There is at most a 10 per cent chance of limiting global warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C) unless ‘substantially’ more is done to hit net-zero pledges this decade, a study says.
Researchers have analysed climate targets of 196 countries from the time of the Paris Agreement until the end of the COP26 meeting in Glasgow last November.
Adopted in 2016, the Paris Agreement aims to hold an increase in global average temperature to below 3.6°F (2°C) and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 2.7°F (1.5°C).
Climate pledges made at COP26 could keep warming to just below 3.6ºF, but only if all commitments are implemented as proposed, the scientists say.
However, the more ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement – to keep warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C) or below – has only a 6-10 per cent chance of being achieved, they say.
Climate pledges made at the COP26 meeting may have the potential to keep warming to just below 2 °C, but only if all commitments are implemented as proposed, suggests the new study. Much of the discussion at COP26 involved countries’ individual plans to phase out the burning of coal for energy (pictured)
The more ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement – to keep warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C) or below – has a maximum 10 per cent of even happening. Exceedance probability is referred to as the probability that a certain value will be exceeded in a predefined future time period. So the exceedance probability of temperature increasing 2.7°F (1.5°C) or more this century is as high as 90 per cent, depending on scenario (A or B)
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions including carbon dioxide and methane is seen as key to achieving the aims of the Paris Agreement and limiting climate change.
Hitting the Paris targets is seen as key to averting a planetary catastrophe, leading to devastation in the form of frequent climate disasters and fatalities.
The new report has been led by researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia and the International Energy Agency in Paris, France.
‘Our results provide a reason to be optimistic: warming could be limited to 2°C [3.6ºF] or just below, if the pledges on the table are implemented in full and on time,’ they say in their paper, published today in Nature.
‘Peaking of global GHG emissions could be achieved this decade. But our results also provide a sobering assessment of how far current pledges are from limiting warming to 1.5°C [2.7°F].
‘Countries with net-zero targets could bring their net-zero dates forward or aim for net-negative targets.
‘Commitments made so far, especially for this decade, fall far short of what is required to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C.
‘Any delay in reversing the upward trend of emissions, phasing out the unabated use of fossil fuels and developing sustainable, additional and permanent negative-emissions options will put this target out of reach.’
In the five years preceding the 2021 COP26 meeting, 153 parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement submitted new or updated climate mitigation goals for 2030, and 75 parties provided longer-term targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, India announced a controversial 2070 net-zero goal at COP26 – two decades later than the one that’s set out by the UK.
The UK aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050, meaning any carbon emissions from the UK would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Boris Johnson’s government also has interim targets to reduce emissions by 78 per cent by 2035.
Among the other European countries, Sweden and Germany have legally binding net zero targets for 2045, while France, Denmark, Spain, Hungary and Luxemburg also have set theirs for 2050.
Australia, Canada and the US are all also committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
For the study, the researchers analysed inventory data and climate targets of 196 countries from the time of the Paris Agreement until the end of the COP26 meeting in November 2021, and used computer modelling to predict the future.
Looking at the pledges made up to and at COP26 (where India also announced new mitigation goals and long-term targets) they argue that there is still a chance to limit warming to just below 3.6°F (2°C).
They estimate that if all pledges are implemented in full and on time, peak warming could be limited to 3.42°F to 3.6°F (1.9°C to 2.0°C).
Unfortunately, the revised pledges hold only a 6 per cent to 10 per cent chance of meeting the Paris Agreement’s more ambitious goal of limiting global warming to no more than 1.5°C, unless substantially more mitigation action happens this decade.
People display placards during a march that took place during the Pre-COP26 youth event in Milan on October 1, 2021
One of the agreements reached at COP26 in November was the Glasgow Pact, which requests that countries come back to the table with more ambitious 2030 targets by next year to keep alive the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 2.7°F.
The Glasgow Pact includes a pledge to phase out the burning of coal for energy, except for in India, China and other countries, on the basis that they can’t phase out coal that quickly.
In an accompanying News & Views article for Nature, climate scientists Zeke Hausfather and Frances Moore point out that global coal usage has not increased since 2013.
The International Energy Agency has also said that coal use is likely to decline over the remainder of the century.
However, the climate scientists, who were not involved in the new research, said impacts of climate change ‘on human civilization and the natural world’ will depend on how hot the planet gets this century.
‘Optimism should be curbed until promises to reduce emissions in the future are backed up with stronger short-term action,’ they say in the accompanying piece.
‘Long-term targets should be treated with scepticism if they are not supported by short-term commitments to put countries on a pathway to meet those targets in the next decade.’
Boris Johnson unveiled his plan for the UK to reach net zero emissions by the year 2050 in October. The PM is pictured here indicating 1.5 degrees with his hands during COP26 in Glasgow on November 2, 2021
At COP26, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said he thinks the world is likely to miss the Paris Agreement’s 2.7°F (1.5°C) climate change target.
Gates said ‘there’s no comparable feat that mankind has ever achieved’, although he did praise the UK for its ‘exemplary’ use of green innovations, including off-shore wind farms.
Gates joined COP26 just days after toasting his 66th birthday with Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos on his $2million-a-week rental superyacht.