Cop28 live: scientists warn of catastrophic climate tipping points as summit continues | Cop28 #Cop28 #live #scientists #warn #catastrophic #climate #tipping #points #summit #continues #Cop28

Key events

Fossil fuel phase out, politics and ‘pie-in-the sky thinking’

Damian Carrington

Damian Carrington

The biggest argument at Cop28 is the competing claims that a “phase out” of fossil fuels is necessary to keep global heating to 1.5C (2.7F) above preindustrial levels, or that a “phase out” is acceptable, a debate amplified by the Guardian’s revelation of Sultan Al Jaber’s recorded comment that there was “no science” behind the former.

As Leo Roberts at E3G told me, the competing claims can result from the “translation of science into politics”.

This post from Ben Caldecott, director of Oxford University’s Sustainable Finance Group, is both insightful and scathing, and takes a swipe at Oxford’s Prof Myles Allen, an eminent climate scientist but the only one I know to have backed Al Jaber in the “no science” furore. Allen said Al Jaber’s comment was “perfectly accurate”.

Caldecott said: “If we can scrub from the atmosphere all the carbon emitted by future fossil fuel consumption, plus all the carbon emitted after we almost certainly overshoot a 1.5C degree carbon budget, then yes, [Sultan Al Jaber] and my very distinguished Oxford colleague Prof Allen are right: no fossil fuel phase out is needed to achieve the aims of the Paris Agreement.”

“But mere analysts of economic, financial and political systems (like me) tend to think that this is pie-in-the sky thinking and nowhere near possible. Further, it is being used to justify continued avoidable fossil fuel use.

“The fossil fuel lobby often making these arguments have no actual plan to scrub carbon at such scales so quickly. It would be almost impossible to do so and would cost vast sums even if it were possible – much more than decarbonisation and without the co-benefits of cleaner, safer and more productive societies.”

“And yes, we obviously do need to scale safe and permanent carbon disposal (part and parcel of net zero), but that is never going to happen at the scale needed to offset like-for-like currently avoidable fossil fuel emissions. The finite techno-economic capacity we have to develop the means to scrub carbon needs to be focused on hard-to-abate emissions and then bringing us back to safe levels after we (probably) overshoot 1.5C, not sustaining existing fossil fuel interests.”

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s Cop28 newsletter, also addressed the issue:

“Some climate scientists have explained in tortuous detail how his comments could, technically, be right, whilst others have pointed to the IPCC’s clarity around the principal driver of 80% of the problem of climate change: the burning of fossil fuels.

“So unless we have $1tn a year to spare to pay to ramp up carbon capture and storage (CCS) from its 45m tonnes a year capacity now, to 32bn tonnes a year, it appears the obvious focus for Cop (sorry Darren from Exxon) may need to be phase out of fossil fuels and ramp up of the renewables alternatives.”

The $1tn a year figure comes from new research, also from Oxford: “A high CCS pathway to net zero emissions in 2050 is expected to cost at least $30tn more than a low CCS pathway – roughly $1tn per year.”

As co-author Richard Black puts it: “That is at least $120 per year for every man, woman and child on the planet that we would be spending unnecessarily.”

Ajit Niranjan

Ajit Niranjan

As day six begins of talks in Dubai’s Expo City, more sobering scientific news should focus minds there on achieving a result.

A new report warns the Earth is on the verge of crossing five catastrophic climate tipping points as a result of carbon pollutions in the atmosphere, with three more in sight in the 2030s if the world heats more than 1.5C (2.7F) above pre-industrial levels, reports Ajit Niranjan, the Guardian’s European environment correspondent.

“Tipping points in the Earth system pose threats of a magnitude never faced by humanity,” said Tim Lenton, from the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute. “They can trigger devastating domino effects, including the loss of whole ecosystems and capacity to grow staple crops, with societal impacts including mass displacement, political instability and financial collapse.”

The tipping points at risk include the collapse of big ice sheets in Greenland and the West Antarctic, the widespread thawing of permafrost, the death of coral reefs in warm waters, and the collapse of atmospheric circulation in the North Atlantic.

Unlike other changes to the climate such as hotter heatwaves and heavier rainfall, these systems do not slowly shift in line with greenhouse gas emissions but can instead flip from one state to an entirely different one. When a climatic system tips – sometimes with a sudden shock – it may permanently alter the way the planet works.

Good morning! This is Damien Gayle, on the sixth day of the 28th Conference of the Parties climate change summit, or Cop28.

The Guardian will be liveblogging the negotiations throughout, as always, and we look forward to your contributions: please email me on damien.gayle@theguardian.com with thoughts and suggestions – or you can reach me on X, the social network formerly known as Twitter, at @damiengayle. Helena Horton (helena.horton@theguardian.com) will be taking over later on.

The theme for today is multilevel action, urbanisation and built environment, and transport.

Meanwhile yesterday the main talking points at the conference included:

  • Widespread outrage at the news that a record number of fossil fuel lobbyists have been given access to Cop28

  • The news that agriculture and food systems had been left off the latest draft of the negotiating text on the global stocktake

  • Mary Robinson making her first comment since the row over the Cop28 president’s controversial response to her questions on the need for a fossil fuel phase-out, revealed by the Guardian.


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