Can We Still Stop Global Warming?

There is an on-going crisis facing our world that may not have the immediacy of Ukraine or its heart-wrenching images but is nonetheless more deadly to our survival.

It is elucidated in a sweeping analysis, the sixth by a UN body, which warns and blames humans explicitly and reminds us that the time to act is now.  Are humans up to this challenge?

First of all, “there is no longer room for doubt,” states the report, about human responsibility for climate change.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) observes in the first chapter of its Sixth Assessment Project (AR6) that it “can say quite definitely” that a whole class of extreme events suffered in the world is linked to climate change.  

Every region on Earth is affected in numerous ways:  Europe has endured multiple heat waves, while drought and fire afflict the American West and floods drown parts of Asia.  All with the backdrop of the warmest four decades ever recorded since pre-industrial times.

A vast store of extra knowledge has been amassed over the last three decades from tens of thousands of newer observing stations, satellites, and vastly improved simulations.  And what it reveals is sobering.  The much vaunted net zero scenario where gas emissions are balanced by removal from the atmosphere is no longer a cure.

Yes, the temperatures reduce a little although not down to preindustrial levels.  But even then, sea levels continue to rise until about the year 2300 partly due to Greenland’s melting ice sheet — we appear to have crossed the threshold there and the melting continues even under a net zero scenario.

Global mean temperature as we have it now is 1.1 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.  It doubles the chances of a once-in-a-decade drought.  Should the temperature rise to 2 degrees C, the chances of drought triple.  How often a wettest once-in-a-decade day occurs rises from 1.3 times to 1.8 times and tropical cyclones (hurricanes) increase by 13 percent. 

The Paris Agreement set a target for limiting global mean temperature rise to 2 degrees C.  As is becoming increasingly clear with the new data now available, that target was not sufficiently stringent.

At the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, influenced by the IPCC Sixth Assessment, it was agreed to try to limit temperature rises to within 1.5CSince current pledges can lead to a rise of 2.4C, the countries agreed that at COP27 (scheduled for November 2022) they would pledge further cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal global warming gas.

The other positive news was a plan to cut the use of coal.  The language was changed from “phase-out” to “phase-down” of its use following a late intervention by China and India.

Such are the ways of the world.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.