New research has found that we may have even less time to address climate change and global warming than we previously thought. As a result, the Paris Agreement would have to be more aggressive when it comes to pushing countries to cut carbon emissions.
The countries that signed the Paris climate accord agreed to keep “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”. This is according to the document on the decision to adopt the Paris Agreement. The temperature limit was based on late 19th-century temperature records.
Scientists are now saying that the temperature limit may have discounted potentially over an entire century's worth of carbon emissions and rising temperatures. If we account for gases people released from the year 1750 to 1875, we'll need to get a move on with those carbon emission cuts.
Climate change science uses temperatures from the late 19th century as a baseline. This is because this is the time when accurate temperature measurements came about. However, the new research suggests that we should push the baseline dates further back.
This may also mean that we may be unable to keep global temperatures below the 2°C and 1.5°C targets. If we use the new baseline, we're going to need to hustle to make sure that we won't exceed the temperature limits. However, with the way things are going now, this may be easier said than done.
The researchers estimate that there may already be 0.2°C warming present on Earth. With that in mind, researchers say that we actually have 40% less carbon that we can safely burn. This means that our carbon budget—the amount of carbon that we can use while keeping temperatures under 2°C—isn't as big as we thought it was.
If the Paris Agreement decides to take the new suggested baseline into account, this would put more pressure on countries to curb carbon emissions. A number of countries have already announced plans and timelines for cutting emissions. However, these countries—and those that haven't yet figured out a plan for cutting emissions—may need to reduce emissions at an even faster rate.
The Paris climate agreement is humanity's broadest attempt to limit emissions so far in history. Many also consider it to be our best bet against the rising global temperatures. The pact needs to consider new research and findings on climate every few years to keep the signatory countries on track. This research, therefore, is exactly what the pact is looking for.
For now, the best we can probably hope for is that the signatory countries will take the findings of the study seriously. With the way things are now, the Paris Agreement is our way out of the mess that we ourselves made. That means that we'd have to take account of whatever new findings that the pact deems necessary to uphold. Perhaps, with enough pressure and convincing, these new findings will open world leaders' eyes to what needs to be done.
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