World will struggle to keep warming to 2 degrees by 2100

Projected temperatures well above targets agreed to at last year’s historic Paris climate talks

global leaders at Paris Agreement

UNFINISHED BUSINESS  Plans to curb climate change announced in advance of the December 2015 Paris Agreement aren’t nearly ambitious enough to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, new research shows.

COP Paris/Flickr

The world’s current game plan to combat climate change will miss the mark. Crunching the numbers on 187 nations’ climate action proposals announced in advance of the December 2015 Paris Agreement, researchers estimate that the efforts will limit global warming to 2.6 to 3.1 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. That’s far above the goal agreed upon in Paris of limiting warming to well below 2 degrees by 2100 (SN: 1/9/16, p. 6).

The 2-degree goal is not out of reach yet, though. More ambitious climate action — such as greater emissions reductions and removing carbon from the atmosphere – could keep warming in check, the researchers report June 29 in Nature.

Society doesn’t have much leeway when it comes to combatting climate change, notes the research team led by climate scientist Niklas Höhne of the NewClimate Institute in Cologne, Germany. Two-thirds of the carbon needed to warm the planet by 2 degrees has already been emitted. Putting a lid on global warming requires reducing net carbon emissions to zero in the second half of this century. While current plans don’t go far enough, nations will have several opportunities by 2030 to reevaluate their commitments and could ultimately outperform their targets, the researchers say.

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