The Guardian view on Rishi Sunak: he’s not serious about meeting green targets | Editorial

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The prime minister believes that the climate emergency can be left to the individual conscience. He’s wrong

This year has been the hottest in our recorded history and, most likely, over the last 100,000 years. “Heat domes” across the northern hemisphere saw temperatures soar. There were heatwaves during winter in the Andes. Extreme weather saw unprecedented flooding in Asia. The wildfires that swept Canada this summer were the largest in modern history – and produced more carbon emissions than all of the country’s other human-related activities combined. After a Mexico-sized chunk of Antarctica failed to refreeze, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, proclaimed that “the era of global boiling has arrived”.

There can be little comfort taken from the fact that the average global surface temperature in 2023 was 1.48C hotter than that of the preindustrial period, a fraction below the UN’s 1.5C target. Scientists suggest that above this – but below the 2C threshold – the world is more likely to pass key irreversible tipping points: the die-off of low-latitude coral reefs; widespread abrupt permafrost thaw leading to greenhouse gas release; and the collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets. One entrepreneur with an eye for the apocalyptic is already shipping glacier ice to cocktail bars in the UAE. But exploiting the current situation is the problem.

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