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article imageLives are at stake unless we break our addiction to fossil fuels

By Karen Graham     Dec 16, 2018 in Environment
Katowice - Human addiction to fossil fuels as the answer to our energy needs and economic growth is slowly killing the planet. After a few promising years of minimal carbon-emission growth, the world is on pace to burn a bunch more fossil fuels.
According to a new estimate by the Global Carbon Project, global carbon emissions will hit a record-breaking 37.1 billion metric tons in 2018.
The report shows that we will be seeing a 2.7 percent increase in CO2 emissions over 2017's global emissions output of 36.2 billion metric tons. The report also notes that 2017's numbers represented a 1.6 percent increase over the year before.
"For three years, we saw flat greenhouse gas emissions at the same time [that] the world economy grew. That was good news," said Robert Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford University. "We hoped that represented peak emissions. It didn't."
Assessment of selected countries' CO2 emissions and efforts to combat climate change
Assessment of selected countries' CO2 emissions and efforts to combat climate change
And according to Johnson, this means we will have to turn off the emissions spigot and turn to renewable energy sources right now. After all, we have been warned, and in any number of ways. We have the science, studies, models and satellite images. We also are already feeling the impacts of a changing climate globally.
The bottom line is simple - These rising emission rates place us on a trajectory for warming that is currently well beyond 1.5 °C. However, as has been suggested before, accomplishing anything on a global scale will require a global initiative.
The IPCC report was a dire warning
In October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the world will have to slash carbon emissions to 45 percent below 2010 levels by the year 2030 and then halt all emissions by 2050 in order to keep global average temperatures from rising more than 2.7 degrees F (1.5 degrees C).
New record global carbon emissions in 2017
New record global carbon emissions in 2017
To limit warming to the lower temperature goal, the world needs “rapid and far-reaching” changes in energy systems, land use, city, and industrial design, transportation and building use, the report said. Annual carbon dioxide pollution levels that are still rising now would have to drop by about half by 2030 and then be near zero by 2050. Emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane, also will have to drop.
Switching away rapidly from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas to do this could be more expensive than the less ambitious goal, but it would clean the air of other pollutants. And that would have the side benefit of avoiding more than 100 million premature deaths through this century, the report said.
COP24 - what was accomplished?
The COP24 meeting in Poland finally ended after going into overtime as countries hashed out an equitable plan that would not unravel the carefully negotiated Paris agreement by having one set of rules for the rich countries and another one for the poor.
US President Donald Trump's administration has dismantled emissions reduction policies domestic...
US President Donald Trump's administration has dismantled emissions reduction policies domestically
Olivier Douliery, AFP
Keeping everyone on the same page also delighted the EU. Climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete explained how the new rules would work, according to The BBC. "We have a system of transparency, we have a system of reporting, we have rules to measure our emissions, we have a system to measure the impacts of our policies compared to what science recommends."
The new rules also have a compliance mechanism that will make sure countries send in their reports on time or face an inquiry. This is the one big issue with international agreements. What happens if a country doesn't do what is required? But Canete explains that the rules are "flexible" for developing countries, meaning they can sign up to the rules at a later date.
And despite all the squabbling that pervaded the meeting, rules are essential to the process. Another issue is the science. Yes, it is worth fighting for. Saudi Arabia, the US, Kuwait, and Russia did not want to accept the IPCC Report, other than to "note" its existence.
The United States  Russia and Saudi Arabia blocked a key wording change in the negotiating text of t...
The United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia blocked a key wording change in the negotiating text of the COP24 summit
Heiko Junge, NTB Scanpix/AFP
But the majority of countries felt that it was critical to acknowledge the report, and so it was left in as a "token" show of support. "That science is unsettling and it doesn't connect it to the need to do more," said Camilla Born from the environmental think tank E3G. "The deal looks at it in isolation, it's an elegant compromise but it's not really enough."
So what was accomplished at COP24? Not near enough, folks. We are still addicted to fossil fuels and until we make an honest attempt to do away with them and stop the coddling of the fossil fuel industry, things will go along pretty much as they are doing now.
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