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Global Warming Goal of 2 Degrees Dwindling

Sep 22, 2014 12:08 PM EDT
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Arctic ice on record low

As our climate continues to change and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions keep climbing, scientists and world leaders alike fear that the chances of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius is dwindling fast. Now, climate officials have announced that it's highly unlikely we'll meet that goal due to the concentration of greenhouse gases.

In an effort to track carbon emissions, the Global Carbon Project (GCP) published three peer-reviewed articles identifying the challenges for society to keep global average warming less than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Unfortunately, the findings don't offer much encouragement.

Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production actually grew 2.3 percent to a record high of 36.1 billion tons in 2013. In 2014, emissions are estimated to jump another 2.5 percent, which is 65 percent above the level of 1990. Needless to say, this is not offering any hope of reaching global climate goals.

And China, which is typically a leader in the push for a greener society, isn't setting a good example.

"China now emits more than the US and EU combined and has CO2 emissions per person 45 percent higher than the global average, exceeding even the EU average," Robbie Andrew, a co-author of the studies based at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO) in Norway, said in a news release.

(Photo : Reuters/China Daily) Smoke rises from chimneys and cooling towers of a refinery in Ningbo, Zhejiang province August 19, 2014.

The scientists found that the four top emitters of CO2 included emissions from China, the United States, India and the European Union (EU).

With current emission rates, the remaining "quota" to surpass 2 degrees C of global warming will be used up in the next 30 years.

"Globally emissions would need sustained and unprecedented reductions of around 7 percent per year for a likely chance to stay within the quota," said co-author Glen Peters.

"Furthermore," he added, "because of differentiated capabilities some countries would need even higher rates of emissions reductions. These rates have not been seen in any individual country outside of severe economic crises."

The researchers point out the importance of implementing carbon capture and storage methods in order to even come close to keeping warming temperatures beneath 2 degrees C. But at the rate our world is warming, it's unlikely that we will succeed unless drastic measures are taken.

The findings were published in the journals Earth System Science Data Discussions, Nature Geoscience, Nature Climate Change and Nature Climate Change.

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