Time is running out for governments to act on climate change before it's too late a new report from European Geosciences Union states. Without immediate and effective action we will pass a point of no return after which limiting global warming below 2°C in 2100 will be unlikely.
The research also suggests that unless radical action is implemented now, the deadline to limit warming to 1.5°C has already passed. "In our study, we show that there are strict deadlines for taking climate action," says Henk Dijkstra, a professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and one of the study authors.
"We conclude that very little time is left before the Paris targets [to limit global warming to 1.5°C or 2°C] become infeasible even given drastic emission reduction strategies." The study set out to locate the 'point of no return' or deadline for climate action, this date would be the last possible year action could be taken before it's too late to avoid climate catastrophe.
Point of no return looms
"The 'point of no return' concept has the advantage of containing time information, which we consider very useful to inform the debate on the urgency of taking climate action," explains Matthias Aengenheyster, a doctoral researcher at Oxford University and the study's lead author. The team used climate models to determine the deadline for starting action on climate to keep global warming below 2°C in 2100.
Assuming the global use of renewable energy increases by 2% every year, we have until 2035 to implement this action plan.
The researchers are quick to point out that their findings are on the ambitious side. "The share of renewable energy refers to the share of all energy consumed. This has risen over the course of over two decades from almost nothing in the late nineties to 3.6% in 2017 according to the BP Statistical Review, so the [yearly] increases in the share of renewables have been very small," says Rick van der Ploeg, a professor of economics at Oxford University, who also took part in the Earth System Dynamics study.
Humanity must demand effective policy immediately
"Considering the slow speed of large-scale political and economic transformations, decisive action is still warranted as the modest-action scenario is a large change compared to current emission rates," he adds. If humanity could commit to limit global warming to 1.5°C in 2100, action would need to begin before 2027 and renewables would need to increase at a rate of 5% annually.
In conclusion, the team made of researchers from the Utrecht Centre for Complex Systems Studies and Oxford University, UK, say that they hope the report is another urgent push for global leaders to take serious action. "We hope that 'having a deadline' may stimulate the sense of urgency to act for politicians and policy makers," concludes Dijkstra. "Very little time is left to achieve the Paris targets."
The study is published today in the European Geosciences Union journal Earth System Dynamics.