Science

Earth will warm above ‘safe’ threshold, but we may have time to cool it down

The world will definitely warm up above the 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) threshold set by the climatological community to avoid the worst effects of climate change. But the planet could cool down again if countries take urgent action to decarbonize their economies, a new study has found.

The goal of reducing the ongoing rise in global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees Celsius was agreed upon at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015. Every tenth degree above this limit will lead to unpredictable consequences, exacerbating extreme weather events and climate fluctuations, the researchers emphasize.

At present, it is not possible to prevent the dangerous threshold of climate change from being reached, according to a new study based on an analysis of 27 possible emission reduction scenarios. But all is not yet lost. Decisive action could help return temperatures below the limit, scientists say, urging the global community to do everything possible to shorten the period of time the planet is in this temperature “out”.

On the subject: Climate change: causes and consequences

“Let’s face it, we’re going to break 1.5 degrees [C] limit in the next couple of decades,” Hewon McJon, a scientist at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and author of the new study, said in a statement. (will open in a new tab). “That means we will raise the temperature to 1.6 or 1.7 degrees or higher and we will need to bring it down to 1.5. But the key is how quickly we can bring it down.”

The analysis suggests that it could take years or even decades for temperatures to drop again, and every year that the planet remains too warm, environmental destruction will result, including loss of land due to rising sea levels, devastating droughts, and severe floods. Delaying action for too long can lead to “irreversible” consequences,” the researchers say.

“Moving fast means meeting zero emission commitments faster, decarbonizing faster and achieving more ambitious emissions targets,” Gokul Iyer, a research scientist at the Joint Global Change Research Institute and lead author of the paper, said in a statement. “Every little thing helps and you need a combination of it all. But our results show that the most important thing is to do it as early as possible. Do it now, really.”

Scenarios being assessed included achieving the world’s zero-carbon targets by 2050, as recommended by the United Nations, as well as a more ambitious scenario of more substantial reductions by the end of this decade.

“Technologies that help us achieve zero emissions include renewable energy, hydrogen, electric vehicles and so on. Of course, these are important players,” Ayer said. “Another important piece of the puzzle is technologies that can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such as direct air capture or natural solutions.”

The scientists added that current emissions reduction promises are not enough to reach the net zero target by 2050 as planned. Even if countries cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in line with current commitments and continue to cut them at a rate of 2% per year thereafter, net zero will not be reached before 2100.

The most ambitious plan possible calls for zero carbon emissions by 2057, but achieving even that will require “rapid transformation across the entire global energy system” and scaling up “low-carbon technologies such as renewable energy, nuclear power, and both capture and carbon storage,” the scientists said.

New research (will open in a new tab) was published online in the journal Nature Climate Change on Thursday (November 10). Its release took place during the negotiations of the countries at the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh. The summit hopes to help the world find a way forward, including agreeing on principles of transparency and accountability for emissions reduction commitments.

COP27 comes at the end of the year when severe weather events around the world have reached new extremes, which scientists say highlights the urgent need to take action against climate change. Europe experienced its driest summer in at least 500 years, and unprecedented monsoon rains caused the worst floods in Pakistan’s history. In the United States, Hurricane Yan was the deadliest to hit Florida since 1935.

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