buiter6_Jonas GratzerLightRocket via Getty Images_india coal Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Is Global Climate Solidarity Impossible?

Although plenty of people around the world still refuse to accept climate science, denial is not the main obstacle impeding the urgent global action needed to save the planet. The bigger problem is that the economic measures that could prevent catastrophic climate change are political non-starters.

NEW YORK – Despite the buzz around climate action at this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the world’s current environmental prospects look grim. There are three obstacles: climate-change denial; the economics of reducing greenhouse-gas (GHGs) emissions; and the politics of mitigation policies, which tend to be highly regressive.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global carbon-dioxide emissions must be cut by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and then eliminated entirely by 2050, to have even a reasonable chance of preventing global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. “We need quick wins,” warns the United Nations Environment Program in its latest Emissions Gap Report, “or the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement will slip out of reach.”

That is an understatement. Even if the current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the 2015 Paris accord are met, emissions in 2030 will be 38% above where they need to be. Global average temperatures will be on track to rise by a disastrous 2.9-3.4°C by 2100, with continuing increases thereafter. The NDC targets would need to be roughly tripled just to limit warming to 2°C, and would have to increase fivefold to achieve the 1.5°C goal.

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