It's understandable these days when people start to panic. The climate news is "gloom and doom" throughout. To get you in the mood, here are three examples from the past seven days:
The UN has evaluated the goals and measures of all climate plans submitted so far. The result: devastating. According to the study, the global greenhouse gas savings gap in 2030 will be around 20 to 24 gigatonnes – well over half of the current annual emissions of all countries (around 40 gigatonnes). The 1.5-degree target is likely to be obsolete – unless a miracle happens in the next seven years.
"Humanity has finally left the safer niche," Johan Rocksträm said this week. His update on planetary boundaries contains nothing but bad news. In six out of nine areas, the limits of stable conditions have been exceeded. In 2015, there were only four – although not all data was complete at the time – and all areas have moved closer to or into the red zones.
The storm in Libya, in which thousands – probably even tens of thousands – of people died, is part of a summer of extreme weather. According to experts, it would have been much milder without climate change. One reason for the severity of the event is, among other things, the water temperatures in the Mediterranean, which are currently far too warm, as my colleague Julia Merlot writes.
These are dramatic news, and most readers of this newsletter also know that this is only the beginning of the climate crisis. Since there are currently no political signs of a radical turnaround in CO₂ emissions, reports such as those from Libya are now likely to come more frequently.
At the same time, experts are increasingly discussing so-called overshoot scenarios. Behind this is the question of what happens if we exceed certain targets such as the 1.5 or 2 degree target in the future – and by what means this could be reversed. Since there is too little movement in conventional climate protection, it is obvious to think about alternatives.
Moratorium on "Solar Radiation Management"
A high-profile 15-member commission made up of former presidents, ministers and representatives of international organisations has been dealing with precisely such prospects for over a year. They discuss options for adapting to such an aggravated climate crisis, but also technical retrieval options for an "overshoot". Among them are the former head of the World Trade Organization Pascal Lamy, the former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Laurence Tubiana, one of the architects of the Paris Agreement.
The panel on Thursday called for a temporary halt to experiments with certain geoengineering techniques. So far, there is no international agreement for the development or use of such technologies, so the countries must agree on a common approach. In particular, they criticize the technical methods for attenuating solar radiation in their report.
"We need a moratorium," said Commissioner Laurence Tubiana of the European Climate Foundation. "We know the risks, it's not a panacea."
Geoengineering: Mirrors in space and CO2 vacuum cleaners
Geoengineering is primarily about two major types of technology: "Solar Radiation Management" (SRM) is particularly controversial. This is to influence solar radiation by reducing or reflecting more incident sunlight so that the earth warms up less. With the help of the albedo effect, this can already be done by simple, albeit less effective, means – the whitening of house roofs – but also by the elaborate placement of mirrors in space.
However, the most promising method at present is to apply aerosol particles in the stratosphere. Similar to large volcanic eruptions, this would cool down the Earth relatively quickly, but would only have a temporary effect. Particles from the Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines, which erupted in 1991, lowered the Earth's average surface temperature for more than a year. However, none of the SRM methods has an impact on atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and would not counteract ocean acidification.
The second method, Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), is intended to retrieve carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The Climate Overshoot Commission, on the other hand, takes a positive view of this form of geoengineering. For example, countries should start using technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as soon as possible. These included carbon capture and storage (CCS) and direct air capture (CO₂). However, this is also not without controversy: With CCS, CO₂ is captured where it is produced, for example via so-called capture towers. Compressed and liquefied, it is then transferred via pipelines, trucks or tankers to a repository.
Suitable locations are depleted gas or oil fields in deep sedimentary layers or basalt formations under the seabed or on land. The method has already been tested at several locations in Europe, including Norway, but is complex and still quite expensive. This also applies to the method of extracting CO₂ directly from the air with technical devices, and you also need quite a lot of energy.
Getting out of the fossils
Of course, the Overshoot Commission is also calling for the safest way, namely simply phasing out fossil fuels. Just like better measures for survival in the climate crisis. States must finally put more resources into adapting to the consequences of extreme weather conditions, the report says. That sounds reasonable – but also like a truism. After all, how are poor countries like Libya, which have been shaken by civil war, supposed to protect themselves? In some cases, this is not even possible in rich countries like Germany.
If you like, we will inform you once a week about the most important things about the climate crisis – stories, research results and the latest developments on the biggest topic of our time. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.
The topics of the week
Evaluation of satellite data: Record-breaking fire season in northern forestsThe forest fires
of recent months have released hundreds of millions of tons of carbon emissions. Canada's emissions alone are greater than the annual emissions of several countries this year.
Health check for the Earth: Six of the nine planetary boundaries have already been crossed
The foundations of life have already been destroyed to such an extent that humanity has left its "safe ecological niche", explains study author and inventor of the boundary model Johan Rockström. The world is in the high-risk area.
Flood in the desert state: How storm "Daniel" brought
disaster to Libya Thousands of people have died, countless are missing: For the second time, storm "Daniel" has triggered a flood disaster, this time it hit the civil war country of Libya. Which gave the low its destructive power.
Surprising study: Heat pumps are twice as efficient as oil and gas heating systems in cold weather
Researchers at the University of Oxford compare heating systems with fossil fuels and heat pumps – and come to a clear conclusion.
One year after the Nord Stream attack: Did the gas leak even have something good for the climate?
Gas bubbles bubbling on the surface, a whirlpool one kilometer in diameter. The Nord Stream gas leak damaged the climate and the environment – but also led to a rethink. What we know today about the consequences.
Goals of the global climate agreement at risk: The 24-gigatonne gap
Eight years after around 200 countries agreed on the Paris Climate Agreement, a report is reviewing progress for the first time. The UN's "Global Inventory" is devastating.
Extreme weather in the Mediterranean: The catastrophic formula
Heat and floods, drought and forest fires are causing great suffering worldwide. The increase in extremes has been correctly predicted for decades – thanks to a simple law of physics.
Yours, Susanne Götze,