Should we feel joy or despair that we’re on track to keep global heating to 2C?

A 2C world will bring much devastation, but the extraordinary work that has brought us to this point is worth celebrating.

Christiana Figueres via The Guardian

The atmosphere does not react to pledges for the future or reports about past achievements. It only reacts to real emission reductions. The research published in Nature last week showing that the pledges by countries to reduce emissions made since the Paris agreement could keep warming within 2C, if met on time, has therefore understandably sparked a series of conflicting reactions. Outrage that even if the promises are met, they don’t come close to 1.5C; and optimism that 2C is such a huge improvement on where we’d be headed without the Paris agreement.

On the one hand, we have to acknowledge this looks very much like failure. A 2C world will not be livable for vast swathes of humanity, and half of the world’s children are already at extremely high risk from the impacts now, including hunger-inducing floods and droughts.

A 2C future may even lead us into conditions that insurers would deem uninsurable for practically all businesses and homes, and that’s only if the pledges are met. There will never be a shortage of excuses for slippage on these promises. The atrocious invasion of Ukraine, which has brought our deadly addiction to Russian oil and gas into shocking view, is just one of them. Short-term arguments to push decarbonisation down the road will always find a way to rise back above the parapet.

On the other hand, we have to agree that this new projection based on national commitments portends a far better outcome than we would get without them. Bending the curve of future emissions down – from 4.5C or higher as it was projected to be in 2015 – to within the stated goal of the agreement would be a huge improvement.

Read the full story on The Guardian here.