Don’t believe the lies: Five facts to consider at the end of UN COP27
27e The Conference of the Parties (COP27), this year’s UN climate conference, is in its final days. As negotiators work behind closed doors and civil society advocates raise their voices in hallways and courtyards, there has been a flood of misinformation online that has distorted how the outside world views the conference. Seeing lies popping up on Twitter and even in news articles is frustrating enough for those of us here in person. For people who follow news coverage and social media discussions from home, it can be even harder to separate fact from fiction.
Here are five key facts that can help explain this complex landscape. (For a deeper dive into what’s really going on here in Egypt, check out Climate Action Against Misinformation website.)
1. A small number of large companies are responsible for the climate crisis
Research from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shows that emissions from major fossil fuel producers are responsible for almost half of the increase in global surface temperature. This is not news, but it is worth repeating. Five years ago, researchers calculated how much of the global temperature rise could be attributed to specific sources. Their study examined carbon dioxide and methane emissions from these companies’ products, as well as the extraction and production processes of the largest gas, oil and coal producers and cement manufacturers.
Updated analysis from 2020 shows that emissions attributed to the 88 largest carbon producers contributed about 60% of the observed increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and 52% of the increase in global average temperatures between 1880 and 2015.
It is important that everyone acts responsibly to reduce emissions linked to global warming, but we know where most of them come from. When you think of global emissions, don’t picture an individual – point to powerful corporations, especially the 88 corporations that are largely responsible for climate change.
2. The best solution: Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy
Don’t be distracted by the fossil fuel industry’s clever attempts to keep selling their products, or their promises of hypothetical advances that serve as an excuse to continue business as usual. Climate change is primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and the most immediate path to avert climate catastrophe is to stop investing in these fuels and start powering our economy with a just transition to renewable energy. The transition to 100% renewable energy is possible. It can, and must, start now to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Earlier this year, UCS experts worked with community groups to produce a report, On the way to 100% renewable energy, which shows that two dozen states can reliably meet 100% of their electricity needs with renewable energy. This change will require comprehensive energy policies to ensure a just transition, but it can start today.
The study focused on member states of the United States Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement. The report found that these states can cover all their electricity consumption with renewable energy by 2035, even with a significant increase in demand due to the electrification of transport and heating. Such a transition would have major benefits for public health, the climate, local economies and energy accessibility. (You can read more about this work here.)
Renewable energies are a readily available solution. A number of countries present at COP27, including Estonia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya and Tanzania, recognize this fact and have committed to switching to 100% renewable energy.
3. The same solutions will solve the energy crisis and the climate crisis
There is currently a very real energy crisis in parts of the world, where hundreds of millions of people do not have access to electricity and are at the mercy of volatile fossil fuel prices. Nations can solve both of these problems at the same time by accelerating a just transition to renewable energy.s.
Putting climate and energy against each other is an insidious lie. As my colleague Kathy Mulvey brilliantly put it, “climate action is the solution, not the problem”.
The oil and gas industry has exploited the current energy crisis to lobby against ambitious climate action, demanding regulatory rollbacks, and fomenting discord during the COP27 negotiations. Julie McNamara, senior energy analyst at UCS, addressed the industry’s trickery in a recent Blog post: “Given the fallacy of the fossil fuel solution, our policy makers should stop focusing on fossil fuel production and instead take a broad view of short- and long-term needs and opportunities, both at home and abroad. If they do, they will see that the only truly solid path forward is one that puts the accelerated transition to clean energy at its center.
“The transition to clean energy won’t happen overnight,” she continued, “but neither will there be fossil fuel development on the scale that fossil fuel interests claim. need – and only a of these approaches will really invest in our future.
The current carbon-based energy system has serious drawbacks. They obviously include climate change, but also the health effects of air pollution and water pollution. Fossil fuel extraction is ruining ecosystems, including those on which indigenous communities around the world depend. The benefits of the carbon-based economy are concentrated in a few companies, while the damage hurts marginalized people in the United States and around the world. Doubling down on carbon-based energy policies will worsen, not solve, the climate crisis.
4. Don’t believe the hydrogen hype
Industry lobbyists at COP27 touted hydrogen as the answer, but it’s not the solution they promise. For hydrogen to play a role in decarbonization, the fuel itself must be generated through a carbon-free process.
In a previous Blog, McNamara did a great job detailing the facts about hydrogen. A few critical points puncture the industry’s empty rhetoric:
- When hydrogen is burned, it can issue as many nitrogen oxides as natural gas combustion-otherwise After— which can cause significant respiratory health problems.
- Hydrogen infrastructure is not the same as natural gas infrastructure. To convert to hydrogen, natural gas lines, compressors, and monitoring systems may require upgrades or must be completely replaced to prevent embrittlement and leaks. Appliances should also be upgraded or replaced.
- Even “green” hydrogen produced with renewable energy presents challenges. The scale of renewable energy that would be needed for a hydrogen-based economy is enormous.
Finally, as one participant pointed out in a meeting here at COP27, many rural and remote communities do not have current infrastructure to support gas. Building a hydrogen-based economy would require starting from scratch for these communities. Why not start with renewable energies?
5. The 1.5 degree target is threatened by political inaction
The scientists who drafted the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report earlier this year warned that governments must act quickly to keep the 1.5C target within reach. The technology to keep the planet below 1.5°C is scientifically possible; the reason the world might miss out is political.
Dr Rachel Cleetus, Policy Director and Senior Economist of the UCS Climate and Energy Program, clearly stated it earlier this year: “This latest IPCC report warns policymakers, once again, that the current global trajectory of heat-trapping emissions is alarming. Their continued inaction is directly responsible for the climate crisis already present, and it has also jeopardized the goals of the Paris Agreement. The solutions are obvious and have been for a long time: the world must quickly phase out fossil fuels and accelerate the shift to clean energy. Wealthier nations, including the United States, bear significant responsibility for action because of their outsized contribution to global warming emissions.
The science is overwhelmingly and frighteningly unambiguous: the window for reducing global warming emissions is closing, but there is still hope if nations act now. The policymakers who need to act are here in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt right now, and the opportunity to make a difference is in their hands. Additional time is not an option.
Misinformation leads us to disaster
Misinformation is one of the biggest obstacles to climate action. A new investigation shows that public opinion in Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States has been influenced by climate misinformation. The survey found that 55-85% of survey respondents believed at least one of the misrepresentations about climate change presented in the survey.
People around the world want climate action, but efforts to address the crisis are being undermined by misinformation. The lies, distractions and delays promoted by fossil fuel producers and their political allies are not only factually wrong, they endanger the future of the entire planet.