Cop27 Begins In Egypt

(AP) — “Cooperate or perish,” the United Nations chief told dozens of leaders gathered Monday for international climate talks, warning them that the world is “on a highway to climate hell” and urging the two biggest polluting countries, China and the United States, to work together to avert it.

This year’s annual U.N. climate conference, known as COP27, comes as leaders and experts have raised increasing alarm that time is running out to avert catastrophic rises in temperature. But the fire and brimstone warnings may not quite have the effect as they have had in past meetings because of multiple other challenges of the moment pulling leaders’ attention — from midterm elections in the U.S. to the Russia-Ukraine war.

More than 100 world leaders will speak over the next few days at the gathering in Egypt. Much of the focus will be on national leaders telling their stories of being devastated by climate disasters, culminating Tuesday with a speech by Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Sharif, whose country’s summer floods caused at least $40 billion in damage and displaced millions of people.

“Is it not high time to put an end to all this suffering,” the summit’s host, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, told his fellow leaders. “Climate change will never stop without our intervention… Our time here is limited and we must use every second that we have.”

El-Sisi, who called for an end to the Russia-Ukraine war, was gentle compared to a fiery United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said the world “is on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”

He called for a new pact between rich and poor countries to make deeper cuts in emissions with financial help and phasing out of coal in rich nations by 2030 and elsewhere by 2040. He called on the United States and China — the two biggest economies — to especially work together on climate, something they used to do until the last few years.

“Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish,” Guterres said. “It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact – or a Collective Suicide Pact.”

Guterres insisted, “Today’s urgent crises cannot be an excuse for backsliding or greenwashing.” But bad timing and world events were hanging over the gathering.

Most of the leaders are meeting Monday and Tuesday, just as the United States has a potentially policy-shifting midterm election. Then the leaders of the world’s 20 wealthiest nations will have their powerful-only club confab in Bali in Indonesia days later.

Leaders of China and India — both among the biggest emitters — appear to be skipping the climate talks, although underlings are here negotiating. The leader of the top polluting country, U.S. President Joe Biden, is coming days later than most of the other presidents and prime ministers on his way to Bali.

“There are big climate summits and little climate summits and this was never expected to be a big one,” said Climate Advisers CEO Nigel Purvis, a former U.S. negotiator.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was initially going to avoid the negotiations, but public pressure and predecessor Boris Johnson’s plans to come changed his mind. New King Charles III, a longtime environment advocate, won’t attend because of his new role. And Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin, whose invasion of Ukraine created energy chaos that reverberates in the world of climate negotiations, won’t be here.

“We always want more” leaders, United Nations climate chief Simon Stiell said in a Sunday news conference. “But I believe there is sufficient (leadership) right now for us to have a very productive outcome.”

In addition to speeches given by the leaders, the negotiations include “innovative” roundtable discussions that “we are confident, will generate some very powerful insights,” Stiell said.

The leaders showing up in droves are from the host continent Africa, who are pressing for greater accountability from developed nations.

“The historical polluters who caused climate change are not showing up,” said Mohammed Adow of Power Shift Africa. “Africa is the least responsible, the most vulnerable to the issue of climate change and it is a continent that is stepping up and providing leadership.”

“The South is actually stepping up,” Adow told The Associated Press. “The North that historically caused the problem is failing.”

For the first time, developing nations succeeded in getting onto the summit agenda the issue of “loss and damage” — demands that emitting countries pay for damage caused by climate-induced disasters.

Nigeria’s Environment Minister Mohammed Abdullahi called for wealthy nations to show “positive and affirmative” commitments to help countries hardest hit by climate change. “Our priority is to be aggressive when it comes to climate funding to mitigate the challenges of loss and damage,” he said.

Monday was heavily dominated by leaders of nations victimized by climate change — not those that have created the problem of heat-trapping gases warming up the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuel. It will be mostly African nations and small island nations and other vulnerable nations that will be telling their stories.

And they are dramatic ones, droughts in Africa and floods in Pakistan, in places that could least afford it. For the first time in 30 years of climate negotiations, the summit “should focus its attention on the severe climate impacts we’re already seeing,” said World Resources International’s David Waskow.

“We can’t discount an entire continent that has over a billion people living here and has some of the most severe impacts,” Waskow said. “It’s pretty clear that Africa will be at risk in a very severe way.’’

Leaders come “to share the progress they’ve made at home and to accelerate action,” Purvis said. In this case, with the passage of the first major climate legislation and $375 billion in spending, Biden has a lot to share, he said.

While it’s impressive that so many leaders are coming to the summit, “my expectations for ambitious climate targets in these two days are very low,” said NewClimate Institute’ scientist Niklas Hohne. That’s because of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine which caused energy and food crises that took away from climate action, he said. (Follow AP’s climate and environment coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment)

No Obituary For Earth: Scientists Fight Climate Doom Talk

It’s not the end of the world. It only seems that way. Climate change is going to get worse, but as gloomy as the latest scientific reports are, including today’s from the United Nations, scientist after scientist stresses that curbing global warming is not hopeless. The science says it is not game over for planet Earth or humanity. Action can prevent some of the worst if done soon, they say.

After decades of trying to get the public’s attention, spur action by governments and fight against organized movements denying the science, climate researchers say they have a new fight on their hands: doomism. It’s the feeling that nothing can be done, so why bother. It’s young people publicly swearing off having children because of climate change.

University of Maine climate scientist Jacquelyn Gill noticed in 2018 fewer people telling her climate change isn’t real and more “people that we now call doomers that you know believe that nothing can be done.” Gill says it is just not true. “I refuse to write off or write an obituary for something that’s still alive,” Gill told The Associated Press, referring to the Earth. “We are not through a threshold or past the threshold. There’s no such thing as pass-fail when it comes to the climate crisis.”

“It’s really, really, really hard to walk people back from that ledge,” Gill said. Doomism “is definitely a thing,” said Wooster College psychology professor Susan Clayton, who studies climate change anxiety and spoke at a conference in Norway last week that addressed the issue. “It’s a way of saying ‘I don’t have to go to the effort of making changes because there’s nothing I can do anyway.’”

Gill and six other scientists who talked with The Associated Press about doomism aren’t sugarcoating the escalating harm to the climate from accumulating emissions. But that doesn’t make it hopeless, they said.

“Everybody knows it’s going to get worse,” said Woodwell Climate Research Center scientist Jennifer Francis. “We can do a lot to make it less bad than the worst case scenario.”

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just issued its third report in six months. The first two were on how bad warming is and how it will hurt people and ecosystems, with today’s report focusing on how the extent of disruption depends on how much fossil fuels are burned. It shows the world is still heading in the wrong direction in its fight to curb climate change, with new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure and forests falling to make way for agriculture.

“It’s not that they’re saying you are condemned to a future of destruction and increasing misery,” said Christiana Figueres, the former U.N. climate secretary who helped forge the 2015 Paris climate agreement and now runs an organization called Global Optimism. “What they’re saying is ’the business-as-usual path … is an atlas of misery ’ or a future of increasing destruction. But we don’t have to choose that. And that’s the piece, the second piece, that sort of always gets dropped out of the conversation.”

United Nations Environment Program Director Inger Andersen said with reports like these, officials are walking a tightrope. They are trying to spur the world to action because scientists are calling this a crisis. But they also don’t want to send people spiraling into paralysis because it is too gloomy.

“We are not doomed, but rapid action is absolutely essential,” Andersen said. “With every month or year that we delay action, climate change becomes more complex, expensive and difficult to overcome.”

“The big message we’ve got (is that) human activities got us into this problem and human agency can actually get us out of it again,” James Skea, co-chair of Monday’s report, said. “It’s not all lost. We really have the chance to do something.”

Monday’s report details that it is unlikely, without immediate and drastic carbon pollution cuts, that the world will limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, which is the world’s agreed upon goal. The world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit). And earlier IPCC reports have shown that after 1.5 degrees, more people die, more ecosystems are in trouble and climate change worsens rapidly.

“We don’t fall over the cliff at 1.5 degrees,” Skea said, “Even if we were to go beyond 1.5 it doesn’t mean we throw up our hands in despair.”

IPCC reports showed that depending on how much coal, oil, and natural gas is burned, warming by 2100 could be anywhere from 1.4 to 4.4 degrees Celsius (2.5 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, which can mean large differences in sickness, death and weather disasters.

While he sees the increase in doom talk as inevitable, NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt said he knows first-hand that people are wrong when they say nothing can be done: “I work with people and I’m watching other people and I’m seeing the administration. And people are doing things and they’re doing the right things for the most part as best they can. So I’m seeing people do things.”

Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said scientists used to think Earth would be committed to decades of future warming even after people stopped pumping more carbon dioxide into the air than nature takes out. But newer analyses in recent years show it will only take a few years after net zero emissions for carbon levels in the air to start to go down because of carbon being sucked up by the oceans and forests, Mann said.

Scientists’ legitimate worries get repeated and amplified like in the kids game of telephone and “by the time you’re done, it’s ‘we’re doomed’ when what the scientist actually said was we need to reduce or carbon emissions 50% within this decade to avoid 1.5 (degrees of) warming, which would be really bad. Two degrees of warming would be far worse than 1.5 warming, but not the end of civilization,” Mann said.

Mann said doomism has become far more of a threat than denialism and he believes that some of the same people, trade associations and companies that denied climate change are encouraging people who say it is too late. Mann is battling publicly with a retired University of Arizona ecologist, Guy McPherson, an intellectual leader of the doom movement.

McPherson said he’s not part of the monetary system, hasn’t had a paycheck in 13 years, doesn’t vote and lived off the grid for a decade. He said all species go extinct and humans are no exception. He publicly predicted humanity will go extinct in 2026, but in an interview with The Associated Press said, “I’m not nearly as stuck on 2026,” and mentioned 2030 and changes to human habitat from the loss of Arctic summer sea ice.

Woodwell’s Francis, a pioneer in the study of Arctic sea ice who McPherson said he admires, said while the Arctic will be ice free by the summer by 2050, McPherson exaggerates the bad effects. Local Arctic residents will be hit hard, “the rest of us will experience accelerated warming and sea-level rise, disrupted weather patterns and more frequent extreme weather. Most communities will adapt to varying degrees,” Francis said. “There’s no way in hell humans will go extinct by 2026.”

Humans probably can no longer prevent Arctic sea ice from disappearing in the summer, but with new technology and emissions cuts, Francis said, “we stand a real chance of preventing those (other) catastrophic scenarios out there.”

Psychology professor Clayton said “no matter how bad things are, they can always be worse. You can make a difference between bad and worse… That’s very powerful, very self-affirming.

UN Urges World Leaders To Do More To Curtail Warming

Pressure keeps building on increasingly anxious world leaders to ratchet up efforts to fight climate change. There’s more of it coming this week in one of the highest-profile forums of all — the United Nations.

For the second time in four days, this time out of U.N. headquarters in New York, leaders will hear pleas to make deeper cuts of emissions of heat-trapping gases and give poorer countries more money to develop cleaner energy and adapt to the worsening impacts of climate change. “I’m not desperate, but I’m tremendously worried,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told The Associated Press in a weekend interview. “We are on the verge of the abyss and we cannot afford a step in the wrong direction.”

Climate-changes-UNSo on Monday, Guterres and United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson are hosting a closed-door session with 35 to 40 world leaders to get countries to do more leading up to the huge climate negotiations in Scotland in six weeks. Those negotiations in the fall are designed to be the next step after the 2015 Paris climate agreement. And all this comes after Friday, when U.S. President Joe Biden convened a private forum on climate to coax leaders to act now. “We are rapidly running out of time,” Guterres said at Biden’s forum. “There is a high risk of failure” of negotiations in Glasgow.

This week’s focus on climate change comes at the end of another summer of disasters related to extreme weather, including devastating wildfires in the western United States, deadly flooding in the U.S., China and Europe, a drumbeat of killer tropical cyclones worldwide and unprecedented heat waves everywhere. Achieving some kind of success in emission-cut pledges or financial help during the week of U.N. sessions would ease the path to an agreement in Glasgow, just as early announcements of pollution curbs did in 2015, especially those from China and the United States, experts said. Now those two nations are key again. But, Guterres said, their relationship is “totally dysfunctional.”

Nigel Purvis, a former U.S. State Department climate negotiator and CEO of the private firm Climate Advisers, said the political forces going into Glasgow don’t look as optimistic as they did four months ago after a Biden virtual climate summit. But, he says, there is still hope. Countries like China, the world’s top carbon emitter, have to strengthen their Paris pledges to cut carbon pollution, while rich nations like the United States that did increase their emissions promises need to do more financially to help poorer countries.

“The Glasgow meeting is not shaping up to be as well politically prepared as the Paris conference was in 2015,” Purvis said. And Pete Ogden, vice president of the United Nations Foundation for Energy and Climate, cited “worrying mistrust between nations at a time when greater solidarity is needed.” As the world’s leaders gather, activists, other government leaders and business officials gather in New York City for Climate Week, a giant cheerleading session for action that coincides with the high-level U.N. meeting. And throughout the week the push is on the rich nations, the G-20, to do more.

“It is true that the G-20 countries bear the biggest part of the responsibility for carbon emissions. And in that regard, of course it is absolutely crucial that we see them accelerating in a very important way their actions,” U.N. climate conference chief Patricia Espinosa said Friday as her agency announced that emission pledges for the Scotland conference were falling far short of the Paris goals. The most stringent one seeks to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. That translates to about 0.4 degree Celsius (0.7 degrees Fahrenheit) from now because of warming that’s already happened.

A UN report on Friday showed that current pledges to cut carbon emissions set the world on a path toward 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming since the pre-industrial era. That shoots way past even the weaker Paris goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). “That is catastrophic,” Guterres said in the interview. “The world could not live with a 2.7-degree increase in temperature.” The overall goal is to have net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of the 21st century. That refers to a moment when the world’s economies are putting the same amount of carbon dioxide into the air as plants and oceans take out of it, thus not adding to global warming.

Guterres is pushing for rich nations to fulfill their longtime pledges of $100 billion a year in climate aid to poor nations, with at least half of that going to help them cope with the impacts of global warming. So far, the world is falling about $75 billion a year short, according to a new study by Oxfam. Funding to cope with climate change’s impacts fell 25% last year for small island nations, “the most vulnerable of the vulnerable,” he said. Under the Paris agreement, every five years the nations of the world must come up with even more stringent emission cuts and more funding for the poorer nations to develop cleaner energy systems and adapt to climate change.

While the leaders convene for the U.N. meetings, activists, business leaders and lower-level government officials will be part of the cheerleading in a “climate week” series of events. Planners include big name corporations announcing billions of dollars worth of commitments to fighting climate change, lots of talk by big names such as Bill Gates about climate solutions, and even all seven late-night U.S. talk show hosts focusing on climate change Wednesday night. “You’ve got the world leaders there, and so you can remind them about climate and get them focused on it” said Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group , which is coordinating climate week.

What counts most is what happens in six weeks in Glasgow, says Jonathan Overpeck, dean of environment at the University of Michigan, “But,” he said, “the more that can be agreed upon early, the easier it will be to get the commitments that are needed to put an end to climate change. … We’re not yet on an emissions reductions path that is safe for our planet and its people.”

40% Chance Earth To Be Hotter Than Paris Goal Soon

There’s a 40% chance that the world will get so hot in the next five years that it will temporarily push past the temperature limit the Paris climate agreement is trying to prevent, meteorologists said. A new World Meteorological Organization forecast for the next several years also predicts a 90% chance that the world will set yet another record for the hottest year by the end of 2025 and that the Atlantic will continue to brew more potentially dangerous hurricanes than it used to.For this year, the meteorologists say large parts of land in the Northern Hemisphere will be 1.4 degrees (0.8 degrees Celsius) warmer than recent decades and that the U.S. Southwest’s drought will continue.

The 2015 Paris climate accord set a goal of keeping warming to a few tenths of a degree warmer from now. The report said there is a 40% chance that at least one of the next five years will be 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than pre-industrial times — the more stringent of two Paris goals. The world is already 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than pre-industrial times. Last year, the same group forecasted a 20% chance of it happening.

The doubling of the odds is due to improvements in technology that show it has “actually warmed more than we thought already,” especially over the lightly-monitored polar regions, said Leon Hermanson, a climate scientist at the United Kingdom’s Met Center who helped on the forecast. “It’s a warning that we need to take strong action,” Hermanson said.

Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann, who wasn’t part of the report, said he is “almost certain” the world will exceed that Paris warming threshold at least once in the next few years. But he said one or two years above 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) isn’t as worrisome as when the overall trend of temperatures stays above that level. Mann said that won’t happen probably for decades and could still be prevented.

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