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What's Needed Over Next Decade Is 'Unprecedented'

UN Environment Program releases annual Emissions Gap Report
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 26, 2019 12:30 PM CST

(Newser) – It's called the Emissions Gap Report. NPR reports that "Chasm" might be a more appropriate word. It's the annual assessment put out by the UN Environment Program, and it was issued Tuesday to gloomy headlines. That's because "the summary findings are bleak," the report states. It explains that the emissions gap is "the difference between 'where we are likely to be and where we need to be,'" and what the report found is that "deeper and faster cuts are now required." Highlights:

  • The numbers I: In the last 10 years, greenhouse gas emissions have grown by 1.5% annually. To keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (the goal set by the 2015 Paris Agreement), we'll need to instead cut emissions 7.6% a year for the next decade.
  • Put another way: "What we are looking at is really that emissions need to go down by 55% by 2030," says lead author John Christensen, per the AP.
  • Historical precedent: The Guardian reports the only time we've recently seen a drop in any country of that magnitude occurred when the Soviet Union fell. Emissions in the US and Japan did sink 6% during the financial crisis, but the decrease was short-lived. Christensen called the needed cuts "unprecedented." Attaining the less ambitious goal of keeping global warming to 2 degrees Celsius would mean emissions cuts of 2.7% a year over the next decade.

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  • The numbers II: The report notes that if "serious" climate action had commenced in 2010, the needed cuts over the next decade to get to 1.5 degrees Celsius would have been 3.3%. "Evidently, greater cuts will be required the longer that action is delayed."
  • The numbers III: If countries adhere to the targets set under the Paris Agreement, average temperatures will rise an estimated 3.2 degrees Celsius.
  • What can be done: NPR notes the report holds recommendations for more sharply reducing emissions, among them a ban on all new coal-fired power plants, a mandate that all new vehicles are CO2-free within a decade, and the expansion of mass transit.
  • The silver lining: There is some good news in the report, per the New York Times: "The current trajectory is not as dire as it was before countries around the world started taking steps to cut their emissions. The 2015 Emissions Gap Report said that, without any climate policies at all, the world was likely to face around 4 degrees Celsius of warming."
(Read more greenhouse gases stories.)

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