A new analysis done by Climate Action Tracker group examined the promises from China and other nations along with the carbon reduction commitments made by the United States President-elect Joe Biden. These pledges would mean the rise in world temperatures could be maintained to 2.1C by the end of this century. Previous estimates suggested up to 3C of heating with devastating impacts. However, the experts fear the long-term optimism is not supported by short-term plans to scale down Co2 levels.
For over a decade, the researchers from the Climate Action Tracker have minutely inspected what countries’ collective carbon cuts targets mean for our warmed-up planet. Following the failure of Copenhagen summit in 2009, the group estimated the global temperatures would surge by 3.5C by the end of this century.
But the signing of Paris accord in 2015 which was charted to tackle the dangerous rise in Earth temperatures proved of significant impact. Consequently, the international stakeholders slowly started to move away from the fossil fuels. In September 2020, the group assessed that the world was heading for warming of around 2.7C by the beginning of 2100. The improved numbers were still far above the 2C goal agreed at the Paris summit and far away from the more ideal but difficult to achieve 1.5C goal that scientists marked as the benchmark to disastrous warming in 2018. Their new “optimistic analysis” now suggests a rise of 2.1C by 2100.
Key developments on the issue
The past 3 months have recorded some key breakthroughs. In September, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping informed United Nations that his country will reach net zero emissions by 2060 and that its emissions will hit the peak before 2030. As per Climate Action Tracker, this could lower global warming by 0.2 to 0.3 by the end of century. Following the course, South Korea and Japan in the region have vowed to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Canada and South Africa have also given the timelines about their net zero goals. However, the biggest development so far is the victory of Biden in the US Presidential elections.
Fighting the climate change is among a host of tasks in to-do-list. He has pledged to bring the United States to net zero emissions by 2050. If consummated, the goal would decrease the temperature to 0.1C by 2100.
“We now have north of 50% of global emissions covered by big countries with a zero-emissions by mid-century goal,” said Bill Hare from Climate Analytics, who helped lead the Climate Action Tracker analysis.
“When you add all that up, along with what a whole bunch of other countries are doing, then you move the temperature dial from around 2.7C to really quite close to two degrees.”
“It’s still a fair way off from the Paris Agreement target, but it is a really major development,” he told BBC News.
Potential challenges for the global community
The researchers at CAT: Climate Action Tracker have taken a fairly conservative approach but they also recognize that their optimistic analysis comes with some major reservations. The biggest difficulty according to them is, is that the short-term plans to reduce carbon emissions by 2030 are just not up to the mark.
“Countries have not yet adjusted their short-term actions to be on a pathway towards the long-term target,” said Niklas Höhne, from the NewClimate Institute, who also works on the Climate Action Tracker.
“Long-term targets are easier, they are far away. But short-term actions are happening right now and they affect citizens, they affect voters. And that’s why this is much more difficult,” he told BBC News.
The signatories of the Paris agreement are expected to set new carbon-cutting benchmarks for 2030 by the end of this year. It is projected that a number will lodge and comply with new plans including European Union and United Kingdom. However, the caveats remain with the hesitation of the countries who have still not announced their commitments and a number of poorer nations still depending on coal.
“There are countries that still remain bad actors, including Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Australia, Russia, and a few others,” said Bill Hare.
“And we also have a pipeline of coal plants in the region where I’m working now in Asia. It has not collapsed, it has not gone away, so yes, there’s much to be concerned about. And there’s much that can go wrong.”
Post COVID-19 situation
According to the climate change observers, the response of countries to the coronavirus pandemic is a huge opportunity to set their short-term targets by investing in renewable energy and start to decarbonize the system as a start.
“The pandemic opened a window to not only get countries to outline their long-term goal, but to actually move onto the right path so that they can actually achieve the long-term goal,” said Dr Maisa Rojas, who is the director of the Center for Climate and Resilience Research at the University of Chile in Santiago.
“Are we going to harness that opportunity? My impression is that many, including the EU, are harnessing it.”