Damning new UN climate report released

A new UN “global stocktake” report came out on Friday ahead of the upcoming COP28 conference. And, well, it’s not a lot of good news.

Damning new UN climate report released
People play with an inflatable representation of the planet Earth, as climate activists block the A12 highway in The Hague, Netherlands, September 9, 2023. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

The backstory: To keep climate change from making Earth basically unlivable, most experts agree that the world needs to keep the rise in average global temperatures below 2 C from preindustrial levels, Actually, 1.5 C would be even better in terms of keeping the effects of climate change to a minimum.

As global temps rise past these benchmarks, the dangers from intense flooding, wildfires, drought, heat waves and species extinction could make life on Earth really difficult. For reference, we’ve already gotten that average temp up about 1.2 C. And the world is on track for about a 2.5 C warming increase. Not good.

More recently: In 2015, pretty much every country committed to the Paris Agreement, which called for the international community to start cutting greenhouse gas emissions. But, even back then, scientists agreed that these cutback goals weren’t going to be effective enough. Essentially, it was all too little too late. To keep global average temp increases below 1.5 C, the math just wasn’t adding up. And most countries haven’t even been keeping up with those commitments, anyway. There’s been some progress made since then, just not as much as we’d hoped for.

The development: A new UN Framework Convention on Climate Change “global stocktake” report came out on Friday in anticipation of the upcoming COP28 conference later this year. And, well, it’s not a lot of good news. According to the report, big changes need to be made, and soon, to blunt the dangerous effects of climate change.

A stocktake reviews the difference between where we’re supposed to be vs. where we are. When it comes to numbers, that means the world has to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030 and 60% by 2035. The report says that this would require a quick phase-out of fossil fuels. It also suggested moving away from using internal combustion engines. In the past, UN climate change reports have avoided including policy recommendations, but this report is meant to make countries act and with urgency. This one lays out exactly what kinds of commitments and policy changes need to be prioritized at COP28.

Key comments:

“The window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all is rapidly closing,” the new UN report says.

“If you’re rowing and you can turn your oar faster and faster, but if it’s not really going deep enough, you won’t get anywhere,” said David Waskow, the director of the World Resources Institute’s International Climate Initiative. “We need to think in pace and speed, of course, but we also need depth.”

"This report is a wake-up call to the injustice of the climate crisis and a pivotal opportunity to correct course," Ani Dasgupta, the president of the nonprofit World Resources Institute, said in a statement. "We already know the world is failing to meet its climate goals, but leaders now have a concrete blueprint underpinned by a mountain of evidence for how to get the job done."