The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has released its annual Emissions Gap Report, in advance of the annual United Nations climate conference in Madrid.
According to scientific models, predicted temperature rises increase the likelihood of extreme weather events: accelerated glacier melt, rising sea levels, more severe monsoons, protracted drought and heat waves.
Emission reductions focus on sharp reduction in the use of fossil fuels, which pollute water, and a switch to renewable energy, especially wind and solar power and halting deforestation that devastates ecosystems.
The report compares where greenhouse gas emissions are heading against where they need to be and proposes ways to close the gap and calls for deeper and faster cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in order to avert a climate catastrophe. It points specifically to China and the United States, the two biggest polluters, who have further increased their emissions since the prior year.
The Paris Agreement targets a limit to rise in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius. In 2018, a panel of scientists concluded that the safer limit was to keep the rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The report underscores that the 20 richest countries, responsible for more than 75 percent of global emissions, must take the biggest, swiftest steps away from fossil fuels. The data suggests that even if Paris Agreement commitments are kept, average temperatures are on track to rise by 3.2 degrees Celsius from the start of the industrial age.
“For 10 years, the Emissions Gap Report has been sounding the alarm — and for 10 years, the world has only increased its emissions,” the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, said in a statement. “There has never been a more important time to listen to the science. Failure to heed these warnings and take drastic action to reverse emissions means we will continue to witness deadly and catastrophic heat waves, storms and pollution".