There’s now roughly only a 5% “chance” that anthropogenic climate warming will be limited to under 2° Celsius — which is the goal of the agreement resulting from the 2015 Paris Climate Change conference — according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Many critics of the Paris agreement have argued as much already, as the stated goal of limiting average global temperature rise to “well below 2° Celsius” was never something all of the country commitments combined would actually achieve. But it’s still interesting to see the likelihood of achieving the goal quantified.
With regard to the Paris agreement’s aspirational goal of limiting warming to under 1.5° Celsius (above preindustrial levels) … that’s just not going to happen, according to the new study. The study found that there’s just a 1% chance of that goal being achieved.
“We’re closer to the margin than we think,” explained researcher Adrian Raftery, a University of Washington academic. “If we want to avoid 2° Celsius, we have very little time left. The public should be very concerned.”
Climate Central provides more: “According to the University of Washington study, there is a 90% likelihood that temperatures will rise between 2° Celsius and 4.9° Celsius by 2100. This would put the world in the mid-range warming scenarios mapped out by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It negates the most optimistic outcome as well as the worst case, which would see temperatures climb nearly 6° Celsius beyond the pre-industrial era.
“Rather than look at how greenhouse gases will influence temperature, the new research analyzed the past 50 years of trends in world population, per capita gross domestic product (GDP) and carbon intensity, which is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each dollar of economic activity.
“After building a statistical model covering a range of emissions scenarios, the researchers found that carbon intensity will be a crucial factor in future warming. Technological advances are expected to cut global carbon intensity by 90% over the course of the century, with sharp declines in China and India — two newly voracious consumers of energy. However, this decline still will not be steep enough to avoid breaching the 2° Celsius limit.
“The world’s population is expected to grow to about 11 billion people by 2100, but the research found that this will have a relatively small impact upon temperatures as much of this growth will take place in sub-Saharan Africa, which is a minor contributor of greenhouse gas emissions.”
As one can tell by looking at the methodology, the findings are by no means definitive, but rather just a rough outline of where things seem to be headed.
Interestingly, Raftery made a point of noting that those waiting on “breakthrough technologies” to “dramatically” change things were likely doing so in vain — despite all of the “advances” of the last 50 years, overall carbon efficiency has only been improving at around 2% a year. Additionally, solar energy, wind energy, and electric vehicles have already matured to the point of market competitiveness, more or less. Better to simply make use of the tools available now than to bank on far “better” ones appearing over the coming decades.