Nations are still way off track to limit global warming below a dangerous threshold as catastrophic extreme weather events are already threatening the health and food security of people around the world, a pair of reports have found.
The United Nations reported Wednesday that global warming will rise to between 2.1 and 2.9 degrees Celsius based on the world’s current climate pledges – way beyond the 1.5 degrees nations are trying to stay below. The report shows that there is still much more work to be done to transition away from planet-warming fossil fuels, which are pushing global temperatures higher and triggering more intense extreme weather events.
Average global temperature has already risen around 1.2 degrees since the industrial revolution.
The UN report comes ahead of its COP27 climate summit in November, where countries will meet to raise their ambition on the global crisis. Experts said the latest UN numbers show that countries need to be more ambitious on their climate commitments.
The report “sounds the alarm that progress on climate commitments has slowed to a crawl since the Glasgow climate summit last year,” Taryn Fransen, senior fellow at the World Resources Institute’s climate program, told CNN in a statement.
Fransen added that the UN’s finding of the world warming 2.1 to 2.9 degrees Celsius is “dangerously high.”
A separate report from the Lancet found that the health of people around the world is “at the mercy of a persistent fossil fuel addiction.” But despite the health harms, governments and companies “continue prioritizing fossil fuels to the detriment of peoples’ health.”
The Lancet report said that continuing to pursue fossil fuel energy “would lock the world into a fatally warmer future with catastrophic health impacts.”
According to the report, extreme heatwaves in 2020 were associated with 98 million more people suffering from moderate to severe food insecurity than annually in 1981-2010. And from 2017 to 2021, heat-related deaths increased 68% compared to 2000-2014, the report found.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement that livelihoods and natural economies are being pummeled, “as the fossil fuel addiction spirals out of control.”
“The climate crisis is killing us,” Guterres said. “It is undermining not just the health of our planet, but the health of people everywhere.”
Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, told CNN that the UN’s findings on global climate targets underscore the need for urgent action to transition to clean energy and away from fossil fuels.
Andersen said that 1.5 degrees “is a goal that is still on the map, but the longer we procrastinate, that window is closing.”
Inger noted that even if countries met all their new conditional and unconditional NDCs, combined with net zero commitments, it would get the globe to 1.8 degrees of warming by 2100.
“The pathway we are on today, that doesn’t get us there,” said Andersen. “If we want to hit 1.5, we need to reduce our emissions by 45% by 2030. That’s a large percentage. Is that doable? It’s in our hands – we developed a vaccine in less than a year. I don’t want to say it’s impossible. But it will take commitment, leadership, bravery, and real courage by leaders to make it happen.”