It’s Time for COP26. Here’s Where We Stand

The leaders heading to the Glasgow climate talks have made progress in recent years. But Earth is still on track for dangerous warming unless those efforts accelerate.

With a pivotal United Nations climate summit in Glasgow set to begin this weekend, there’s been a barrage of new research looking at how much progress the world is actually making in the fight against climate change. And that data offers reason for both hope and alarm.

There’s some good news, as I explain with my colleague Nadja Popovich in this recent article: Over the past decade, the world’s nations have slowly started bending the curve of future emissions downward, thanks to the rapid rise of clean energy.

But the bad news is that those efforts still aren’t nearly enough to avoid a dangerous rise in global temperatures in the years ahead. And it will take a herculean effort by governments and businesses to shift course.

The numbers: In 2014, the world was on pace for about 4 degrees Celsius, or about 7 degrees Fahrenheit, of global warming, according to data from the Climate Action Tracker. Things are slowly improving: Current policies now put the world on track for a bit less than 3 degrees C, and some of the most ambitious promises by countries to zero out their emissions could keep us at around 2 degrees C.

The catch: That assumes nations will actually follow through on their lofty climate pledges, which is far from assured. And scientists increasingly say that even 2 degrees Celsius is too risky and that we should aim for a lower limit of 1.5 degrees. (The world has already warmed 1 degree since preindustrial times.)

Quotable: “The pathway is extremely narrow,” said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency. “We really don’t have much time left to shift course.”



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