Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Emissions Must Fall By Mid-Century to Meet Paris Temperature Goals, Study Finds

Climate
Emissions Must Fall By Mid-Century to Meet Paris Temperature Goals, Study Finds
Ralf Broskvar

With the exception of the U.S., every country in the world has now expressed an intention to honor the Paris agreement, which means they have all committed to limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of the current century.


Now, two studies published Monday provide insight into how those commitments to avoid dangerous levels of climate change might practically be fulfilled.

One study, published in Nature Climate Change, used models to look specifically at the relationship between the Paris agreement's temperature and emissions goals, and concluded they are not always consistent: Temperature goals would best be achieved by reducing emissions as early and steeply as possible, and reaching zero emissions too late might render them out of reach.

Another study published in Nature Energy offered one small but concrete step in that direction of a speedy emissions reduction. If countries used natural gas instead of coal in existing power stations, they could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 3 percent in less than five years.

The first study, which was led by Katsumasa Tanaka of the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan and co-authored by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NACAR) senior scientist Brian O'Neill, ran 10 different models for different temperature and emissions scenarios, NCAR's AtmosNews reported Monday.

The results revealed that we could limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2033 or 2 degrees by reducing emissions by two-thirds by 2060. Emissions could then level off without having to fall all the way to zero.

However, if we overshoot the temperature goals and then try to double back to 1.5 or 2 degrees by the end of the century, it will not be enough to reduce emissions to zero; we will have to devise ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"What we found is that the two goals do not always go hand in hand," Tanaka told AtmosNews."If we meet temperature targets without first overshooting them, we don't have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero. But if we do reduce emissions to zero, we still might not meet the temperature targets if we don't reduce emissions quickly enough."

The study underscores the importance of timing. It found that temperature will not rise above 2 degrees if we reach zero emissions by 2060, but, if we delay until the end of the century, temperatures will rise above 2 degrees by 2043 and remain above 2 degrees for at least a century.

O'Neil and Tanaka told AtmosNews they thought their research might inform the "global stocktakes" that countries must make every five years under the Paris agreement, reporting their progress and altering their goals.

"Our study and others may help provide countries with a clearer understanding of what work needs to be done to meet the goals laid out in the agreement. We believe that the Paris Agreement needs this level of scientific interpretation," Tanaka said.

The Nature Energy study offered one step countries could take to begin reducing emissions quickly. The study, a joint effort by Imperial College London and the University of Sheffield, found that the UK reduced its total carbon emissions by 6 percent in 2016 by switching the fuel source of power plants from coal to natural gas, which emits less than half of the carbon dioxide that coal does when burned.

According to an Imperial College London press release, the study asked if the UK's success could be replicated in the 30 largest coal-burning countries. It found that, if these countries used existing infrastructure and capabilities to switch from coal to gas, they could reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 0.8 to 1.2 gigatonnes a year.

The study's authors were quick to point out that switching to gas was a stop-gap measure for reducing emissions as quickly as possible while newer, more sustainable technologies are developed.

"Switching from coal to gas is not a long-term solution, but it is an important step to start reducing emissions quickly and at minimal cost. This will give us time to build up the required renewable energy capacity to permanently cut global carbon emissions," co-author and Imperial College London researcher Dr. Iain Staffell said in the release.

And, as O'brien and Tanaka's research indicates, time is of the essence.

For World Wildlife Day, seven "Champions of Nature" shared their picks for books that motivate them. Sam Edwards / Getty Images

By Kimberly Nicole Pope

During this year's Davos Agenda Week, leaders from the private and public sectors highlighted the urgent need to halt and reverse nature loss. Deliberate action on the interlinked climate and ecological crises to achieve a net-zero, nature-positive economy is paramount. At the same time, these leaders also presented a message of hope: that investing in nature holds the key to ensuring economic and social prosperity and resilience.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Protesters are seen during a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, DC on June 1, 2017. Paul J. Richards / AFP / Getty Images

By Brett Wilkins

While some mainstream environmental organizations welcomed Tuesday's introduction of the CLEAN Future Act in the House of Representatives, progressive green groups warned that the bill falls far short of what's needed to meaningfully tackle the climate crisis—an existential threat they say calls for bolder action like the Green New Deal.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A hiker looking up at a Redwood tree in Redwoods State Park. Rich Wheater / Getty Images
By Douglas Broom
  • Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
  • Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
  • Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
  • Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.

They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.

Read More Show Less
A female condor above the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County, California. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

One environmental downside to wind turbines is their impact on birds.

Read More Show Less
Kentucky received record-breaking rainfall and flooding this past weekend. Keith Getter / Getty Images

Kentucky is coping with historic flooding after a weekend of record-breaking rainfall, enduring water rescues, evacuations and emergency declarations.

Read More Show Less