Carbon emissions have been rising since the start of the Industrial Revolution. But they all have to be curbed soon, and sharply, to keep the globe from warming above safe levels.
A new report lays out avenues to get there and shows that while it’s possible, it’s all take a little human ingenuity and a lot of global cooperation.
A draft of the report called a�?Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project,a�? was delivered to the United Nations. It was developed by researchers working in the 15 countries that have the highest CO2 emissions. It shows how each of those countries could reduce its emissions by 2050.
International negotiators looking to strike a climate deal have agreed to try to limit warming to 2A�C. And scientists have outlined how much more carbon we can emit to likely keep warming below 2A�C, calling it a carbon budget. Ita��s just like a household budget except going over it could increase the likelihood of major sea level rise, an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events, and a rapid decline in Arctic sea ice.
a�?Wea��ve just about exhausted the carbon budget. The world is unfortunately engaged in a massive gamble,a�? said Jeff Sachs, director of Columbia Universitya��s Earth Institute and one of the leaders of the new report.
According to the new report, annual CO2 emissions would have to be slashed to 11 gigatons from our current level of about 36 gigatons by 2050. Put another way, each of the worlda��s 7 billion people is responsible for 5.2 tons of CO2 emissions each year (though much of that comes from developed countries). By 2050, there will be another 2.5 billion people, and annual per capita CO2 emissions will likely have to be reduced to 1.6 tons toA�keep warming within the 2A�C range.