This Is Why You Should Be Worried About A Carbon Budget

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Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg at the 50th World Economic Forum annual meeting, Davos, on January 21, 2020.

“Let’s be clear. We don’t need a ‘low-carbon economy.’ We don’t need to ‘lower emissions.’ Our emissions have to stop to stay if we are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5 degrees target. We need real zero. Because distant net zero emission targets will mean absolutely nothing if we just continue to ignore the carbon dioxide budget, which applies for today not distant future dates. If high emissions continue like now even for a few years, that remaining budget will soon be completely used up.”
Greta Thunberg at Davos on January 21, 2020

A carbon budget is an upper limit of total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with ‘remaining below a specific global average temperature.’ IPCC is stressing to stay a carbon budget within 1.5°C, i.e. the amount of carbon dioxide emissions we can emit while still having a chance of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Anthropogenic greenhouse gases, GHG, emissions have already raised global temperatures by around 1°C since pre-industrial times. We need shrinking the carbon budget to stay within 1.5°C of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The IPCC report SR15 suggests that we have only a few years left at our current rate of emissions before we blow the 1.5°C carbon budget.

Limiting warming to 1.5°C requires strictly limiting the total amount of carbon emissions between now and the end of the century. Global CO2 emissions need to fall to net-zero by 2050 to avoid 1.5°C of warming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report on 1.5°C (SR15) says that there is only a 66% chance of limiting ‘global average temperature’ increase below 1.5°C, i.e. the atmosphere can absorb no more than 420 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 if we are to stay below the 1.5°C threshold.

Anthropogenic impacts of climate change.

IPCC’s SR15 reported that at the current rate of about 42 Gt of CO2 emissions globally every year or about 1332 tonnes per second, the carbon budget is expected to be used up in just within 8 years. In other words, if emissions continue unabated, the world is on track to exceed this budget in only about 7.11 years and exposing communities to increasingly dangerous forest fires, extreme weather, drought, flood, stronger oceanic waves, hurricanes, typhoons, tropical storms, sea ice melting, polar ice melting, rising sea levels, coral bleaching, habitat loss, shifting of habitats, migration of species, damage to the ecosystem and other climate impacts.

The MCC’s (Mercator Research Institute On Global Commons and Climate Change, Berlin) Carbon Clock shows how much CO2 can be released into the atmosphere to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C and 2°C, respectively. The clock keeps ticking and shows how little time is left for political decision-makers to take action.

According to the Global Carbon Project atmospheric CO2 concentration reached 407.4 parts per million in 2018 on average, and is projected to increase by 2.2 ppm in 2019 to reach 410 ppm averaged over the year. Atmospheric CO2 concentration in 2019 are 47% above pre-industrial levels.

The UN Climate Action Summit 2019 revealed that, as ice sheets and glaciers melt, the rapid sea-level rise could affect one billion people by 2050.

It looks like we are living in a world with an uncertain future for our current and next generations. We need urgent climate action by the governments and institutions to transform this world to real zero carbon emissions, as Greta Thunberg appealed in Davos on January 21, 2020 at WEF20.

We cannot change our past but can change our future. We have two primary choices at present: either to accept the conditions as they exist and wait for the end of the future or accept the responsibility to change climate change for the sake of a livable, better and more sustainable future. It is upon us, i.e. the current generation, to choose a future, for better or worse.

If we want to cherish every precious moment on earth, then we must take urgent climate action for a sustainable future. If we want to keep global average temperature increase below our 1.5°C target, then we will have to leave all (100%) of our fossil fuels in the ground and increase global forest cover equal to the land area of Canada (10 million sq km), by the year 2050.

This all will only be possible through implementing zero carbon policies and development, by our leaders with strong political will, for making a better world.

This post has been written by a YKA Climate Correspondent as part of #WhyOnEarth. Join the conversation by adding a post here.
Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: digifly840/Pixabay.
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