Skip to content

Reaction: Are we doing enough? How much time do we have left?

Are we doing enough? How much time do we have left?

Image: Monika Kubala

Reaction: Are we doing enough?

Summary

“Our assessment is that the current NDC is not compatible with contributing to global efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C.”… The time is now, Ināia tonu nei, to lead the change we want to see and to remain steadfast to the values that underpin our nationhood—values like whanaungatanga, kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga.” – Climate Change Commission 2021

Image: Monika Kubala

Reaction: Are we doing enough?

Summary

“Our assessment is that the current NDC is not compatible with contributing to global efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C.”… The time is now, Ināia tonu nei, to lead the change we want to see and to remain steadfast to the values that underpin our nationhood—values like whanaungatanga, kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga.” – Climate Change Commission 2021

Fig. 1: The top 20 countries for cumulative emissions 1850-2021 weighted by population in 2021 (left), versus the top 20 countries for cumulative per-capita emissions 1850-2021 (right). The ranking excludes countries with a population in 2021 of less than 1 million people. (Image: Carbon Brief)

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 might have given the world a 63% chance of staying below 2°C of global average temperature rise, and a 50% chance of staying below 1.5°C. This is the threshold associated with the most dangerous climate threats and what was agreed by most countries at the time. These risky odds do not include most feedback loops and non-linear (i.e. irreversable) tipping points.

Fig. 2: New Zealand is one of the worst countries in the world in terms of meeting its commitments to keep temperatures under 1.5C. (Image: Climate Action Tracker)

We have run out of time to return our climate to the stability that our global civilization enjoyed for the past several thousand years. We must cut net emissions to limit the magnitude of impacts. The faster we can do this, the more we can save, and the less we will lose—for ourselves and our children’s futures.

“The world is still heading for a catastrophic temperature rise in excess of 3°C this century – far beyond the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing 1.5°C.”UN Emissions Gap Report, 09 December 2020

Fig. 3: Projected temperature increases under current policies (Image: Nature)

Covid-19 emissions reductions has made no difference, indeed a staggering 5-billion-tonne gab in the carbon budget has been identified: some countries are under-accounting how much they are emitting.

Fig. 4: New Zealand’s commitments to reduce net emissions are insufficient to stay within what the IPCC deemed as ‘safe’ temperature increase of 1.5°C above pre-Industrial levels. We’re aiming for 3°C (Image: Nature)
Fig. 5: Sheep & cows together emit 36.5% of methane emissions. (Image: NZ Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2018 [April 2020]).

“The idea of planting trees in vast areas to remove carbon dioxide from the air and reduce the impact of climate change, for example, has attracted a lot of attention, with some claiming it’s the best “low-hanging fruit” approach to pursue, McElwee said. But large-scale tree planting could conflict directly with food security because both compete for available land. It could also diminish biodiversity, if fast-growing exotic trees replace native habitat.” –  Rutgers University, 2020

Fig. 6: Under the existing Emissions Trading Scheme, (ETS) the financial incentives to plant exotic trees are far greater than regenerating native forests. Radiata pine sequesters carbon faster in the trees, but not soils. More carbon is lost by the carbon-emitting harvesting methods, transporting felled timber (generally offshore), converting timber into wood products most of which will ultimately be burned or rot, releasing their carbon. Meanwhile, the biodiversity values and essential ecosystem services including soil carbon provided by natives are being sacrificed.
Fig. 7: To see an interactive map, click on the image. This will take you to the IPCC website. This screengrab is an example of how you can enter specific information for regions (in this example, New Zealand/ land only) and check the projected temperature changes over time, based on different models and pathways.

More information