UN climate study says world still a long way from limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees


Nations are still far from limiting global warming below a dangerous threshold as catastrophic extreme weather events continue to threaten the health and food security of people around the world, a pair of reports have found.

The United Nations announced on Wednesday that global warming will rise between 2.1 and 2.9 degrees Celsius under the world’s current climate commitments – the 1.5 degrees nations are trying to keep below. The report shows that there is still much more work to be done to move away from planet-warming fossil fuels, which are causing global temperatures to rise and more extreme weather events.

The average global temperature has risen by about 1.2 degrees since the industrial revolution.

The UN report comes ahead of the COP27 climate summit in November, where countries will gather to raise their ambitions on the global crisis. Experts say the latest UN numbers show that countries need to be more ambitious in their climate commitments.

The report “sounds the alarm that progress on climate commitments has slowed since last year’s Glasgow climate summit,” Taryn Fransen, senior fellow of the World Resources Institute’s climate program, told CNN in a statement.

Fransen added that the UN’s finding of global warming of 2.1 to 2.9 degrees Celsius is “highly dangerous”.

A separate report in the Lancet found that the health of people around the world is “dependent on a permanent dependence on fossil fuels”. But despite the damage to health, governments and companies “continue to prioritize fossil fuels to the detriment of people’s health.”

The Lancet report said continuing to pursue fossil fuel energy would “lock the world into a decidedly warmer future with catastrophic health impacts”.

According to the report, extreme heat waves in 2020 were associated with 98 million more people experiencing moderate to severe food insecurity than in 1981-2010. And from 2017 to 2021, heat-related deaths increased by 68% compared to 2000-2014, the report found.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement that livelihoods and natural economies are being hit, “as dependence on fossil fuels spirals out of control.”

“The climate crisis is killing us,” said Guterres. “It’s undermining not only the health of our planet, but the health of people everywhere.”

Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, told CNN that the UN’s findings on global climate goals underscore the need for urgent action to shift to clean energy and away from fossil fuels.

Andersen said 1.5 degrees “is still a target that’s on the map, but the longer it’s delayed, that window is closing.”

Inger noted that if countries met all the new conditional and unconditional NDCs, combined with net zero commitments, the world would reach 1.8 degrees of warming by 2100.

“The way we’re at today, that’s not getting us there,” Andersen said. “If we want to reach 1.5, we must reduce our emissions by 45% by 2030. That’s a big percentage. Is that doable? It’s up to us: we’ve developed a vaccine in less than a year. I don’t mean it’s impossible. But it will take commitment, leadership, courage and real courage for leaders to make it happen.”