flooding and storm damage, eroding shorelines, salt water contamination of fresh water, flooding of coastal wetlands and barrier islands, and an increase in the salinity of estuaries are realities to be expected from even a moderate rise in sea levels.
Despite the dire warnings from these usually sober bodies, the world’s politicians continue to dither, preferring to point fingers of blame at each other rather than adopt solutions to the problem.
Less then six months after the world agreed in Durban to craft a new climate pact by 2015, bitter divisions have opened up between developed and developing nations during climate talks in Bonn this week.
At a meeting of the so-called UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, developing countries have agreed to contribute to raising ambition, but developed countries were seen sitting on the fence and failing to commit to sufficiently ambitious mitigation targets.
And yet, the IEA report indicated that global CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel combustion reached a record 31.6 billion tonnes in 2011. To stand any chance of limiting global temperature increase to 2 degrees, the IEA added that emissions must be capped at 32.6 billion tonnes by 2017.
“It is high time that politicians stop bickering and make decisions that reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, allocate money to fill up the empty Global Climate Fund and secure a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol,” said Tove Maria Ryding, Coordinator for Climate Policy, Greenpeace International in Bonn.
Only then will we have any hope of staying afloat.