Canada, Russia, and China are pursuing policies that would push average global warming about 5.0°C by 2100 if every country followed their lead, according to a new ranking of countries’ climate action programs, published Friday in the journal Nature Communications.
“The U.S. and Australia are only slightly behind, with both pushing the global temperature rise dangerously over 4.0°C above pre-industrial levels,” The Guardian reports. “Even the EU, which is usually seen as a climate leader, is on course to more than double the 1.5°C that scientists say is a moderately safe level of heating.”
“It is interesting is to see how far out some countries are, even those that are considered leaders in the climate mitigation narrative,” said study author Yann Robiou du Pont of Melbourne University.
The paper looks at countries’ actions, not their formal commitments, known as Nationally Determined Contributions, under the Paris Agreement. Its purpose “is to inform climate negotiators as they begin a two-year process of ratcheting up climate commitments, which currently fall far short of the 1.5°-to-2.0°C goal set in France three years ago,” The Guardian notes.
“Among the major economies, the study shows India is leading the way with a target that is only slightly off course for 2.0°C,” the UK-based paper adds. “Less developed countries are generally more ambitious, in part because they have fewer factories, power plants, and cars, which means they have lower emissions to rein in.”
But that’s only part of the story. “On the opposite side of the spectrum are the industrial powerhouse China and major energy exporters which are doing almost nothing to limit carbon dioxide emissions,” The Guardian adds. “These include Saudi Arabia (oil), Russia (gas), and Canada, which is drawing vast quantities of dirty oil from tar sands. Fossil fuel lobbies in these countries are so powerful that government climate pledges are very weak, setting the world on course for more than 5.0°C of heating by the end of the century.”
While Europe’s “wealthy shopping societies” show up better in the analysis, that’s “largely because emissions on products are calculated at the source of manufacture rather than the point of consumption”.
The Guardian says the study will likely be controversial, since there is no consensus on how to allocate responsibility for carbon reductions under the Paris Agreement. But “the positive outcome of this study is that we have a metric to assess the ratcheting up of ambition,” Robiou du Pont said. Countries must move in that direction “as much and as rapidly as possible,” he added, because “every fraction of a degree will have a big impact.”