The ‘tipping point’ to save Earth from climate change lies within the next two decades.
That’s according to climate scientists, who claim that if governments fail to act decisively to fight global warming, humanity could cross a point of no return by 2035.
After this, any action to halt the warming of our planet will not be enough to avoid ‘dangerous’ climate change, they said – which threatens to cause deadly heatwaves and flooding.
The research also shows the deadline to limit warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) by 2100 – as laid out in the Paris Climate Accords – may have already passed.
Experts warned that ‘very little time is left’ to ensure the goals set out by the landmark agreement are met.
Scientists calculated the ‘point of no return’ for action on climate change. Assuming we could increase renewable energy’s share of global power production by two per cent each year, we would have to start doing so by 2035, they found (left graphs)
Scientists from the Utrecht Centre for Complex Systems Studies and Oxford University wanted to find the ‘point of no return’ for climate action.
By this they mean the latest possible year to start strongly cutting greenhouse-gas emissions before it’s too late to avoid dangerous climate change.
‘The “point of no return” concept has the advantage of containing time information,’ said study lead author Matthias Aengenheyster, of Oxford University.
‘We consider this very useful to inform the debate on the urgency of taking climate action.’
Using information from climate models, the team determined the deadline for starting climate action in order to ‘likely’ keep global warming below 2°C in 2100.
They judged ‘likely’ as any scenario with a two-in-three chance or higher of reaching the goal, which was set by 195 nations in April 2016.
Global warming is already having a devastating impact on wildlife at the Earth’s poles (file photo). The new research shows the deadline to limit warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) by 2100 – as laid out in the Paris Climate Accords – may have already passed
Assuming we could increase renewable energy’s share of global power production by two per cent each year, we would have to start doing so by 2035, experts found.
This marks the deadline for achieving the required reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from road traffic, homes and industry.
Otherwise, limiting global warming below 2°C in 2100 – the target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement – will be ‘unlikely’, they said.
And, alarmingly, the cut off point for reaching the more ambitious 1.5°C goal has already been reached.
WHAT IS THE PARIS AGREEMENT?
The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change.
It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.
It seems the more ambitious goal of restricting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) may be more important than ever, according to previous research which claims 25 per cent of the world could see a significant increase in drier conditions.
In June 2017, President Trump announced his intention for the US, the second largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, to withdraw from the agreement.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals with regards to reducing emissions:
1) A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels
2) To aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change
3) Goverments agreed on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries
4) To undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science
Source: European Commission
This means it is no longer even a possibility – barring ‘radical action’, reports the European Geosciences Union journal Earth System Dynamics.
If we were to reduce emissions at a faster rate, by increasing the share of renewable energy by 5 per cent each year, we would buy another 10 years.
‘In our study we show that there are strict deadlines for taking climate action,’ Professor Henk Dijkstra, a researcher at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
‘We conclude that very little time is left before the Paris targets [to limit global warming to 1.5°C or 2°C] become infeasible even given drastic emission reduction strategies.’