Some of the world’s leading climate experts have warned while COP26 has looked to focus the world on the fight against climate change it runs the risk of being too little too late.
As delegates left Glasgow following the eleventh hour agreement on the COP26 Glasgow Pact, Scientists warned there was much left to do if the world is to step back from the brink of significant climate change impacts.
Prof Ilan Kelman, Professor of Disasters and Health at University College London, said: “Despite the pact’s breakthroughs, it is, exactly as expected, far too little, far too late.
“As private jets were flown into and out of Scotland for the negotiations, environmentalists were being murdered for defending their rights. World leaders could have protected and learned from these local environmentalists while withholding over $150 billion of fossil fuel subsidies given out during the two weeks of COP26, compared to the $100 billion per year requested to help poor countries address climate change.
“With many climate change activists younger than the COP process, it is unsurprising that yet another agreement from these meetings fails to address fundamental concerns.”
Prof Richard Allan, Professor of Climate Science, University of Reading, added: “Less than 10 years ago the solid science of human-caused climate change was still disputed by agenda-driven individuals and organisations who should be made accountable for their damaging delaying tactics. Based on the clear scientific evidence, COP26 has made progress towards a net zero CO2 emissions world but continued expansion of ambition is crucial in limiting the growing severity of climate extremes and to avoid rendering some regions uninhabitable for future generations.
“Given the glacial pace of progress on climate action, in part due to the blatant short term self-interest of powerful individuals and organisations, it’s almost tempting, like Gulliver at the end of his travels, to feel a sense of loathing for the human species. But there is also a sense of guarded optimism that a spark of the universe came alive, wondered at the beauty of our world, eventually noticed we were soiling it terribly before imperfectly yet doggedly and collectively began digging ourselves out of our mess.”
“The COP26 agreement recognizes a big difference in outcome between 2 degrees of warming and 1.5 degrees,” warned Prof Jeffrey Kargel, senior scientist, Planetary Research Institute, Tucson, Arizona. “COP26 reaffirms the Paris agreement’s goal of holding global average temperature to “well below 2 degrees” warming and supports a goal to limit it to 1.5 degrees.
“I am pessimistic that a 1.5 degree threshold will hold, as warming already exceeds 1.1 degrees, and much future warming is locked in due to the heat capacity of the oceans. More so, the global geopolitical situation and the internal politics of many countries might not be responsive to the urgent need.”
He added: “The draft agreement recognizes that increasing extreme weather is linked to climate change. This was expected following the IPCC Sixth Assessment and the daily news accounts in recent years of the ravages caused by climate change. However, it is important that extreme weather was called out in the agreement, as this is where climate change bites hardest, and where mitigation of the effects of climate change and adaptation has to take place. This agreement provides a framework for nations to undertake the needed preparations for a natural hazard environment that already is beyond its historic envelope and is getting worse each year.”
Prof Dann Mitchell, Met Office chair in Climate Hazards, University of Bristol, said: “The Glasgow Climate Pact is more than we expected, but less than we hoped. While it is clearly disappointed that at the eleventh hour India challenged the phrase ‘phasing out of coal’, their entire infrastructure is highly dependent on coal, something the richest countries used to become the global superpowers they are today. India’s per capita carbon dioxide emissions are an order of magnitude lower than the highest emitting countries, and clearly India felt that not enough was done to support their transition to green energy.”
Dr Michael Byrne, Lecturer in Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of St Andrews, warned despite the agreement there was still a great deal that needed to be achieved.
“The Glasgow Climate Pact is full of noble intentions: it ‘urges’, ‘calls upon’ and ‘requests’ countries to do more to tackle climate change. But does the Pact ‘keep 1.5C alive’, which was the goal of COP26? Yes, just; but the critical 1.5C warming target is on death’s door,” he said. “According to Climate Action Tracker, the world is heading for catastrophic warming of 2.4C based on current carbon pledges. The Glasgow Climate Pact does little to change that trajectory. But the Pact does ‘request’ that countries strengthen their carbon-cutting targets by 2022. Without these strengthened targets, 1.5C will truly be dead.”