Dissent at COP27 Meeting


The overriding conclusion from the COP27 Climate Conference that ended on November 19th is that limiting global warming to a target of 1.5 C (2.7 F) above pre-industrialization levels is unlikely to be achieved.  The target was adopted at the COP21 Paris Conference and has been successively reaffirmed as recently as the 2021 COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact. 


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported on the effects of a rise of 2.0 C compared to the target 1.5 C.  The difference of 0.5 C would represent severe impacts on the ecosystem with an additional half a billion people exposed to excessive heat, inundation of islands and low-lying coastal areas, an ice-free Arctic and a succession of floods, droughts and severe hurricanes.  Recent studies have shown that global warming will severely decrease yields of corn, coffee and rice in areas traditionally devoted to these crops.  Wheat and potatoes will, however, potentially increase in production as they are planted at higher latitudes. Increased rainfall could raise production of rice in India and West Africa.  Equatorial nations including Brazil Indonesia and Nigeria would be most affected with sharply reduced corn and rice harvests.


Concern over global warming and the need for international action emerged in 1992 with many nations accepting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Notwithstanding a series of COP meetings, including the Paris Summit in 2015, there has been minimal progress on a worldwide basis to achieve the 1.5 C goal.  It appears that if carbon dioxide emission cannot be reduced from power generation, cement and steel production temperatures will rise to 3.5 C above the pre-industrial level. 


Progress has been made in displacing coal to generate power using renewables and less environmentally destructive natural gas.  Building design and construction materials have improved the energy efficiency of buildings.  Some progress has been made in developing technology to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  Agriculture could contribute to stabilization of the upward temperature gradient.  The USDA, under the current Administration, has assigned $3.1 billion in a Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities.  It is questioned whether expending public funds on numerous, small projects will be beneficial either to the U.S. or to the world.  USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, announced at COP27 that $300 million would be assigned to 65 projects focusing on small and underserved producers and minority-serving institutions, demographics favored by the current Administration and the Secretary.


There has yet to be a final communique from COP27 but it is clear that sensitive issues including the 1.5 C target and continuing use of hydrocarbons to generate energy will be framed to the advantage of industrialized nations. These include the U.S. and China who have renewed negotiations on environmental rehabilitation. There was no commitment to phase out fossil fuels despite demands from developing nations impacted by global warming and rising sea levels. These countries will be provided with “loss and damage” grants to compensate for deprivation of land and productive capacity.