Every day brings new climate information and news about scientific and commercial progress toward a net-zero economy. We know you can’t keep track of all of it. Earth911 offers these articles for your informed reading.
COP25: The Paris Update
The countries that joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 are meeting this week — the meeting is called COP25 — to reframe their commitments to the Paris Accord and previous treaties. The mounting evidence suggests that not enough is being done quickly enough to counter pollution and atmospheric warming, which is headed well above 2 degrees Celsius. The Guardian has an excellent summary of the meeting’s purpose and key issues that will be discussed, notably a focus on oceans. There is not enough progress to forestall 2-degree Celsius warming. The United States is not participating, but a group of Democratic politicians is present to communicate that the U.S. is not standing on the sidelines of climate change.
Nature: Tipping Points Ahead
Nature, the scientific journal, has issued a call for climate action. The world faces a series of tipping points in atmospheric temperature, deforestation, glacial ice loss, and ocean acidification, just to name a few, that cannot be ignored, the editors write. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) introduced the idea of tipping points two decades ago. At that time, these ‘large-scale discontinuities’ in the climate system were considered likely only if global warming exceeded 5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Information summarized in the two most recent IPCC Special Reports (published in 2018 and September 2019)2,3 suggests that tipping points could be exceeded even between 1 and 2°C of warming.”
Humans cannot hope for a better outcome without more action on the parts of government and industry now.
What Are COP25 Attendees Saying?
“Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that buried its head in the sand? That fiddled while the planet burned?” asked U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres at the opening of the COP25. National Public Radio covers the conversations at the opening of the UN COP25 meeting. More than 200,000 people are expected to take part, from government, industry, nonprofit, and scientific organizations.
Water Filters and Batteries, Oh My!
Research in water filtration and energy storage has produced a breakthrough in ion exchange technology that could lower the cost of producing potable water while contributing to improved renewable energy generation by making local storage more efficient. Scientists at the Imperial College London have developed a plastic membrane that, in addition to purifying water, could also harvest the element lithium from seawater instead of mining. More clean water, battery innovation, and an alternative to mining — all from one invention that still needs to be developed for commercial markets can give us hope that we can do more for human prosperity with fewer negative impacts on the planet. Not all the news is bad.
Climate Models Need Improvement, Point to Deep Environmental Damage
But it isn’t all good news, and this week is an important one for making pragmatic progress toward zero emissions. Nature Climate Change published an assessment of climate models used to project costs and damage from warming. It found that negative impacts are likely substantially understated. This is not an error in science, it is progress toward an exact focus on the variables that matter to climate warming. Global models are presented for a variety of impacts, but each is independent and could amplify the others. In short, the models point to more potential tipping points past which climate recovery becomes much harder. Here are Nature Climate Change’s idealized models for recovery based on reaching net-zero emissions in different decades. They show that most of the paths humanity is traveling lead to massive climate disruption that would take well into the 22nd century and beyond to remediate:
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