Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

3 Biggest Fossil Fuel Consumers Fall 'Far Short of Fair' to Contain Global Warming

Climate

Pledges by the three titans of greenhouse gas emission—Europe, the U.S. and China, which are the three biggest fossil fuel consumers—fall “far short of fair” and may not be nearly enough to contain global warming, according to new research.

In the complex game of power politics, development economics, environmental campaigning, climate science and greenhouse gas accounting that will characterize the forthcoming UN climate summit in Paris, COP21, in December, the most important components so far are the declarations of intent made by the most developed nations.

Delegates gather for the Bonn Climate Change Conference. Photo credit: IISD Reporting Services

The U.S. has announced plans to reduce emissions by 28 percent by 2025 and 83 percent by 2050. The EU is aiming for 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. China has said its emissions will “peak” by 2025 and then start declining, and it aims to improve energy efficiency by 60 to 65 percent.

The question then is: does this set the world on course to contain global warming to 2°C?

Harsh Demands

The answer is probably “no,” say Glen Peters, senior research fellow at the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, Susan Solomon, professor of atmospheric chemistry and climate science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Pierre Friedlingstein, chair in mathematical modeling of climate systems at the University of Exeter, UK.

They have been looking at the sums, and they report in Environmental Research Letters that the promises of the big three translate into harsh demands for the rest of the world.

If the 2°C target is to be met, the remainder of the world would have to commit to per capita carbon dioxide emissions somewhere between seven and 14 times lower than the EU, U.S. or China by 2030.

Carbon accounting—the calculations that involve how much carbon dioxide can safely be emitted before temperatures rise to dangerous levels—is notoriously difficult, and under continuous revision.

But one working estimate right now is that the world can burn coal, oil and natural gas at a level that will have dumped 3.7 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before the global average temperatures notch up 2°C above the levels before the Industrial Revolution.

Since humans have been burning fossil fuels at increasing rates for the last 200 years, that leaves just 1 trillion tonnes—about 30 years’ worth at the current levels—before the planetary thermometer rises to the danger level.

The study puts it bluntly: when combined, the European, U.S. and Chinese pledges don’t leave much room for other countries to burn fossil fuels to power their economies.

If any agreement in Paris is to be “globally inclusive and effective in the long term”, then by implication the rich nations will have to do a lot more than they have pledged to do.

Struggling to Develop

“The challenge of the problem is that we have about 7 billion people on the planet, and about 1 billion of us live pretty well,” Professor Solomon says.

“The other 6 billion are struggling to develop, and if they develop using carbon, as we did, the planet is going to get quite hot. And hot is, of course, just the beginning of the story in terms of what climate change actually means.”

The scientists calculate that, even if the EU, China and the U.S. fulfill their pledges, it commits the planet to a warming of at least 3°C. Even a rise of 2°C would represent a huge change—resulting in sea level rise, a greater frequency of extremes of temperature and dramatic shifts of climatic conditions.

In 2003, an unprecedented heatwave in Europe caused at least 10,000 deaths, with some estimating many times more than that figure.

“That summer was about 2°C hotter than an average European summer,” Professor Solomon says.

“By 2050, every summer in Europe will probably be 2°C hotter than average, if we keep going the way we’re going right now. Three degrees, in my opinion, is a really frightening change.”

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

4 Astounding Photos of Hurricane Patricia From Space

24 States Sue Obama Over Clean Power Plan

Find Out What Humans Will Look Like in 1,000 Years

Justice Denied for Murdered Thai Activist Who Defended His Community Against Coal

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Giacomo Berardi / Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed both the strengths and limitations of globalization. The crisis has made people aware of how industrialized food production can be, and just how far food can travel to get to the local supermarket. There are many benefits to this system, including low prices for consumers and larger, even global, markets for producers. But there are also costs — to the environment, workers, small farmers and to a region or individual nation's food security.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Joe Leech

The human body comprises around 60% water.

It's commonly recommended that you drink eight 8-ounce (237-mL) glasses of water per day (the 8×8 rule).

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.

Read More Show Less
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on Thursday accused NOAA of ignoring its own scientists' findings about the endangerment of the North Atlantic right whale. Lauren Packard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Beth Ann Mayer

Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.

Read More Show Less
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less