The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), an intergovernmental organization with 193 member states and territories, issued an ominous climate change warning on October 26, 2022. The cold reality is that G20 nations — responsible for around 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions — have promised to reduce dangerous emissions but allowed releases of greenhouse gases to increase.
WMO observations show conclusively that:
- Globally averaged atmospheric methane CH4 has been increasing;
- The rate of increase of atmospheric methane is accelerating;
- Annual increases in 2020 and 2021 are the largest since the systematic record began in 1983.
- Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions also reached new highs in 2021;
- Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are also potent greenhouse gases, are increasing at relatively rapid rates.
Reported by Washington Post:
“Methane concentrations are not just rising, they’re rising faster than ever,” said Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford University.
The study comes on the same day as a new U.N. report that says the world’s governments haven’t committed to cut enough carbon emissions, putting the world on track for a 2.5 degree Celsius (4.5 degree Fahrenheit) increase in global temperatures by the end of the century.
That U.N. report shows current commitments of all nations will increase emissions by 10.6% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels.
British environment journalist Fred Pearce wrote for Yale e360:
A sudden surge in methane emissions is threatening to undermine international efforts to halt planetary warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. …climate negotiators are underestimating by a factor of three the warming effect that methane will have over the critical quarter-century we have left to reach net-zero emissions under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
As a result, scientists say, governments are giving far too little attention to curbing methane by measures such as plugging abandoned gas wells, sealing pipelines, covering up landfills, and preventing crop waste.
The problem arises because of a long-standing convention that the warming effect of emissions of different planet-warming gases is measured according to their average impact over 100 years. Scientists say that was fine when the world was focused on stabilizing temperatures by the end of the century. But now that the target is to halt warming at a level that will be reached by mid-century, it is no longer fit for purpose because it drastically underestimates the importance of methane, which typically lasts little more than a decade in the air but has most of its warming impact in that time.
Science provides tools that can identify the sources of methane. This year, data from NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) has allowed the science team to identified more than 50 “super-emitters” of methane, a gas estimated to be 80 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere in the 20 years after release, compared to carbon dioxide.
Unfortunately, governments in oil and gas producing regions have little interest in using scientific tools that might impact growth of fossil fuel production. We’ve known for years that British Columbia and Alberta underestimate methane emissions from oil and gas facilities. Governments know; they pretend not to.
The top ten GHG emitters contribute over two-thirds of global emissions. According to the federal government, Canada was the highest GHG emitting country per capita among the top 10 emitting countries.
Why People Aren’t Motivated to Address Climate Change, an article in the Harvard Business Review, notes that people are often highly motivated to avoid immediate threats but then asks why is it so hard to get people to act on climate change. The answers:
- Acting on climate change represents a trade-off between short-term and long-term benefits.
- Ignoring climate change in the short term has benefits both to individuals, organizations, and governments.
- Climate change is a nonlinear problem. People are much better with obvious threats like that nasty dog at the door than they are with threats that escalate quickly and nonlinearly.
- Many effects of climate change are distant from most people.
- The future is always more uncertain than the present. That is one reason people value the present so much more strongly.
These factors probably explain why Canadian politicians largely confine climate actions to press releases and promises. Because citizenry is trained to see economic growth as the primary indicator of government success, degrowth is an intolerable subject in political circles.
Our leaders refuse to accept the minimum condition for long-term sustainability:
All resource use curves must be simultaneously flatlined and all pollution curves simultaneously extinguished.The Delusion of Infinite Economic Growth
Categories: Climate Change