Sharm el-Sheikh — Climate change is an existential threat to humans and our ability to thrive on a healthy planet. But when it comes to rising temperatures, humanity’s inability to slow emissions and limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is not due to a lack of knowledge or a need for new technologies.
Consider: Humans have been warned for over a century of the dangers of global warming and its negative impact on human health and planetary systems, including but not limited to loss of biodiversity, deterioration of soil and ocean health, increased sea ice melt and corresponding sea level rise and amplified disasters such as hurricanes, floods, heat waves and droughts.
The IPCC estimates that globally, $1.6-3.8 trillion (USD) needs to be invested annually through public and private climate finance to keep warming well below global warming. above 2 degrees Celsius. For comparison, the International Monetary Fund reports that fossil fuel subsidies in 2020 were $5.9 trillion (USD) when adding explicit and implicit subsidies
Fifty years ago, “The Limits to Growth” warned humans of the serious need to live in balance with Earth systems. The science is settled. Likewise, technologies that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions are available and increasingly competitive, especially in power generation and transportation, two of the largest contributors to global emissions.
What is missing? It is not a difficult physical equation. As we live in a complex world, the laggards in this area are observable: money and societal will.
As countries enter the second week of global negotiations at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, commonly referred to as COP27, success will depend on negotiators’ ability to mobilize investment and advancing policy at the conference. to accelerate opportunities for progress in altering the trajectory of climate change.
Even discussions of “loss and damage” – a key issue of this conference that has been historically neglected – are defined by these two needs. Underlying the questions of loss and damage are questions about processes for handling losses (policy) and determining who is financially responsible (investment).
The price to pay to fight climate change is not small, but seen in the right framework, it is a boon. Take climate-related disasters. In 2021, the world experienced four mega weather events that each cost more than $20 billion in economic losses: Hurricane Ida, flooding in Europe, flooding in China, and unprecedented winter weather in Texas and parts of Mexico.
These types of man-made disasters are now becoming more frequent, occurring in more places and at greater magnitudes, and costing more without significant investment to reduce rising greenhouse gas emissions. tight. The 5th High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance takes place during the second week of COP27, where ministers will discuss achieving the $100 billion annual support bar for low-income countries, a total which these countries already regard as too little, too late. The real need is in the trillions of dollars, not the billions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that globally, $1.6-3.8 trillion (USD) needs to be invested annually through public and private climate-related finance to keep warming well below warming above 2 degrees Celsius. For comparison, the International Monetary Fund reports that fossil fuel subsidies in 2020 were $5.9 trillion (USD) when adding explicit and implicit subsidies.
The combination of policies and public investments can dramatically amplify results. America’s Cut Inflation Act, the nation’s most dramatic attempt to reorient its infrastructure and power generation to reduce emissions, could spend up to $800 billion (USD) in tax credits , boosting private investment by $1.7 trillion over the next decade, according to a policy review by Credit Suisse.
The same report estimates that with manufacturing and consumption tax credits, the cost of solar electricity could fall below one US cent, possibly as early as 2025. The investment bank said that the US Inflation Reduction Act “permanently changes the narrative from mitigating risk to seizing opportunity” for businesses to reap the positive impact of the act on the economy.
We have fallen behind the schedule set by the Paris climate agreements and the 1.5 degree Celsius target no longer seems achievable. International negotiations must advance the agenda to set aggressive mitigation policies, with incentives and disincentives, to scale known solutions in the fastest possible timeframes for manufacturing and distribution globally entire.
This requires real investment, both private and public, to have a chance of preventing the worst impacts of climate change. Now is the time to show the money to the most marginalized countries.
Peter Schlosser is one of the world’s foremost Earth scientists, with expertise in the Earth’s hydrosphere and how humans affect the natural state of the planet. He is Vice President and Vice Provost of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures at Arizona State University.
Michael Dorsey is a globally recognized expert on sustainability, finance, renewable energy and the environment. He is chairman of the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service at Arizona State University.