The COP26 summit brought together parties to stimulate action towards the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The anticipation of the Glasgow meeting raised hopes that the 197 nations present would actually do something concrete that would prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 C (2.7 F).
It was not to be. The UN report on COP26 paints a much rosier picture of what has actually been achieved than a realistic assessment supports it. It borders on irresponsibility, as he claims that “the Glasgow Climate Pact is keeping 1.5 alive”. After this opening statement, all that follows should be taken with an ocean of salt. The failure of COP26 means the world must turn to another strategy. More on that below.
Glasgow attendees heard a lot of rising rhetoric from world leaders about the seriousness of the problem; however, nothing has resulted beyond the usual pledges of billions of dollars in transfer payments to developing countries facing the devastating effects of climate change. Nice talk, but if the past is any indicator, words will say more than any follow-up action. The noble rhetoric of world leaders was just that. The real action was nowhere to be found.
Glasgow has glossed over some of the main issues related to climate change. For example, nothing has been said about carbon capture. Likewise, the nations of the world have remained silent on nuclear power, an essential transitional energy source if we are to phase out fossil fuels and switch to renewables.
The leaders of two of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas polluters – China and Russia – didn’t even bother to attend COP26. In the absence of Presidents Xi and Putin, the results of the conference border on a vacuum.
Without going into the details of the commitment, suffice to say that the planet can no longer limit temperature increases to 1.5 ° C since the industrial revolution by 2030. The political will to do so simply does not exist. not. Temperatures will certainly cross this barrier, which climatologists have designated as the point of no return. Once crossed, it means that the climate will be out of control.
COP26 was full of “exhortations”, but not much tangible or binding. It was a statement in the official Glasgow report: “Countries have raised their ambition…” This is perhaps the finest example of diplomatic slap-trap in history.
As in the previous 25 climate conferences, Glasgow has once again kicked the box. By entering Glasgow, half of the world’s major economies had not even met their previous 2015 Paris Agreement targets. There are no penalties for these failures, not even a pat on the wrist.
With this non-approach, target 1.5 is now definitely out of reach. Natural disasters – increasing storms, floods, forest fires, mudslides, droughts, heat waves, etc. – will reach an incredible intensity. Entire communities will be swallowed up by the rising waters. Crop yields will drop. Water shortages will become more widespread. Displacement will affect millions of people. The world will be forced to face this destruction accompanied by a huge increase in cleanup costs and loss of lives and livelihoods.
Add to the climate chaos that many countries have over-reported their carbon savings, a fact that was revealed in Glasgow but was not included in the UN report. There are no penalties for climate reporting fraud.
What all of this means is, it’s time to shift attention away from stopping and reversing global warming towards mitigation. In other words, learning to live and cope with climate change and the increasing devastation it will inflict. Translated, this means building barriers against rising sea levels in places like lower Manhattan, dramatically increasing federal and state budgets for agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard, enacting laws restricting residential construction in places highly prone to forest fires and beach erosion, and encouraging “climate migration” from high-risk areas to safer places.
Richard Hermann, a graduate of the Canandaigua Academy, is a law professor, legal blogger, author of seven books and a part-time resident of the Finger Lakes.
This article originally appeared on MPNnow: Essay / Richard Hermann: Coping with climate change