Climate Scientists Expect Us To Miss The Paris Climate Agreement Targets

Coastal erosion in Yorkshire
Sea level rise and coastal erosion is expected to dramatically increase. Matthew J Thomas/Shutterstock

Just eight months after world leaders met in Paris to agree on a limit to rising global temperatures, scientists are already warning that the 1.5°C (2.7°F) target is getting perilously close to being unachievable. They state that while it might be manageable to keep warming below the limit, it would require immediate and radical action on cutting carbon emissions and would “at the very least” be a “very, very difficult task.”

Last year, more than 200 nations met in order to thrash out an agreement to tackle man-made climate change. Initially agreeing to keep the warming to “well below” 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels, it was quickly decided that countries should “endeavour to limit” the rise even more, to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This target was chosen as it is believed that above this figure, sea level rise, coral bleaching, and melting sea ice will become a major global threat.


But within the last year, average global temperatures have already been topping 1°C warming above pre-industrial levels for every single month, except one, and peaked at 1.38°C of warming in February and March this year. This makes the idea of keeping with the 1.5°C target incredibly difficult, reports The Observer. The figures come just weeks before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meet this month in Geneva to discuss the best way to implement the Paris climate agreement.


“From the perspective of my research I would say the 1.5°C goal now looks impossible or at the very least, a very, very difficult task,” Professor Chris Field,  the co-chair for the IPCC working group on adaptation to climate change, told The Observer. “We should be under no illusions about the task we face.” It is expected that the IPCC will outline ambitious plans to shut down all coal-burning power plants, as well cease the use of combustion engines around the world, potentially within 15 years.

Climate scientists think that the world could be prevented from warming by 1.5°C if all carbon emissions are cut by 2050, but the Paris climate agreement is vague about when they expect zero emissions to be achieved, setting the date at some point in the second half of the 21st century. Yet even if emissions were to be brought under control earlier, this is unlikely to be seen as a viable option as the alternatives to producing energy are simply not there yet, and it is expected that millions of people would suffer as a result.

Another option being floated is to prepare for us to overshoot the 1.5°C of warming, and then to bring carbon emissions to zero before making them negative, actively removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using technology that does not yet exist.


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