Let's be real. Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees F) above per-industrial levels ain't happening.
That ship has sailed no matter how hard world leaders try to put lipstick on the pig of the Paris Accord with shiny language provided via the newly minted Glasgow Climate Pact.
The 2015 Paris Accord adopted by 195 nations required reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius while going all in on means to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees. At the time it was hailed as a historic achievement.
Well ... that didn't happen. Truth be told, the deal was doomed for failure even before the ink had dried. In so many ways it failed:
Yeah the overall goal of 2 degrees Celsius was ambitious. But the commitments were a joke. Even if every nation honored exactly what they promised (and many haven't) the earth's temperature would increase by 3 (that's THREE) degrees Celsius by 2200,
Due to lack of political will, the agreement didn't include a global tax on carbon. That meant nations could use cheap fossil fuels to their heart's content and ignore needed reforms to transition to more sustainable sources. It shouldn't be a surprise that most politicians would do just about anything to avoid telling their citizens we're adding new taxes and building stuff to save the world from its self-serving greed.
It didn't take nations very long to figure out that they could say one thing and do another because there was no mechanism to punish those who failed to meet their Paris Accord commitments. No regulatory body. No monetary fines. No sanctions. No....nothing. Heck you even had the U.S. completely pulling out of the deal during the Trump Administration.
There was no redirection of funds. The deal needed to give corporations incentives for addressing climate change. And that meant hitting them where it hurts most – in the pocketbook. The deal needed language that would have fined corporations for ignoring climate change and redirecting those dollars to companies willing to initiate environmental sustainability. Full stop.
But none of that happened. What did however was creation of the idea that, by jimmy, climate change was conquered. The world rolled up its sleeves, got it's hands into the muck, and voila, saved the planet. Of course that's a lie.
Since 2015 carbon emissions have increased by roughly 4 percent. Coal emissions are up 1 percent, oil emissions up 1.7 percent and gas 3 percent. That's the picture of failure.
OK so now we get November's United Nation's COP26 climate summit and the Glasgow Climate Pact. It was an opportunity to learn from the massive mistakes made in 2015 in Paris. Instead the world gets a lot of pledges that this time things will be different we pinky swear. Don't bet the farm on it.
The Glasgow Climate Pact tries to create accountability by requiring nations provide transparency into what they are accomplishing to reduce emissions.
The hope is that transparency will somehow shame laggards into meeting their commitments is simply misplaced.
At the end of the day there are huge polluters who really don't care much about what others think. Step to the head of the class China and India. COP26 President Alok Sharma had urged negotiators to “consign coal power to history,” but that didn’t happen.
Seems like India and China love, love, love coal. The Glasgow text originally required a commitment from nations to “phase out unabated coal.” Until China and India threataened to walk away from the entire agreement unless coal language was reworded as a pledge to “phase down” the fuel. Mission accomplished. Coal will be around at least until 2040. Assuming “pledges” without true accountability even can work.
To put it rather bluntly, the fight over climate change isn't so much about the fact that humanity has royally messed up the atmosphere (there's plenty of agreement on THAT), but who is going to pay the trillions of dollars it will take to even have a chance to reverse a century of polluting.
Truth be told there's no stomach for it.
The Glasgow pact kicked the can down the road with promises of future talk about maybe increasing financial support and perhaps offering additional technical assistance to, you know, like maybe lessening some climate-related damages. Rich countries also blocked an effort to create a loss and damage fund.
If everything works perfectly and all nations meet their Glasgow promises United Nation's researchers project the earth will warm by 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. In case you are keeping score that's a lot higher than higher that the lofty 1.5 degree promise made in 2015 in Paris. If everything works perfectly.
Maybe United Nation's Environment Program executive director Inger Andersen put it best:
“When we look at what has come in, the additional pledges, frankly it’s the elephant giving birth to a mouse,. We are not doing enough. We are not where we need to be. And we need to step up with much more action, much more urgency and much more ambition.”
Talk is cheap. And the world seems bent on talking climate change to death. Or as my grandmother used to say money talks and B.S. walks. It's way beyond time to get real on climate change finances and accountability. The earth really can't wait anymore.
About Dave Dickey
Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for Investigate Midwest covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. His opinions are his own and do not reflect Investigate Midwest. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.