February 29, 2024

Little listening to science

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Science often gets in the way of those in power like Sultan Al Jaber (third from right) when making political decisions. © Imago / UPI Photo

At COP28, experts summarized ten climate findings from the past year. They don’t get much attention.

It is one of the few events at COP 28 where the focus is on science. Between negotiations, press conferences and somewhat convincing announcements from heads of state, a small group of scientists presented a new report on Sunday evening in Dubai. Title: “Ten New Insights in Climate Science” – Ten new findings in climate science.

This is the seventh edition of the report. Every year, leading scientists from universities and research institutes come together to identify the ten most important climate science updates from the past year.

One of them is Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He has the honor of presenting the ten points in the Power Tour – the event is scheduled to last for half an hour.

“The report will be sent not only to the head of the UN Climate Secretariat, Simon Steele, but to all negotiating parties at the climate summit,” Rockström stresses the importance of the action and continues the call: “Science must return to our world.” Center for Negotiations.” The report summarizes the ten key findings contained in the report.

1. Exceeding the 1.5 degree threshold for global warming is inevitable – at least temporarily. It is important to minimize the extent and duration of transgression so as not to risk irreversible changes to the Earth system.

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2. In order to keep the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement in sight, there is no way to avoid a rapid and controlled exit from fossil fuels. Governments must not allow any new fossil fuel projects and must shut down existing fossil fuel infrastructure earlier than previously planned.

3. Politicians should promote the potential for efficient carbon dioxide removal.

4. Following on from the previous point, we must be careful not to rely too much on natural carbon dioxide reducers. It is unclear how the ability of forests and oceans to absorb carbon dioxide will change as climate change progresses.

5. The climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis are interconnected and can only be solved together.

6. Simultaneous extreme events – such as drought combined with a heatwave – can have worse impacts than the “sum of individual events.” These so-called “compound events” pose significant risks and are still not scientifically understood.

7. Mountain glaciers are melting faster and faster. This puts communities living in mountainous areas at risk, and about two billion people living downstream are at risk of water shortages.

8. Climate change can restrict the mobility of poor population groups in particular. People who are unable to move are particularly affected by the consequences of climate change.

9. Often, climate adaptation only protects parts of society and can even be harmful to others. Including equity as a criterion in climate adaptation strategies would help prevent maladaptation.

10. Reforming the global food system is essential for effective climate protection. By doing so, the food system can shift from being one of the largest sources of emissions to being part of the solution.

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Scientists’ concerns about not being heard enough at the climate summit were confirmed again just hours ago. On the same day that Rockstrom took the stage in Dubai, an article appeared in the British newspaper “The Guardian” about the controversial conference leader, Sultan Al Jaber.

The article revolves around a dialogue between Al-Jaber and Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland. In an online event, Al Jaber answered a question from Robinson that there is no scientific evidence that phasing out fossil fuels is necessary to achieve the 1.5 degree target.

When asked about this, climate researcher Rockstrom responded in his usual sober manner: “All possible scenarios consistent with the 1.5 degree target assume that we phase out fossil fuels by 2050.”

However, there will be residual emissions. According to the scientist, it should be captured using carbon dioxide storage technologies. But even this will not be enough: in order to reverse the expected exceedance of the temperature limit, the bottom line is that carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere.

The scenarios thus envision, in addition to a rapid exit from coal, oil and gas, an equally rapid expansion of CO2 extraction options. “Scientifically, there can be no other statement than that phasing out fossil fuels is necessary, but it is absolutely not sufficient.”

In a press conference on Monday, Conference President Al Jaber also commented on these allegations. He believes in science. “Everything we do revolves around science.”

Al-Jaber said that The Guardian newspaper took the quote out of context. It’s another attempt to undermine the work of him and his team. He added that the summit has achieved tremendous success so far. When he walks through the conference halls, he sees hope and optimism.

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It is doubtful that he also met climate scientists during these hopeful tours through the site.