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Can We Avoid the Two Degree Threshold? Vital Signs

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According to the most recent estimates, 2014 emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main contributor to global climate change, are projected to be 2.5 percent higher than 2013 levels, which translates into the release of 37 billion additional tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. As negotiators wrap up their talks at the international climate conference in Lima, Peru, there is no indication that this trend will change soon. Scientists estimate that future emissions should not exceed 1,200 billion tons of CO2, in order to keep Earth's temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius and to avoid severe and irreversible environmental effects. Yet at the current rate of emissions, this remaining “quota” would be used up in less than a generation, writes Joel Stronberg, contributing author for the Worldwatch Institute’s (www.worldwatch.org) Vital Signs Online.

Published in: Environment
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Can We Avoid the Two Degree Threshold? Vital Signs

  1. Vital Signs TEXT HERE Can we avoid the two degree threshold?
  2. TEXT HERE Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the main contributor to global climate change It is believed that warming the earth by 2 degrees Celsius will have severe and irreversible global environmental effects "CO2 Emissions Set to Reach New 40 Billion Tonne Record High in 2014," press release (Norwich, U.K.: Tyndall Center for Climate Research, 22 September 2014).
  3. TEXT HERE To prevent this temperature increase, total future emissions cannot exceed 1,200 billion tons "CO2 Emissions Set to Reach New 40 Billion Tonne Record High in 2014," press release (Norwich, U.K.: Tyndall Center for Climate Research, 22 September 2014).
  4. TEXT HERE In 2013, global combustion of fossil fuels and the production of cement resulted in the emission of 36.1 billion tons of CO2. 2014 emissions are projected to be 2.5% over 2013 levels Global Carbon Project, "Global Carbon Budget 2014," Power Point Presentation, 21 September 2014. Note that all figures cited are in metric tons.
  5. TEXT HERE Without more aggressive global mitigation actions, the 2 degrees threshold could be crossed before 2041
  6. TEXT HERE Reaching carbon net neutrality between 2055 and 2070 is essential to minimizing the risk of severe, pervasive, and in some cases, irreversible climate change impacts U.N. Environment Programme, “UN Says Global Carbon Neutrality Should be Reached by Second Half of Century, Demonstrates Pathways to Stay Under 2°C Limit,” press release (Nairobi: 19 November 2014).
  7. TEXT HERE The United States ranks first in per person emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels. China is ranked second. Stefan Nicola, “China Surpasses EU in Per-Capita Pollution for First Time,” Bloomberg News, 22 September 2014.
  8. TEXT HERE Carbon Dioxide is the most prevalent greenhouse gas but methane is the most potent, trapping 86 times the heat of CO2 Joe Romm, “Methane Leaks Wipe Out Any Benefit of Fracking, Satellite Observations Confirm,” Thinkprogress.org, 22 October 2014.
  9. TEXT HERE Greenhouse gas emissions mainly come from energy supply, industrial processes, forestry, agriculture, and transportation. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data,” at www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html, based on IPCC data.
  10. Failure to meet previously established climate goals is due to the falling prices of coal, natural gas and petroleum, among other things REN21, Renewables Global Status Report 2014 (Paris: 2014), p. 15.
  11. TEXT HERE Slowdown in global economic growth causes industrial nations to limit support for clean energy alternatives
  12. TEXT HERE Expanding world population and the growth of developing- country economies also contributes to the rising greenhouse gas emissions
  13. TEXT HERE Halving the rate of deforestation and restoring significant acres of deforested lands worldwide by 2030 could reduce carbon emissions by between 4.5 billion and 8.8 billion tons of CO2 “UN Climate Summit Pledges to Halt Loss of Natural Forests by 2030,” (London) Guardian, 23 September 2014.
  14. TEXT HERE Clean energy alternatives, like solar and wind power, are available and are decreasing in cost REN21, Renewables Global Status Report 2014 (Paris: 2014), p. 28
  15. TEXT HERE Many larger developing nations are investing in sustainable energy industries. China invested $56.3 billion in renewable energy in 2013 REN21, Renewables Global Status Report 2014 (Paris: 2014), p. 68
  16. Full analysis, sources, and data available at: http://bit.ly/1uUrKTB
  17. about us WORLDWATCH INSTITUTE VITAL SIGNS ONLINE Through research and outreach that inspire action, the Worldwatch Institute works to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world that meets human needs. Vital Signs Online provides business leaders, policymakers, and engaged citizens with the latest data and analysis to understand critical global trends. www.worldwatch.org vitalsigns.worldwatch.org

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