Scientists issue ‘red alert’ over energy plans of four G20 nations

Smoke plumes into the sky from power station chimneys (G20 nations)
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Scientists have warned that four leading G20 nations have committed to climate targets that would lead to disastrous global warming, The Guardian reports.

The analysis, by the peer-reviewed group Paris Equity Check, says G20 nations China, Russia, Brazil and Australia all have energy policies associated with 5 degree Celsius rises in atmospheric temperatures—an increase that would destroy much of the planet.

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This raises questions about the prospects of key climate agreements being achieved at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in three months’ time. The 26th United Nations Climate Change conference will attempt to solidify policies to hold global heating to 1.5C by agreeing on a global policy for ending net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.

The EU and UK have outlined emission pledges that could bring the world close to these aspirations. However, those of China, Russia, Brazil and Australia—which remain reliant on continued fossil-fuel burning—would trigger temperature rises of 5 degree Celsius if followed by the rest of the world. This dramatic discrepancy reveals a deep division over the energy and environment policies of the world’s richest nations.

“A world that would be 5C hotter than it was before the Industrial Revolution, when fossil-fuel burning began in earnest, would be one in which a quarter of the global population would face extreme drought for at least one month a year; rainforests would be destroyed; and melting ice sheets would result in dangerous sea-level rises,” The Guardian stated in its report.

“In addition, loss of reflective ice from the poles could cause oceans to absorb more solar radiation, while melting permafrost in Siberia and other regions would release plumes of methane, another pernicious greenhouse gas. Inevitably, temperatures would soar even further.

“By contrast, scientists say that if temperature rises can be kept below 1.5C, then the worst impacts of climate change could be prevented—though they also point out that temperatures have already risen 1.2C, leaving the world facing very tight margins to avoid the worst impacts of global warming over the next 30 years.

“The extent of the climate crisis has also been highlighted this month with extreme weather events causing devastation across the world: deadly floods have swept through Germany, Belgium and China, while massive wildfires have gripped the US and Siberia. Global warming has been implicated in every case.

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“Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, nearly 200 countries committed to submit new climate plans every five years with a goal to limit global warming to well below 2C, aiming at 1.5C, compared to pre-industrial levels. However, earlier this year, the United Nations issued a ‘red alert’ over current climate plans, warning they were ‘nowhere close’ to meeting the Paris goals.

“The International Energy Agency recently said that if the world was to stay within 1.5C of warming, all further development and exploration of new fossil fuel sources should cease from this year.”