Climate change: World may be just 15 years away from 'dangerous' global warming – Scotsman comment

As it was confirmed that Ahmed Al Jaber, head of one of the world’s largest oil companies, will be the president of the world’s next major climate summit, scientists revealed that the average global temperature hit 1.15 degrees Celsius above historic levels last year.

The figure, based on six different international datasets brought together by the World Meteorological Organisation, means the past eight years were the hottest on record.

Professor Tim Osborn, of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, said their temperature data was consistent with a long-term warming trend of 0.2C per decade. So, with carbon emissions still rising, it means the target of limiting global warming to 1.5C – beyond which particularly dangerous effects may be triggered – could be breached in as little as 15 years.

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In such circumstances, the Scottish Government’s decision to accelerate its efforts to reach net-zero emission are welcome, particularly following trenchant criticism of its progress by the Climate Change Commission last month. However, it is also clear that Scotland will need to prepare to adapt to the arrival of a new and unfamiliar climate, as will the rest of the world. Last summer’s hot, dry weather, which brought water restrictions to Scotland for the first time, will increasingly become the norm.

Furthermore, artificial ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere – for example, by burning wood chips in power stations fitted with carbon-capture-and-storage (CCS) devices – are likely to be needed. However, there are at least two problems with CCS. First, it is currently too expensive, and, second, it is being used as a distraction by the fossil fuel industry to convince people that there’s no need to worry because 'technology’ will come to our rescue, someday.

The appointment of Al Jaber, also chair of a renewable energy company, could be looked at in perhaps one of two ways: oil executives are finally facing up to the need to transition swiftly to net-zero carbon emissions, or the industry has ‘captured’ the climate summit and progress will grind to a halt, amid much hot air and greenwashing.

But while we bicker over such questions, the hard reality we all must face is that the mercury is continuing to rise, and our once-stable and benign atmosphere is being insidiously transformed into humanity's most dangerous and terrifying foe.



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