We have less than ten years to avert catastrophe

Carbon dioxide emissions increased by almost 5% last year, meaning that the world now has a two-in-three chance of reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming over pre-industrial levels within the decade, according to a new study published in the online journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment.

(YN).- Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, carbon emissions dipped 11% in 2020, potentially buying the world time to transition to clean sources of energy. But in 2021, as economic activity rebounded, the emissions that cause climate change increased 4.8% from 2020.

“These 2021 emissions consumed 8.7% of the remaining carbon budget for limiting anthropogenic warming to 1.5 °C, which if current trajectories continue, might be used up in 9.5 years at 67% likelihood,” the report stated.

The Caldor Fire in California
The Caldor Fire in California, which encompassed more than 170 square miles with only 5% containment, moves east toward Lake Tahoe. (Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The carbon budget means the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted before reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming over pre-industrial temperatures. The goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius has been set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has analyzed thousands of studies and found that warming beyond that threshold could set devastating events in motion, such as massive glacier melting that would flood cities and trigger even more warming since ice reflects solar radiation that would instead be absorbed by land and water.

To avoid that outcome, the IPCC has estimated that global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by 45% by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. If current trends continue, the Nature study authors calculate that 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming will likely be reached in or before 2031.

Virtually every country in the world has signed on to global agreements, including the Paris climate agreement of 2015 and the Glasgow Climate Pact of 2021, pledging to make their best efforts to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. Even the global scientific community’s fallback goal of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming will probably be reached in 30 years, according to the Nature analysis.

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