National climate pledges are too weak to avoid catastrophic warming. Most countries are on track to miss them anyway.
The global effort to combat climate change boils down to this: Bending a very stubborn curve.
At the upcoming U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland — COP26 for short — countries will face pressure to make more ambitious pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of keeping average global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to preindustrial levels.
Global greenhouse gas emissions
An analysis of national climate pledges by Climate Action Tracker, an independent international collaboration of climate scientists, shows the policies of many countries are inconsistent with their public pledges to cut greenhouse gases.
Those pledges, in turn, are mostly too weak to collectively meet the goals forged as part of the 2015 Paris agreement: to keep global warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and, if possible, stop at 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Projected greenhouse gas emissions in 2030
Earth has warmed more than 1 degree Celsius on average over the past century, and many places have warmed by at least 2 degrees, a Washington Post analysis of multiple temperature data sets found. The United Nations warned in a recent report that the world is on a path to reach 2.7 degrees Celsius, or 4.9 degrees Fahrenheit, of warming over the course of the century.
The United States has pledged to further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but its emissions are currently projected to remain mostly unchanged over the coming decade, according to the Climate Action Tracker analysis. Altering that path would require significant shifts in the way Americans travel and power their homes and businesses, scientists say.
The Biden administration, along with its European allies, has sought to persuade the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, China, and other major nations to commit to more ambitious, detailed plans ahead of COP26.
Past and projected greenhouse gas emissions for the United States
Climate Action Tracker analyzes pledges to reduce greenhouse gases from dozens of countries, which together account for about 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
It also assesses whether individual countries are doing their fair share to arrest climate change based on their size and their historical role in causing the problem. Developed countries are expected to make more ambitious cuts than developing countries.
Because more populous countries should also be expected to produce more total greenhouse gas emissions, it is often useful to compare countries according to their emissions per person. A recent U.N. report estimated that average global per person emissions would need to fall to 2.1 tons per year by 2030 to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target.
Below, take a look at dozens of nations, and see how their climate plans could alter their future emissions.
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