New studies highlight challenge of meeting Paris Agreement climate goals

New studies highlight challenge of meeting Paris Agreement climate goals
These figures show the pathways at country level needed to make the Paris Agreement goal a reality. The figures show the carbon dioxide trajectories of emissions of the United States, European Union, China, India, and the Rest of the World from fossil fuels and industrial processes for the following scenarios: (a) Global warming under 2 °C with a 75% probability, with negligible development of engineered sinks and land use change (LUC); (b) global warming under 2 °C with a 66% probability and negligible development in engineered sinks and LUC; and (c) global warming under 2 °C with a 75% probability, and with scalable development in engineered sinks and LUC. Credit: Jiang et al/AGU

New research highlights the "incredible challenge" of reaching the Paris Agreement without intense action and details the extreme temperatures parts of the planet will suffer if countries fail to reduce emissions.

The world reached an agreement in December 2015 on curtailing with the goal of avoiding a 2-degree Celsius increase in average global temperature above pre-industrial levels. Ideally, the treaty's goal is to limit this increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The United States delivered notice to the United Nations in August 2018 of the country's intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, joining Syria as one of only two countries in the world not party to the treaty.

Two new studies published in the AGU journals Geophysical Research Letters and Earth's Future now show some of the goals set forth in the agreement might be difficult to reach without much sacrifice.

The new research shows future climate extremes depend on the policy decisions made by major emitters, and that even if major emitters were to strengthen their commitments to reducing emissions, the rest of the world would have to immediately reduce their greenhouse gases to zero to achieve the Paris 2015 goal.

"Simply put, these papers highlight the incredible challenge the 2015 Paris Agreement presented to the world," said Dáithí Stone, a with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, a crown-owned research company in New Zealand, who was not involved in either of the studies.

Importance of major emitters

The first study, published in AGU's Geophysical Research Letters, found none of the world's major carbon emitters, including the U.S., China and the European Union, have made commitments calculated to align with limiting climate warning to a 2-degree Celsius increase above pre-industrial levels.

If these major emitters fail to enact stronger policy changes curtailing their emissions more significantly, specific parts of the world like eastern North America and Central Europe will experience periods of , according to the new study.

"What's going on now matters, and it matters at the emitter level," said Sophie Lewis, a senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales and the lead author of the new study.

She and her co-authors used models projecting future climate patterns in certain parts of the world to show how the failure of these high-emitting countries would directly lead to problems there.

In many regions of the world, future extreme temperature events depend on the current and future carbon dioxide emissions reductions adopted by major emitters, according the new research. For example, if the U.S. fails to limit the country's emissions, it will lead directly to extreme temperatures in places like Central Europe and eastern North America.

Lewis said not all future impacts are clear, but the data is good enough for Central Europe and eastern North America to show how an average world temperature increase would directly impact those regions.

"In Central Europe it was really clear that there was so much to gain by limiting temperature increase to 1.5 or 2 degrees," she said.

While Lewis said the onus will be on all countries in the future to limit the impact of climate change, the high-emitting regions of the world have an important role in leading reductions. By implementing stronger climate pledges, major emitters can reduce the frequency of future extremes and their own calculated contributions to these temperature extremes, the study's authors noted.

Studies like this are important since they can be used in the future to hold large emitters accountable for failure to limit the effects of climate change, according to the study's authors.

"Extending standard methods of evaluating the increased risk of extreme events due to climate change, they quantify the contribution of individual large carbon dioxide emitter nations to future risk increases," said Michael Wehner, a senior staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory managed by the University of California, who was not involved in either of the recent studies.

"As the authors point out, this provides one method to assign liability for loss and damages during extreme weather events," Wehner said.

The tough future for developing countries

In a second study, published in Earth's Future, researchers found the come-one-come-all approach to global climate mitigation set forth in the Paris Agreement masks a huge challenge faced by developing countries.

Even if U.S., China, the European Union and India increased their contributions to limit emissions, the rest of the world would need to drop to virtually zero emissions by 2030 in order for the planet to reach its goal of limiting the increase in temperature from pre-industrial times to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the new study.

The authors of the recent study said it would not be technically, politically or socially feasible for many of the world's countries to reach this goal.

"It's very easy to talk about the global average. But as soon as you peel back one layer of the onion, on the country level, these rules don't apply anymore," said Glen Peters, research director for the Center for International Climate Research (CICERO) in Norway and a co-author of the second study.

He said high-emitting countries have already done much of the damage when it comes to emissions, while the rest of the world is now expected to limit their industrial growth and development to reach global emissions goals.

"The pie is so small you're basically going to starve developing countries unless there is a huge increase (in reductions) from countries like the U.S.," he said.

According to Wehner the "inequity of global warming between the developed and developing nations" is revealed by both new studies.

"Undoubtedly, in the absence of new energy technologies, there would be significant negative implications for the modernization of developing nations and the alleviation of poverty if they were required to reduce emissions as outlined by [Peters' paper]," he said.

A way forward

Peters, the co-author of the paper in Earth's Future, said while his findings are grim, the world should not give up on reaching emissions targets. He said historically high-emitting countries like the U.S. and parts of Europe should commit to more reductions than the developing world to make up for past emissions.

Peters and his co-authors argue that in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, leading countries need to develop low?, zero? or even negative?carbon?emissions energy technologies that can be deployed at scale in the developing world.

Stone, with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said Peters' study shows no one country can slip up in the goal to meet climate goals.

"It is hard to argue against their conclusion that we need to start seriously considering options such as the deployment of solar geoengineering, with all of the risks that entails, if the world is serious about achieving the Paris Agreement goals," he said.

Explore further

Emissions rising too high despite the reduction targets set before the Paris negotiations

More information: Sophie C. Lewis et al. Assessing Contributions of Major Emitters' Paris‐Era Decisions to Future Temperature Extremes, Geophysical Research Letters (2019). DOI: 10.1029/2018GL081608

Sophie C. Lewis et al. Assessing Contributions of Major Emitters' Paris‐Era Decisions to Future Temperature Extremes, Geophysical Research Letters (2019). DOI: 10.1029/2018GL081608

Journal information: Geophysical Research Letters

Citation: New studies highlight challenge of meeting Paris Agreement climate goals (2019, April 23) retrieved 16 September 2019 from
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User comments

Apr 23, 2019
There is no way the rest of the world (RoW) will go backwards development wise as required on the above graphs. So as 'the kids' said it is a crisis and we can not deal with it by talking about it while the sofa under us is on fire.
We have to stop listening to the economists and listen to the scientists.
Its going to hurt, especially enforcing it with sanctions, but as the kids said 'there isn't a planet B'.
Someone is going to have to talk truth to Trump. He may be bombastic and egotistical but he is not actually dumb or suicidal; because with out the USA taking a lead, any plan will fail.

Apr 23, 2019
Makes you want to join the current generation in their protests. Our politicians are not bad, but they don't enact the urgency because they see differential advantages (i.e. want to keep our nation as competitive as before).

Apr 23, 2019
We have to stop listening to the economists and listen to the scientists.

Dunno if the economists is the problem, it is fairly easy to bean count home climate actions in future years. But the vote cycle is shorter than that, which may be the problem. Ironic if a system constructed to be relative reactive - vote on strategies and tactics (by proxy of politicians) every few years - hold up changes now just because they have long term consequences.

Apr 23, 2019
But in the next vote cycle those kids will be voters.
And unless they sell out their ideals for a better starter salary, the politicians will have to listen or get jobs themselves.

What point is economic advantage if California is burned to a crisp and New York is under water.

Apr 23, 2019
you will freeze to death first

Apr 23, 2019
We have to stop listening to the economists and listen to the scientists.
We're not listening to economists but to the economy's owners. And nobody knows how to get their permission to act. As far as I can see, this most basic problem has not been solved anywhere in the world.

Apr 23, 2019
More Spectacular BS From The Washington Post


Apr 24, 2019
You really think you are the economy's owner any more?
In the UK 50% of the land is owned by 1% of the population.
Also in the UK: Your bank deposits are no longer your money. If a bank goes bust you are a lower rank un-secured creditor:- You don't even own a small chunk of the black Italian marble and etched glass your deposits paid for.
We are the cows being milked by the financial system which will tell us whatever story it takes to keep us docile and they pay lawyers to oppose any story that wakes us up.
The right wing government

Apr 24, 2019
(continued:)The governments are complicit. They changed the rules so our banked cash is no longer ours. They built the phony government protection scheme where WE guarantee our own deposits.
They continue to let our financial service providers TAKE more than they PAY for using our money from savings or pension schemes. Pensions are structured so they can go insolvent along with companies: They are not secured asset owning creditors either: The financial institutions have first call on the assets you may have worked your life to create.

Apr 25, 2019
you will freeze to death first
Not when the planet Is heating up at an accelerating Pace you absolute Dimwit !

Apr 25, 2019
The End is Near for the MALDIVES !!!!!!!!!


Apr 25, 2019
Yes. It's becoming an incredible challenge for the AGW Cult to maintain the biggest deceit against humanity, when the only one falling for the lies are the ignorant Chicken Littles, and they continue to burn fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow.

Apr 25, 2019
Antigoracle so delusional he is believing anything that pops into his head (as always the case of course)
No dumbty. There is absolutely no challenge proving Global Warming is very simple and the truth and reality has overwhelming evidence, easy to understand (except for you of course) lol. The only one falling for all your Dumb,ignorant,stupid and idiotic replies is guess who... YOU. And all your sockies, which makes that guess what.. still just YOU..
The poor that continues to burn fossil fuels is because of institutions YOU support that created a no contest monopolistic environment, forcing them to use fossil fuels, thats how deceitful your trollmasters operate, pretending it's the 'people's fault' when it is lying,greedy politicians wasting away the earth YOU support with their filthy greedy fossil fuel empire ! !

Apr 25, 2019
Fossil fuel was once life , release it and the earth will make it live again

Apr 26, 2019
Antigoracle sockpuppet sucked in too many fossil fumes, and yet again snoozed as he loses.

Fossil Fuels is the Root cause of Planet Destruction !

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