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UN sounds the alarm after analyzing nearly 200 government plans: 'The chasm between need and action is more menacing than ever'

The report revealed that, collectively, we are far off track.

The report revealed that collectively, we are far off track.

Photo Credit: iStock

The world is falling far behind on an important target to curb planet-warming pollution, putting us at risk of potentially irreversible impacts, according to a United Nations (U.N.) report.

What happened?

In November 2023, the United Nations released a report that analyzed nearly 200 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are non-binding national plans for climate mitigation. 

Under the current NDCs, planet-heating pollution would fall just 2% below 2019 levels by 2030 — far short of the 43% reduction that would, per the U.N., be needed to stay within the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement, Reuters reports. The agreement aimed to hold the global temperature increase to "well below 2°C [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C [2.7 degrees Fahrenheit] above pre-industrial levels."

"Global ambition stagnated over the past year, and national climate plans are strikingly misaligned with the science," U.N. secretary-general António Guterres said, per Reuters. "The chasm between need and action is more menacing than ever."

Why is the report concerning?

Scientists agree that the world's average temperature should not exceed that of preindustrial times by more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent worsening and potentially irreversible effects of a rapidly overheating planet, and this report revealed that collectively, we are far off track.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued another report in May 2023 that projected a significant likelihood that the world would exceed the 1.5-degree threshold in the next four years "driven by human-induced climate change, combined with a warming El Niño," as MIT News reported.

While we can't predict exactly what this would mean for the planet, researchers say it would heighten the risk of warming-related catastrophes. 

Meanwhile, yet another study, published in November 2023 in Nature Climate Change, predicted that the carbon budget its researchers set — the net amount of carbon dioxide that humans can produce without a 50% likelihood of exceeding 1.5 degrees — will run out by 2029. 

"The world will blow past 1.5 [degrees] C well before today's kindergarteners finish high school," Rob Jackson, professor of Earth System Science at Stanford University, told ABC News in response to that study.

What can I do to help curb planet-warming pollution?

Many people were disillusioned by the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which took place in Dubai in November and December — the event was led by a dirty-energy CEO, as Columbia Business School noted.

However, some experts said there were also encouraging signs, such as a pledge to triple global renewable-energy capacity and double the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030.

Plus, some individual countries and states are taking matters into their own hands. For instance, New Jersey will become the first state to mandate the teaching of climate change to public school students. The state also has a plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035.

Still, strong public demand will increase the likelihood that governments will prioritize climate action, according to Yale School of the Environment. You can put pressure on public officials by contributing to organizations working to curb global heating, writing to your politicians to demand action, and voting for pro-environmental candidates.

In addition, you can put your money where your mouth is by keeping it in a climate-friendly bank. One example is Atmos Financial, which has been endorsed by climate scientists and supports funding clean energy and other climate-positive products.

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