BERLIN – Recent pledges by the United States and other nations could help cap global warming at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, but only if efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” by 2050 succeed, scientists said Tuesday.
More than 190 countries agreed six years ago in Paris to keep the average temperature rise below that threshold — ideally no more than 1.5 C (2.7 F) — by 2100, compared to pre-industrial times, to avoid serious harm to humans and the natural world.
The Climate Action Tracker, compiled by a group of researchers who translate targets and actual emissions into temperature estimates, projects that the world is currently set to overshoot the Paris accord's less ambitious goal by 0.9 degrees.
“That's still catastrophic climate change, a situation that is basically not controllable and which we have to avoid by all means,” said Niklas Hoehne of the New Climate Institute, one of the authors of the study.
By including the latest proposals from governments in their calculation, researchers found the estimate dropped to 2.4 C — an improvement of 0.2 C on the previous optimistic forecast the group made in December. U.S. President Joe Biden's recent ambitious new climate goals contributed significantly to the revised estimate, along with the European Union, China, Japan and Britain.
But if 131 countries that make up almost three-quarters of global emissions actually meet their pledged or discussed “net zero” goal, then the 2-degree target could be met, said Hoehne. This would require further pledges though, essentially halving global emissions in the next 10 years.
The updated estimate was released ahead of a virtual meeting this week hosted by Germany to discuss further international efforts to curb global warming.
Germany's environment minister said the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, which brings together representatives from about 40 nations, will focus resolving several technical issues in the run-up to this year's U.N. summit in Glasgow in November.