Millions will die if world fails on climate promises

Commentary, Online Exclusive Feature / 2021

Millions will die if world fails on climate promises

by Tim Radford, Climate News Network

Scientists have looked at conditions in nine of the world’s 200 nations. They found that if the world keeps its promises in the Paris Agreement, of containing global heating to “well below 2 degrees Celsius (°C) by 2100″, millions of lives could be saved.

The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change says in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, “The nine nations have been selected because they embraced around half the global population, and accounted for seven-tenths of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

Actions to keep climate promises could prevent millions of deaths each year.

Unless nations try harder, that won’t happen.

Thanks to the cleaner air that would come with a drastic reduction in fossil fuel combustion, another 1.6 million people could expect to breathe freely for another year.

And the shift from private cars to public transport and foot or bicycle journeys would mean another 2.1 million of us could expect to go on benefiting from the additional exercise for another year, every year.

Right now, the world is heading for a global temperature rise by 2100 of 3 °C or more.

With these higher global average temperatures, there will be:

  • More devastating and possibly lethal heat waves
  • More intense and more frequent storms,
  • Protracted drought, torrential rain and flooding
  • Rising sea levels that will intensify erosion and coastal flooding

The damage that the above threaten delivers a long-term economic case for concerted global action to:

  • Shift agricultural emphasis
  • Save natural ecosystems
  • Switch to renewable fuel sources

Photo courtesy of The Purple Ink Studio

READ MORE: How can we affect the landscape and the built environment sensitively?

Avoiding despair

In the last century alone, the planet has warmed by more than 1°C, and the last six years have been the warmest six years since records began.

The promises made in Paris, if kept, could mean a 1 per cent drop in greenhouse gas emissions every year.

But scientists shared in the journal Communications Earth and Environment, that will not contain global heating to 2°C. To deliver on the promise, the world must reduce emissions by 1.8 per cent a year.

To deliver on the promise in the Paris Agreement, the global community will have to try 80 per cent harder.

Communications Earth and Environment

Some nations are nearer the more ambitious target:

  • China’s declared plans so far would require only a 7 per cent boost.
  • The UK would have to raise its game by 17 per cent.
  • The US, which abandoned the Paris Agreement under former President Trump, has 38 per cent more work to do.

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