Two new reports have been released this week that demonstrate the consequences of inadequate action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Tuesday the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its report on current greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, and on Monday PwC released its Low Carbon Economy Index 2014. The WMO report states atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations “reached a new record high in 2013, propelled by a surge in levels of carbon dioxide,” and the PwC report argues that current efforts to reduce carbon emissions actually have us on track for a 4°C warmer world by 2100, instead of the only 2°C (3.6°F) increase we are aiming for.
The WMO report reveals that in 2013 the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 142 percent higher than the pre-industrial era (which the WMO dates at 1750). Levels of methane and nitrous oxide have also increased by 253 percent and 121 percent respectively. The report also notes that ocean acidification is increasing at an alarming rate due to rising carbon dioxide levels. WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud adds, “The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that, far from falling, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere actually increased last year at the fastest rate for nearly 30 years. We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases across the board. We are running out of time.”
Mirroring this call, PwC’s director of sustainability and climate change, Jonathan Grant, states that in order to achieve the internationally agreed target of only 2°C of warming by 2100, emissions reduction rates need to be “averaging 6.2 percent a year, every year from now to 2100, compared with 1.2 percent today.” The PwC report points out the disparity between ‘the talk’ and the reality of the action (or otherwise) being taken worldwide. The report’s authors note: “In the 6th year of LCEI, we face an unmistakeable trend in the data, which is that each year, the global economy has failed to decarbonise beyond business-as-usual, and that economic growth remains entwined with carbon. With each year of delay in addressing climate change, the decarbonisation challenge increases.” Adds Grant, “The world is currently on track to burn this century’s IPCC carbon budget within 20 years, and a pathway to 4C of global warming by 2100.”
With the next round of UN climate change talks due to start in New York on 23 September, 2014, it’s hoped that world leaders can pull some digits out of orifices and commit to serious action instead of moaning about uncompetitiveness. The PwC report notes that in 2013, for the first time in six years, emerging economies such as China, India and Mexico cut their carbon intensity at a faster rate than industrialized countries, including the United States, Japan and the European Union. To leave the last word to Mr Jarraud: “We have the knowledge and we have the tools for action to try keep temperature increases within 2°C to give our planet a chance and to give our children and grandchildren a future. Pleading ignorance can no longer be an excuse for not acting.”