The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) released its Emissions Gap Report on climate change this week. The findings should make reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions the top priority for every human being on the planet.
The report notes that GHG emissions continue to rise despite scientific warnings, the United States is not meeting pledges to reduce GHG emissions–one of few G20 members failing to do so, and decarbonizing the global economy requires changes by individuals, corporations, and governments at every level. The report states that if we don’t reverse course quickly, we’re going to experience even more severe and frequent hurricanes, heatwaves, flooding, fires, and mass extinctions.
The Executive Summary provides insight into the seriousness of the problems we face. GHG emissions have increased by 1.5% every year over the past decade. As a result, the report states that emissions need to decrease by about 7.5% every year over the next decade to avert the most severe effects of climate change. And every year the world doesn’t act, the annual GHG reduction requirements grow more difficult. The outlook is bleak and sobering, but it also contains solutions countries are enacting that offer hope. Even China has a goal to ban all new coal-fired power plants, while the Trump administration is advocating for the use of more coal.
The report ranks the United States among the world’s worst polluters–and at a time when countries are reducing their GHG emissions, the U.S. has increased its emissions under the Trump administration, which is also vacating the Paris Agreement.
According to the report, burning coal, gas-guzzling cars like SUVs, and energy use are among the biggest contributors to GHG increases. They emphasize the need for greener energy sources like wind and solar, and the need for more electric cars. UNEP also warns about GHGs as dangerous as CO2–methane and nitrous oxide emitted by the animal agriculture industry–and the need to reduce them.
The Trump administration has taken shortcuts to artificially prop up the economy and stock market by deregulating the fossil fuel industry and giving wealthy polluters tax cuts to prioritize profit over preservation. The cost will be severe, and we’re all going to pay for it. Trump, who stated he would reduce the national debt to zero, has added $3 trillion to the national debt in three years despite inheriting a strong economy. The national debt is now $23 trillion with no infrastructure package to reduce GHG, and GHG polluters running wild.
Individuals, companies, and governments need to reverse course on GHG emissions before the full force of the reckoning arrives. We’re on a path for unprecedented climate change. This crisis is an all-hands on deck emergency for the planet that should inspire everyone to get involved by taking steps to reduce their GHG emissions, supporting planet-friendly companies, and voting for politicians who put forth an aggressive agenda to mitigate climate change.