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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Study: Keeping climate pledges limits temperatures to 2 degrees

by Seth Bornstein

If nations do all they have promised to fight climate change, the world could still meet one of two internationally agreed goals to limit warming. But the planet is moving past the second threshold scientists say will protect Earth more, a new study finds.

The world is potentially on track to keep global warming at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than pre-industrial times, a goal that once seemed out of reach, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Science. Was. Nature.

This will happen only if countries meet their specific national targets for not only curbing carbon emissions by 2030, but also more distant promises of reaching net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century, the study said. has gone.

This 2 degree warmer world still represents what scientists think is deeply disrupted with severe storms, high seas, extinction of animals and plants, disappearing coral, melting ice and more people dying from heat, haze and infectious disease described as climate. This is not the goal world leaders say they really want: 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) from pre-industrial times. The study authors said the world will overtake that more prominent and publicized target unless dramatic new emissions cuts are promised and achieved within this decade and perhaps the next three years.

Both the 1.5-degree and 2-degree targets are part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement and the 2021 Glasgow follow-up agreement. The 2-degree goal goes back years.

“For the first time ever we can possibly keep warming below the symbolic 2-degree mark with promises on the table. This certainly assumes that countries follow through on promises,” said study lead author Malte Meinshausen, climate scientist at the University of Melbourne he said.

This is a big one, if outside climate scientists and authors say. It means that political leaders are actually doing what they promise

The study “only examines this optimistic scenario. It does not examine whether governments are making efforts to implement their long-term goals and whether they are credible,” said Germany’s Niklas Höhne, a New Climate Institute scientist. which analyzes pledges for the Climate Action Tracker and was not part of this study. “We know that governments are far from implementing their long-term goals.”

Hohne’s team and others tracking the pledges have similarly found that it is still possible to limit warming to 2 degrees, as Meinshawson’s team has done. The difference is that Meinshausen’s study is the first to be peer-reviewed and published in a scientific journal.

Certainly, in a 2-degree world countries are required to do what they promise. But cheap wind and solar have shown that cutting carbon emissions can happen faster than thought and some countries will exceed their promised cuts, Meinshawson said. He also said that the way climate action works begins with promises and then policies, so it is not unreasonable to take countries at their words.

Mostly, he said, limiting warming to 2 degrees is still a huge improvement compared to just five or ten years ago, when “everyone used to laugh like we’ll never see targets on the table that would give us more than 2 degrees.” bring it closer.” Meinshausen said. “Targeted and implemented policies can really turn the needle on future temperatures. I think optimism is important for countries to look at. Yes, there is hope.”

About 20% to 30% of that hope is due to the Paris climate agreement, but the rest is due to earlier investments by countries that have made green energy technologies cheaper than dirty fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. , Meinshausen said.

Still, even if it’s good news, it’s not all good, he said.

“Neither do we have a margin of error (limited to barely 2 degrees) nor do the pledges put us on a path closer to 1.5 degrees,” Meinhausen said.

In 2018 a UN scientific expert team studied the differences between 1.5- and 2-degree thresholds and found significantly worse and more widespread damage to Earth at 2 degrees of warming. So the world has recently tried to make the 1.5 degree target possible.

The Earth has already warmed by at least 1.1 °C (2 °F) since pre-industrial times, which is often assumed to be in the late 1800s, so 2 ° of warming would actually mean 0.9 °C from now ( 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is hotter.

“Meinshawson’s analysis looks good and solid, but there are always assumptions that could be important,” said Glenn Peters, a climate scientist who tracks emissions with the Global Carbon Project.

The biggest assumption is that nations are somehow promised net zero carbon emissions, most of them by 2050 but for China and India a decade or two later, at the Cicero Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway Peters, director of research, said.

“It is cheap to pledge for 2050, it is hard to support them with the short-term action needed,” he said, noting that for most countries, there will be five or six elections between now and 2050.

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https://apnews.com/hub/climate . Follow up on Associated Press’s climate coverage

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter @borenbears

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Associated Press climate and environmental coverage is supported by a number of private foundations. See more about Associated Press’s climate initiative here. Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.

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