When world leaders, diplomats, activists, and scientists convene in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to discuss climate change, do not expect them to perform the parting of the Red Sea or other miraculous feats that would result in significant reductions in global warming.
Each year, there are high expectations for the two-week United Nations climate gathering, and disappointment when it fails to produce another landmark agreement comparable to the one reached in Paris in 2015.
Those days, however, were marked by a spirit of cooperation between the world's two largest polluters, the United States and China, and a global realization that failure to reach an agreement would put humanity on a self-selected path to extinction.
In November of this year, the geopolitical landscape has shifted: a devastating war in Ukraine, soaring energy and food prices, and growing animosity between the West on the one hand and Russia and China on the other create challenging circumstances for a gathering that requires cooperation and consensus.
Avinash Persaud, the prime minister of Barbados' special envoy, stated, "There are both high and low expectations surrounding this COP in Egypt, a mix of ambition and fatalism."
Here is what to keep an eye out for during the 27th Conference of the Parties, or COP27, from November 6-18, and why it may still be successful.
Scientists are more concerned about global warming than they were three decades ago, when governments first met to discuss the issue, because the rate of warming in the last decade has accelerated by 33% compared to the 1990s.
Global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, despite the fact that climate change is already having measurable effects.
However, there is progress. Prior to Paris, the world was projected to warm by 4.5 degrees Celsius (8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century relative to pre-industrial times.
Recent projections indicate that this will be reduced to 2.6 C (4.7 F) as a result of measures taken or commitments made by governments. However, this is well above the 1.5 C (2.7 F) limit countries agreed to seven years ago, and time is quickly running out to maintain this goal.
According to researchers, the world has already warmed by 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit), and capping temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius would require a 43% reduction in emissions by the end of the decade, a highly ambitious goal. To achieve the less ambitious 2 C (3.6 F) target, emissions must decrease by 27%.
"The 1.5 degrees is undergoing intensive care, and the machines are trembling." Thus, it is in grave peril. However, it is still possible," said Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. "My objective in Egypt is to ensure that sufficient political will is amassed to make this possibility a reality, to make the machines function... We are approaching moments where tipping points may make it impossible to achieve in an irreversible manner. Let's avoid it at all costs."
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, prices for oil, coal, and natural gas have soared. Some nations have responded by attempting to access new fossil fuel sources.
This has raised concerns about governments reneging on their pledges to reduce emissions, including the agreement reached at last year's climate talks to "phase down" the use of coal and drastically reduce the amount of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — released into the atmosphere.