As a controversial COP28 continues in Dubai, a new report emphasizes that "the world is on a disastrous trajectory." The Global Tipping Points report emphasized the need for an immediate phasing out of fossil fuels and a commitment to beneficial solutions. Tipping points are small thresholds that, when crossed, spark a series of events, including the passage of other tipping points.
The report, led by the University of Exeter and the Global Systems Institute, looked at 26 negative tipping points and the Earth's chances of breaching them as it heads towards a global warming of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists from the European Union have declared 2023 as the hottest year on record. As things stand, researchers found five tipping points are currently at risk of being hit, such as major ice sheets collapsing and warm-water coral reefs dying off. Another three are possible in the 2030s (when that 2.7 F marker is crossed).
The Global Tipping Points report bluntly states: "The existence of tipping points means that 'business as usual' is now over. Rapid changes to nature and society are occurring, and more are coming. If we don't revise our governance approach, these changes could overwhelm societies as the natural world rapidly comes apart." It also emphasizes the importance of pursuing positive tipping points, such as the massive rollout of EVs.
The report lays out six key recommendations to avoid negative tipping points and pursue positive ones:
Phase our fossil fuels and land use emissions now, certainly way before 2050
Strengthen adaptation and loss-and-damage governance, with a particular focus on vulnerable communities
Include tipping point risks, positive tipping point possibilities and related action in the Global Stocktake and Nationally Determined Contributions
Coordinate policy efforts on activating positive tipping points, especially ones that could create a beneficial domino effect
Have the UN Secretary General convene a meeting on tipping point risks and activating positive tipping points
Invest in deepening the scientific knowledge of tipping points and helpful actions
The controversies surrounding the ongoing COP28 are one of the barriers to implementing these initiatives. Reports have indicated that the United Arab Emirates planned to use the conference to make deals for its oil and gas companies with other countries. In fact, at least 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists have access to COP28's climate negotiations, the Guardian reports. This number is larger than any country's delegation other than Brazil and UAE and more than those traveling from the top ten most climate vulnerable countries.
Then there's Sultan Al Jaber, COP28's president and the chief executive of Adnoc, UAE's state oil company, who added fire to his already controversial opinion. In a livestream conversation with Mary Robinson, the chair of the Elders group and a former UN special envoy for climate change, Al Jaber stated, "There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what's going to achieve 1.5C." His comment came after Robinson told Al Jaber that he had the "credibility" as head of Adnoc to work towards ending fossil fuel use.
Robinson then questioned Al Jaber about reports that Adnoc is increasing its fossil fuel use, which he denied. "Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves," Al Jaber added and told her to stop pointing fingers. He later called out the press for misinterpreting his statements.