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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Saturday marks two years since President Trump announced he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement — and the chasm between scientific findings and political action is only growing.

The big picture: Climate science is now more clear than ever about the damage that climate change is causing. But many countries aren’t on track to meet their Paris emissions targets — and now there’s no U.S. leadership to push them to try harder.

The details: Scientists tell Axios they now have:

  • More confidence in the observed amounts of global warming, showing the planet has been heating up faster than previously thought, from the poles to the depths of the seas.
  • Clear evidence that virtually all of the observed warming since 1950 is due to human activities.
  • Robust data showing that limiting global warming to the Paris targets of 1.5°C or 2°C would have significant, tangible benefits by reducing damage.

Between the lines: A study published last week projected that unchecked growth in greenhouse gas emissions could cause global sea levels to rise by an average of 3.6 feet by 2100.

  • This compares to just 2.3 feet if warming is limited to 2°C above preindustrial levels, coauthor Robert Kopp tells Axios.
  • The lower the amount of warming, the less likely it is that the planet will trigger climate change tipping points like the loss of the Greenland or West Antarctic ice sheets.
“Over the past two years we’ve learned that key impacts of climate change, like the melting of ice, the rise in sea level, and the increase in devastating weather extremes, are playing out faster than our models projected just a few years ago.“
— Michael Mann, Penn State University
  • The emissions reductions required to meet the 1.5°C goal are drastic and would be costly. They include getting to net zero emissions by 2050, and negative emissions by 2100.
  • There are few signs that governments are willing to undertake such radical actions.

Where it stands: While virtually all countries except the U.S. remain committed to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, many aren’t on track to meet their targets — which are mostly too weak anyway, according to the Climate Action Tracker, a research group following the Paris deal pledges.

  • China and India are poised to meet their targets with currently implemented policies, the group says, “which may suggest they could be doing even more,” said Elliot Diringer, of the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
  • Canada, Australia and the U.S. aren't on track to meet their goals.

By the numbers: Since Trump promised to withdraw from the deal:

The intrigue: Experts say Trump’s vow to withdraw from the deal didn't cause this progress, or lack thereof. But…

  • “What’s harder to assess is the degree to which it’s undermining political will in countries to push forward the policies needed to meet their targets,” Diringer said. “I’d say it’s a fair bet that over time continued U.S. inaction will have a corrosive effect on political will globally.”

What to watch: To what degree countries ratchet up their policy ambitions and Paris targets at a high-profile United Nations summit on September 23. A top U.N. official said earlier this week 80 countries were prepared to do so, but he didn’t name names.

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

8 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.