- As part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, nearly 200 countries pledged to reduce the carbon emissions that fuel climate change and to keep global warming below 2˚C (3.6°C). F), or 1.5˚C (2.7°F) if possible.
- The 1.5C target requires global greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by 45% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050, which is extremely unlikely, new analysis finds .
- Even if average temperatures were kept below 2°C, people living in the tropics, particularly in India and sub-Saharan Africa, will be exposed to extreme heat most days of the year, the researchers warned.
- In the mid-latitude zone, which includes the United States and most of the European Union and the United Kingdom, deadly heat waves could hit every year by 2100.
Climatologists say there is a 0.1% chance of keeping warming below 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) by 2100, as required by the Paris Agreement.
Even the less ambitious goal of limiting temperature rise to 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels is also unlikely, according to researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle. Global average temperatures could cross the 2˚C mark as early as 2050, their new study in Earth & Environment Communications predicted.
By 2021, the Earth had already warmed more than 1˚C above pre-industrial levels, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Despite these dire warnings, we continue to pump carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Nearly 200 countries signed the Paris climate accord in 2015, pledging to cut the carbon emissions that fuel climate change. They set themselves to 2˚C as a safe target to avoid the most dangerous impacts of interfering with the planet’s climate system, while calling on governments to aim for 1.5˚C.
However, a 2019 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) documented how even more detrimental a drop from 1.5°C to 2°C would be, especially given the sea level rise, impacts on biodiversity and extreme weather events. In recent years, climate activists and civil society groups have stepped up calls to keep the average temperature rise below 1.5°C.
“The 1.5C figure is not a random statistic,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said earlier this year in a prepared statement. It is “rather an indicator of the point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful to people and even to the entire planet”.
This month, US President Joe Biden signed a sweeping bill that includes provisions to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. The United States is historically the biggest carbon polluter, but since 2006 China has overtaken it in terms of total annual emissions. Last year, China said its emissions would start falling before 2030. The country is on track to achieve this by 2025. It is also targeting net zero carbon emissions by 2060.
However, the 1.5°C target requires that global greenhouse gas emissions be reduced by 45% by 2030 and brought to net zero by 2050.
In their new research, US scientists have warned that even if average temperatures are locked below 2C, people living in the tropics, particularly India and sub-Saharan Africa, will be exposed to extreme heat for most days of the year. year.
Rising temperatures affect human health in different ways, ranging from short-term effects like cramps and heat exhaustion to worsening chronic diseases, especially in the elderly. Externally employed workers and economically poorer groups with limited access to relief are also at high risk.
A study earlier this year indicated that between 2011 and 2020 there were between 12,000 and 19,000 heat-related child deaths in Africa. They suggested that climate change played a role in around half of the deaths. Advances in health care and food security that could reduce child mortality are compromised by the impacts of climate change.
It’s not just the tropics that will experience deadly heat stress. The heat waves that swept Europe this summer, with record temperatures in England, Scotland and France, could become the new normal.
In mid-latitude regions, including the United States and most of the European Union and the United Kingdom, heat waves that strike once every few years could occur every year by 2100 The study authors predict a 16-fold increase in heat risk. waves in the city of Chicago.
At the latest high-level climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, parties to the Paris Agreement agreed to nearly halve global carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, in line with the target 1.5°C. The next climate summit, COP27 in Egypt in November, will see parties take stock of progress on these pledges.
Banner Image: Even if average temperatures were kept below 2°C, people living in the tropics, particularly in India and sub-Saharan Africa, will be exposed to extreme heat most days of the year, warned the researchers. Image by Gyan Shahane via Unsplash (Public Domain).
Vargas Zeppetello, LR, Raftery, AE and Battisti, DS (2022). Probabilistic projections of increased heat stress due to climate change. Earth & Environment Communications, 3(1). doi:10.1038/s43247-022-00524-4
Chapman, S., Birch, CE, Marsham, JH, Part, C., Hajat, S., Chersich, MF, … Kovats, S. (2022). Past and projected impacts of climate change on heat-related child mortality in Africa. Environmental Research Letters, 17(7), 074028. doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac7ac5