Two different studies using two different methods have found that global temperatures are likely to rise 2ºC above pre-industrial levels or more by the end of the century. Climate scientists have agreed that this is the point beyond which the effects of climate change will become catastrophic.
This is the tipping point that humanity should be trying to avoid crossing. However, new research now says that it's unlikely that we'll be able to stop the progression of global warming in time. The goal of the Paris Agreement is to facilitate a global effort in keeping global temperatures well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. Researchers now say that significant and consistent efforts to keep temperatures down are necessary for the next 80 years.
What's ominous about this is that two different studies came to the same conclusion. It's possible, therefore, that the Earth really is going in just one dire direction. Researchers in the first study used statistical analysis and found that there's a 90% chance that we'll exceed the 2ºC limit. There's only a 1% chance that we'll be able to keep temperatures from rising beyond 1.5ºC, the “ideal” goal of the Paris Agreement.
The second study, meanwhile, ran an analysis of past greenhouse gas emissions fossil fuel burning. According to the findings of this study, even if humanity stopped burning fossil fuels right now, it still won't work. Temperatures will still continue to rise by 2ºC by the year 2100. The study also found that if we continue to burn fossil fuels for the next 15 years, temperatures are likely to rise by 3ºC. Unfortunately, it's probable that we'll continue to burn fossil fuels for the next 15 years.
These findings are certainly dire. Previous studies on the same matter warned of severe consequences should we exceed the 2ºC limit, but these studies were somewhat more optimistic that we can slow global warming down. However, it now seems that we should have done more to keep global temperatures down, and we should have done these things much earlier.
While these conclusions are quite discouraging, this doesn't mean that we should give up. Whatever efforts there are at present to keep global temperatures down, we should continue them and we should do more. We may not be able to meet our climate goals, but we can stop things from getting much worse.
Environmentalists are now pressuring governments to take more actions against climate change, and economic trends have been progressively moving away from fossil fuels. Alternative and cleaner sources of energy are becoming more profitable. These may no longer be able to keep the planet's temperatures from exceeding the 2ºC limit, but we can at least avoid much higher temperatures.
If there's anything that these two papers tell us, it's that there's an urgent need for more efforts to keep global temperatures from rising too high. It may seem like it's too late, but there are still many things we can do for the planet. The challenge is doing these things as soon and as urgently as possible.
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