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World close to irreversible climate breakdown, studies show

It seems like, when it comes to the climate breakdown, the news is getting bleaker with each week that passes.

With Cop27 just around the corner, it has never been more urgent for the nations of the world to come together and agree the way forward. Otherwise it will be too late to avoid catastrophe.

Several reports have been issued recently which set out just how close we are to the point of no return. To meet the target of the 1.5C rise agreed at Cop26, emissions need to fall by at least half by 2023. However emissions are still currently rising and oil companies are posting soaring profits.

The UN's environment agency reported that there's 'no credible pathway to 1.5C in place' and that progress on cutting emissions is 'woefully inadequate'.

Even if all the pledges for 2030 are delivered in full we are on course for an increase in temperature of 2.5C across the globe which the UN's climate agency says would condemn the world to catastrophic climate breakdown.

One of the world's leading climate scientists, Prof Johan Rockström, said: “It’s a really bleak moment, not only because of the reports showing that emissions are still rising, so we’re not delivering on either the Paris or Glasgow climate agreements, but we also have so much scientific evidence that we are very, very close to irreversible changes – we’re coming closer to tipping points.”

There was further alarming news from the UN's meteorological agency which reported that all the main heating - or greenhouse - gases hit record highs in 2021 which included an alarming surge in the extremely potent gas methane.

Rockström concluded: “Time is really running out very, very fast. I must say, in my professional life as a climate scientist, this is a low point. The window for 1.5C is shutting as I speak, so it’s really tough.

"Despite the fact that the situation is depressing and very challenging, I would strongly advise everyone to act in business or policy or society or science. The deeper we fall into the dark abyss of risk, the more we have to make efforts to climb out of that hole. It’s not as if we don’t know what to do – it’s rather that we’re not doing what is necessary.”

It must be time for the new prime minister Rishi Sunak to impose a windfall tax on companies like Shall and TotalEnergies who have both recently doubled their quarterly profits, making extra cash through luck rather than judgement. The tax could be used to fund the transition to clean energy - something that is desperately needed. However, given Sunak has said he will not be going to Cop27, the climate does not seem to be high on his list of priorities. Could his Cop27 attendance be the first U-turn by the new PM? Time will tell...

John Martin