The Climate Outlook Is Dire. So, What’s Next?

Now that the bad news has dropped, what is the world going to do?

A report issued Sunday by 91 scientists painted a stark portrait of how quickly the planet is heating up and how serious the consequences are. In response, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, warned world leaders, “Do what science demands before it is too late.”

The latest figures from the International Energy Agency don’t suggest that many are listening: Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector continued to grow through 2017, with a projected rise for 2018, according to the agency. 

The next two months will be crucial. In December, experts and officials from around the world will gather in Katowice, Poland, for a new round of international climate negotiations.

What about the Paris Agreement?

Every country agreed, nearly three years ago, to set its own targets to bring down its greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the good news.

The deal specifically aspired to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.7 degrees Fahrenheit) from preindustrial levels. And, it was worded in such a way that countries would, over time, have to get more ambitious in their emissions reductions.

That’s not going well. And it’s not just because the Trump administration announced its intention to pull out of that deal. The United States, history’s largest polluter, is nowhere close to meeting its emissions reductions targets.

Russia, one of the world’s largest emitters, has not yet ratified the Paris Agreement. Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions have grown recently, mainly because large swathes of forest were converted to farmland, and the leading contender in Brazil’s presidential election, Jair Bolsonaro, has suggested pulling his country out of the Paris deal, too. Australia also appears unlikely to meet its targets under its new prime minister, Scott Morrison, a champion of the country’s coal mining industry. 

With rich countries falling short, some developing countries are starting to balk. Where’s the fund you promised to help us cope, they want to know.

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