From The Guardian (Peter Kalmus):
The world has by and large adopted “net zero by 2050” as its de facto climate goal, but two fatal flaws hide in plain sight within those 16 characters. One is “net zero.” The other is “by 2050”.
These two flaws provide cover for big oil and politicians who wish to preserve the status quo. Together they comprise a deadly prescription for inaction and catastrophically high levels of irreversible climate and ecological breakdown.
First, consider “by 2050”. This deadline feels comfortably far away, encouraging further climate procrastination. Who feels urgency over a deadline in 2050? This is convenient for the world’s elected leaders, who typically have term limits of between three and five years, less so for anyone who needs a livable planet.
Pathways for achieving net zero by 2050 – meaning that in 2050 any carbon emissions would be balanced by CO2 withdrawn through natural means, like forests, and through hypothetical carbon-trapping technology – are designed to give roughly even odds for keeping global heating below 1.5C. But it’s now apparent that even the current 1.1C of global heating is not a “safe” level. Climate catastrophes are arriving with a frequency and ferocity that have shocked climate scientists. The fact that climate models failed to predict the intensity of the summer’s heatwaves and flooding suggests that severe impacts will come sooner than previously thought. Madagascar is on the brink of the first climate famine, and developments such as multi-regional crop losses and climate warfare even before reaching 1.5C should no longer be ruled out.