On the eve of COP 25, a two-week global climate summit, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “Our war against nature must stop, and we know that it is possible.”
“We simply have to stop digging and drilling and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions,” he added, according to Reuters/
Even though 70 countries have committed to a goal of “carbon neutrality” or “climate neutrality” by 2050, Guterres said these pledges are just not enough to limit temperature rises to a goal of between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius (2.7-3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
“We also see clearly that the world’s largest emitters are not pulling their weight,” he said, “and without them, our goal is unreachable.”
What have we as a global community accomplished in the 27 years since the first global climate summit was held. Here are some hard facts:
Carbon dioxide levels
In 1992, global CO2 levels were at about 385 parts per million (ppm). By 2013, CO2 levels had surpassed 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history. Today, they are nearly 412 ppm, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That’s a 15 percent rise in 27 years.
Climate crisis disasters
While not drawing a lot of global attention, climate crisis disasters are happening at the rate of one a week, according to the United Nations. Catastrophes such as cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique and the drought afflicting India, wildfires in California and Canada, and extreme heatwaves make international news.
However, there are countless “lower-impact events” that are causing death, displacement, and suffering, and they are occurring much faster than predicted, according to Mami Mizutori, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on disaster risk reduction, according to The Guardian. “This is not about the future, this is about today.”
Scientists in the U.S. have added a new dimension to the growing hazard of extreme heat. As global average temperatures rise, so too will the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves. Prior to this, the primary focus had been on the highest temperatures by day and by night, the number of days of sustained heat, and the frequency with which extremes might return.
Now, the U.S. Climate Extremes Index has nearly doubled from 1992 to 2018, according to NOAA. The index takes into account far-from-normal temperatures, drought and overall dry spells, abnormal downpours.
Ice sheets and glaciers
The annual average extent of Arctic sea ice has shrunk from 4.7 million square miles (12.1 million square kilometers) in 1992 to 3.9 million square miles (10.1 million square kilometers) in 2019.
Additionally, Arctic sea ice coverage was the smallest ever recorded for October at 32.2 percent below the 1981–2010 average. Significantly – the 10 smallest Arctic sea ice extents for October have all occurred since 2007.
NOAA’s October Global Climate Report revealed that Arctic sea ice coverage was the smallest ever recorded for October at 32.2 percent below the 1981–2010 average. Significantly – the 10 smallest Arctic sea ice extents for October have all occurred since 2007.
Greenland is home to the world’s second-largest ice sheet, covering 80 percent of the island nation The Greenland ice sheet lost 5.2 trillion tons (4.7 trillion metric tons) of ice from 1993 to 2018.
Going to the Southern Pole, the Antarctic ice sheet lost 3 trillion tons (2.7 trillion metric tons) of ice from 1992 to 2017, according to a study in Phys.org. And the global sea level has risen on average 2.9 millimeters a year since 1992. That’s a total of 78.3 millimeters, or 3.1 inches, according to NOAA.