Globally Increasing Carbon Emissions Spell Trouble for Cape and Islands

Nov 27, 2019

“Bleak”– that’s how a new report from the United Nations describes the world’s efforts at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The annual Emissions Gap Report, released Tuesday, finds countries around the world, including the U.S, have “collectively failed” to reduce the growth in greenhouse gas emissions in the past year. In fact, global emissions of methane, carbon dioxide, and others have risen steadily for the past decade.

A “deeper and faster” reduction in these emissions is necessary avoid the worst effects of climate change, the report says.

“We’re going in the wrong direction,” said Rich Delaney, President of the Center for Coastal Studies and Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative.

Greenhouse gas emissions are the single greatest drivers of climate change, and, this report warns, unless those emissions fall by 7.6 percent every year for the next 10 years, the world won’t be able to stay on track with landmark climate goals set during the 2015 Paris Agreement.

“If we really want to have a good shot at reducing or avoiding catastrophic events,” Delaney warned, “we need to reduce—in half—the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in just the next 10 years.”

In early November, the Trump administration formally began the process of pulling out of the Agreement to the disappointment and frustration of many environmentalists.

Failure to limit the worst impacts of climate change, Delaney said, will seriously threaten the Cape and Islands.    

“It will be most easily observed with very severe storms. So the weather will become more intense. Sea level will rise even faster and more dramatically. Growing seasons will change. Even habitats will shift,” he said.  

Massachusetts could see sea levels rise by as much as 3 feet in the next 30 years, according to that National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association.

While there’s work to do at the national and global scale, Delaney noted, the Cape can do its part by reducing reliance on natural gas and embracing renewable energy.

“Cape Cod should be totally powered and driven by electricity by the year 2050. Electric cars, electric buses, solar panels,” he said. “We have make a total conversion.”

World leaders from the U.N. will gather in Madrid next week to discuss next steps in addressing climate change.