Here’s How Paris Agreement Would Lead to Completely Catastrophic Global Warming


Last December, 195 countries pledged to limit global warming to below 2°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. They also agreed to limit the increase to 1.5°C, by adopting the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal at the UN conference on climate change, in Paris. On 22 April 2016, 174 countries signed the historic agreement in New York and began adopting it within their own legal systems.

However, while the countries agreed to limit global warming to a rise of 1.5°C, their pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions and other proposed action plans would still lead to a global temperature rise of 2.6°C to 3.1°C by 2100.

In a major analysis of 10 different studies, a team of international scientists have warned that the world is facing an important challenge and that “further greater reductions in the coming decade and preparing for a global transformation of development pathways is critical.”

They have cautioned that the entire global budget for limiting global warming to below 2°C, might have already been emitted by 2030. Therefore, in order to limit climate change to 2°C or 1.5°C, the individual country pledges would need to be strengthened substantially.

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Professor Niklas Höhne, study co-author and a researcher at the New Climate Institute in Germany and Wageningen University, told The Independent:

Three degrees of warming would be what I describe as completely catastrophic and this is definitely what we need to avoid. Even two degrees is not a very pleasant situation, with significantly more droughts and floods and weather events… not a very pleasant world. There’s also the risk of tipping points and irreversible change. We are going a step in the right direction, but we are definitely far away from where we should be. We are going a third in the right direction and we still have two-thirds to do.”

And, what would three degrees of warming do to our planet? In his award-winning book Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, author Mark Lynas warns that a 3°C rise would spell the collapse of the Amazon rainforest, disappearance of Greenland’s ice sheet, and the creation of deserts across the Midwestern United States and southern Africa.

In an official statement, Niklas insisted that the promises made so far are not enough. The signatories must submit fresh and ever more ambitious pledges every five years, in accordance with the agreement, to maintain a reasonable chance of keeping warming to well below the 2°C target.

“To go the rest of the way, we would need to assume much more stringent action after 2030, which leads to emissions reductions of about 3-4% per year globally. But in practice, switching to such stringent reductions right after 2030 would be challenging, and require time—that means that in order to ensure a chance of meeting these targets, we need significant further action from countries before 2030.”

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Brexit And Climate Change

Britain’s exit from the European Union would not only become an obstacle to action on climate change, it would potentially become a major headache for businesses keyed into climate and energyrelated sectors. Some analysts also worry that Britain’s exit would further cripple the EU’s ability to increase its carbon-cutting goals.

Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G, a London-based environmental think tank, told AFP:

“The role of Europe as a key political driver in setting ambition will be lowered. That will lower the overall global drive. If Europe really started to disintegrate, it would be hard to maintain any of its continent—wide policies, car standards, clean energy, the energy market. Pretty soon you find everyone veering off course for two degrees, and that’s when you get into dangerous zones of climate change.”

The Paris Agreement Will Still Fall Far Short

We’ve already blown past the carbon budgets required to have a 90% probability of staying below 2°C. By 2020, the year in which the Paris agreements are to start being implemented, we would have blown past the carbon budgets required to have a 66% probability of staying below 1.5°C. In other words, we have less than five years of business-as-usual emissions before the budget giving us a two-thirds chance of staying below 1.5 degrees is exhausted.

Carbon Brief reports:

As of the beginning of 2011, the carbon budget for a 66% chance of staying below 1.5°C was 400 billion tons. Emissions between 2011 and 2015 mean this has almost halved to 205 billion tons. The result is that, as of the beginning of 2016, five years and two months of current CO2 emissions would use up the 1.5°C budget. So, if the current rate of emissions continues, the 1.5°C budget would be used up sometime in 2021. The equivalent remaining budgets for a 66% chance of staying below 2°C and 3°C are 20 years and three months, and 55 years and six months (respectively) of current emissions.

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