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Current climate targets are not good enough to stop global warming

According to new research, current climate pledges from the US, China and other countries would still result in global heating of 2.4 degree Celsius

Currently the world isn't on track to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100.
Currently the world isn't on track to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100. (Istockphoto)

Two weeks since US president Joe Biden announced an ambitious climate goal for the US, analysts are taking stock of climate pledges made by the world’s richest economies. New research now shows that if implemented, these will ensure that the world heats up by 2.4 degree Celsius over pre-industrial levels by 2100. This is the conclusion reached by the Climate Summit Momentum—May 2021, a short report released on 4 May by the independent, science-based assessment project, the Climate Action Tracker (CAT). The CAT, which is run by the Germany-based climate research and policy organisations Climate Analytics and NewClimate Institute, tracks the climate pledges and policies of 36 countries and the EU that together account for nearly 80% of the world’s carbon emissions.

According to the research, the new pledges to lower emissions made by the US and other countries at the US-led climate summit on 22-23 April has improved on the CAT’s previous warming estimate of 2.6 degree Celsius. The analysis further states that if recent net-zero emissions pledges by the US, China, UK, EU and others were to be taken at face value, then the result would be a more optimist 2 degree Celsius warming by 2100. However, as the analysis points out, both scenarios remain much above the temperature limit of 1.5 degree Celsius as envisaged by the 2015 Paris Agreement. And this is before implementation pathways are taken into consideration.

Also Read: Why the new US carbon emissions target isn't good enough

The analysis finds that for most countries, policies are lagging behind stated climate targets. It states that going solely on current global policy decisions, the world will heat up by 2.9 degree Celsius by 2100. By the time the important Glasgow climate summit rolls around in November this year, all countries are expected to increase the ambition of their voluntary emissions targets under the Paris Agreement—the NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions). While many have, important high emissions economies like India still haven’t. Interestingly, the CAT assesses India’s performance solely on the basis of the country’s policies, since these are better than India’s stated NDC. However, while India’s policies are 2 degree Celsius compatible, the country needs to do more to be 1.5 degree Celsius compatible.

Also Read: Global emissions cuts need to be ten times higher to stop climate change

Why is this assessment important? According to the reports of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world cannot afford to get hotter than 1.5 degrees by 2100. Doing so would mean that, among other things, global water stress would double, all Himalayan glaciers would vanish, all coral reefs would die, extreme summer heatwaves would increase by greater orders of magnitude, the world would see widespread habitat destruction, and an additional 10 million people worldwide would be affected by global sea level rise. So while current climate pledges are better than before, they remain nowhere near good enough.

Listen to the Mint Climate Change Tracker podcast hosted by Bibek Bhattacharya

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