The recent pledges made by world governments to limit carbon emissions will not be sufficient to meet the goal of keeping global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius, a new report concluded. Instead, those nonbinding commitments will result in a rise in the average global temperature to a potentially catastrophic 2.4 degrees Celsius.
The Climate Action Tracker, an independent network of scientists that tracks the commitments made on cutting emissions, released its findings Monday, just weeks after President Biden convened a climate summit with world leaders. The report notes that more robust targets made at the summit “have improved the Climate Action Tracker’s warming estimate by 0.2°C,” but that the net result would still mean the world is poised to blow past the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold set in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“While all of these developments are welcome, warming based on the targets and pledges, even under the most optimistic assumptions, is still well above the Paris Agreement’s 1.5˚C temperature limit,” the report states.
Despite the initial commitments made by world leaders in the Paris climate accord, temperatures have already risen by more than 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to a report released last month by the United Nations World Meteorological Organization, a finding that led U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to declare, “We are on the verge of the abyss.”
While keeping the average rise of surface temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius is still possible, the Climate Action Tracker said doing so will require a massive, unified effort from world governments that would transform life as we know it.
“Of great concern are the persisting plans of some governments to build new infrastructure not compatible with Paris goals, such as new coal-fired power plants, increasing uptake of natural gas as a source of electricity and that there are large inefficient personal vehicles in some countries,” the report states.
Rising temperatures have already had a profound impact on life on Earth, scientists say, increasing the severity of drought, weather events and wildfire destruction. With climate change continuing apace, the future looks even more bleak. A 2020 study conducted by the University of Arizona, for instance, found that at the current rate of temperature rise, one-third of all plants and animals on the planet will be at risk of mass extinction in the next 50 years.
In its 2018 report, the IPCC warned that global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius would result in drastic sea-level rise, threatening coastlines and island nations, and an increase in the number of deadly heat waves. At 2 degrees of Celsius warming, 99 percent of the world’s coral reefs would die off, an estimated 13 percent of ecosystems on land would be imperiled and an ice-free Arctic would become a reality within two decades.