24/4 – Michael Roberts: Climate change and wars

Medan kriget i Ukraina har pågått så har energi- och matpriserna ökat kraftigt. FN:s livsmedels- och jordbruksorganisation, FAO:s livsmedelsprisindex ökade med 12,6 % från februari till mars, skriver Michaels Roberts. Han pekar också på att förbrukningen av de fossila bränslena framför allt fossilt kol har ökat och att det blir allt svårare att nå klimatmålen:

OP26 in Glasgow contained an agreement to draw down fossil fuel production, even though there was a fierce argument that broke out over whether coal should be “phased down” or “phased out”. COP26 president Alok Sharma. “Countries are turning their back on coal,” he said. “The end of coal is in sight.” And yet, even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, far from declining, coal use globally surged to record levels this last winter, causing emissions to rise, while clean energy installations fell below the levels needed to reach climate targets. In the US, coal-fired power generation was higher in 2021 under President Joe Biden than it was in 2019 under then-president Donald Trump, who had positioned himself as the would-be saviour of America’s coal industry.

In Europe, coal power rose 18 per cent in 2021, its first increase in almost a decade. Economist Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at Oxford University, says the shift away from fossil fuels has rarely looked more complicated. “The energy transition was already in trouble — 80 per cent of the world’s energy is still from fossil fuels,” he said. “I expect that in the short term, the US will increase oil and gas output and EU coal consumption could increase”.

This conflict of aims by ‘the West’ comes at a time when global warming and climate change are reaching a ‘now or never’ tipping point, where the Paris target to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C cannot be met. In presenting the latest IPCC report on climate change (which supposedly outlines ‘solutions’ to mitigate global warming and meet targets), UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres commented: “The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership (by governments) is criminal.” By this, he meant that the 198 countries which had gathered in Glasgow for the COP26 Climate Change Conference last November were failing to hit any of their (already inadequate) targets for emission reductions. So global temperatures look set to barrel past the 1.5ºC degrees limit above 1850 industrial levels. Instead, the world faces a 2.7C temperature rise on current climate plans, the UN warned.Current pledges would reduce carbon emissions by only about 7.5% by 2030, far less than the 45% cut that scientists say is needed to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C.

And it’s not just reducing current emissions that are necessary, but also cutting back on the already accrued levels of carbon in the atmosphere. It’s a stock problem because many gases are long-lived. Nitrous oxide can stay in the atmosphere for 121 years, methane for 12 years. Carbon dioxide’s lifetime cannot be represented with a single value because the gas is not destroyed over time, but cycles through the ocean-atmosphere–land system. Some carbon dioxide will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years and the melting of the glaciers could release into the atmosphere previously trapped carbon.

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