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Unless CO2 Plummets, Nations May Breach Warming Limit by 2030

If the current rate of greenhouse-gas emissions continues, there’s a 50 percent chance the world will breach the 1.5C warming threshold in just nine years, according to the Global Carbon Budget annual report.
Emissions from a factory.
If the current rate of greenhouse-gas emissions continues, there’s a 50 percent chance the world will breach the 1.5C warming threshold in just nine years, according to the Global Carbon Budget annual report. (Shutterstock)

The odds that nations will meet a key climate goal set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement are rapidly decreasing, according to an assessment of carbon dioxide emissions.

If the current rate of greenhouse-gas emissions continues, there’s a 50 percent chance the world will breach the 1.5C warming threshold in just nine years, according to the Global Carbon Budget annual report. CO2 releases are estimated to climb 1% this year to a record, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

That increase translates into more than 300 million metric tons of pollution, equivalent to that produced by as many as 100 million American cars driven for a year.

One percent “sounds benign,” said Rob Jackson, a Stanford professor and chair of the Global Carbon Project’s scientific steering committee. “One percent growth is anything but benign.”

Fossil fuel combustion is expected to release 36.6 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere this year. Emissions from changing land use add another 3.9 billion tons. Oil is the biggest contributor to the new emissions, driven by the post-pandemic return of commercial aviation.

“It seems less and less likely that we’ll stay below 1.5 degrees,” Pierre Friedlingstein, professor at the University of Exeter and lead author of the report, said in an interview. ”Cutting by 40 percent in 2030 is essentially the same level of reduction as we had through Covid every single year.”

Scientists often emphasise that the Paris Agreement goals are dictated by geopolitics and not by nature. In reality, every ton of CO2 worsens global heating, the authoritative UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded in its most recent assessment.

The new report — published during the COP27 climate conference in Egypt — is the latest dire warning that the window to keep global warming below dangerous levels is rapidly closing.

While China’s emissions are set to decrease by almost 1 percent this year, India’s are expected to increase by 6 percent and the US’s by 1.5 percent, the report said. Deforestation also is to blame, with Indonesia, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo contributing three-fifths of global emissions caused by land-use changes.

The rate of increase in global fossil fuel emissions is showing signs of slowing, rising about 0.5 percent per year this decade, compared with 3 percent two decades ago, when China’s economic growth entered its most fossil fuel-intensive stage.

Disruptive global events are making it difficult to read the future, Jackson said. The world is still suffering long-term effects from the Covid-19 pandemic, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is spawning more infrastructure for liquefied natural gas just as the fuel’s use must plummet, according to leading climate projections.

“There’s an underlying backdrop of chaos,” Jackson said.

By John Ainger and Eric Roston

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State of Fashion 2023
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State of Fashion 2023