Eight years after world leaders approved a landmark agreement in Paris to fight climate change, countries have made only limited progress in staving off the most dangerous effects of global warming, according to the first official report card on the global climate treaty.
Many of the worst-case climate change scenarios that were much feared in the early 2010s look far less likely today, the report said. The authors partly credit the 2015 Paris Agreement, under which, for the first time, almost every country agreed to submit a voluntary plan to curb its own planet-warming emissions. Since then, the rise in global greenhouse gases has notably slowed.
Yet those efforts still aren’t enough to avoid calamity, according to the report, which was written by representatives from the United States and South Africa and based on contributions from hundreds of governments, scientists and civil society groups from around the world.
Under the Paris Agreement, countries vowed to limit the rise in average global temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels and make a good-faith effort to stay at 1.5 degrees Celsius. Past that level, the dangers from intense flooding, wildfires, drought, heat waves and species extinction could become unmanageable, scientists have said. Earth has already heated up roughly 1.2 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times.
Countries are far from meeting those goals. Current climate pledges would put the world on track for a significantly more hazardous 2.5 degrees Celsius or so of warming by 2100, assuming nations followed through on their plans. In order to keep global warming at safer levels, global emissions would need to plunge roughly 60 percent by 2035, which would most likely require a much faster expansion of energy sources like wind, solar or nuclear power and a sharp decrease in pollution from fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas.
The window for keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report said, is “rapidly narrowing.” [Continue reading…]