The make-or-break climate summit: here’s what’s at stake at Cop26

(The Guardian, 28 Oct 2021) If leaders in Glasgow do not act to ratchet up carbon cutting, the alternative is a dialling up of calamitous global heating.

Cop26 may involve dozens of world leaders, cost billions of pounds, generate reams of technical jargon and be billed as the last chance to prevent calamitous global heating, but at its simplest the climate conference in Glasgow is a debate about dialling up or dialling down risk.

Dialling up


The world has already heated up by about 1.1C since the Industrial Revolution. Even at this level, delegates no longer need to read scientific studies to understand how 200 years of emissions, exhaust fumes and tree burning have destabilised the climate. All they have to do is look out the window or read recent local and global headlines. The host city, Glasgow, has just sweltered through its hottest summer on record. Globally, in the summer of 2021 there were record temperatures, fires and floods across the world, killing hundreds in the north-western Americas, choking swathes of Siberia, inundating cities in Germany and drowning subway commuters in China.

The heat has carried on into the autumn. At least four nations have experienced their warmest October days on record: Iran (46C), Morocco (43.5C), China (38.9C) and South Korea (32.3C). This is not a one-off. As with a human body, the difference between a healthy temperature and a planetary fever can be less than 1C. The past 10 years was the Earth’s hottest decade since measurements began. Even at the current level, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, has declared a “code red for humanity”. But it is too late to stop at this level because additional warming is already baked into the system.

External link

The Guardian, 28 Oct 2021: The make-or-break climate summit: here’s what’s at stake at Cop26