Less than 5% chance world can meet standards set by Paris climate accord, study finds

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — For all the consternation about climate change, perhaps its effects will be even worse than previously expected. In fact, a new study finds that the lofty standards set by the Paris Climate Agreement of 2016 — signed by 195 countries (no longer including the U.S.) — are likely impossible to accomplish.

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the University of Washington (UW) concocted a model using statistical, scientific, and economic data, hoping to find the most realistic scenarios for Earth’s climate by the end of the century.

Their findings are not promising.

Thermometer showing hot temperatures
A new study finds that there’s less than a 5-percent chance the lofty standards set by the Paris Climate Accord will actually happen.

According to the model, there is a 95 percent chance that temperatures will rise more than 2 degrees Celsius — the magic number outlined in the Paris Climate Accord — by 2100. The probability that temperatures will rise less than 1.5 degrees Celsius is less than one percent.

Using the model, lead researcher Dick Startz and his team were able to project a likely range for temperature increases, with its lower limit being 2 degrees Celsius and its higher limit being 4.9 degrees Celsius.

There is less than a 10 percent chance that temperatures will fall outside the parameters of this range.

While Startz et al. came to similar conclusions as many other climate researchers, their methodology differed greatly, chiefly through their heavy use of empirical data.

“Instead of focusing on expert opinion, we wanted to just rely entirely on what the data says,” says Startz in a university news release. “This is a high-tech statistical model that looks at what has happened to per-capita output in each country, to carbon intensity in each country, and to population in each country. What we find is that there is a wide range of what could happen, but unfortunately the bottom end of the range is still fairly bad, and the top end of the range is catastrophic.”

Carbon intensity, which compares carbon dioxide per unit to GDP, was determined to be the leading factor contributing to climate change, the researchers found.

Startz warns that our current rate of addressing climate change is insufficient, and there may only be a handful of options to help slow down the phenomenon.

One solution that the researchers identify is the development of certain technological advances, such as battery power innovations or safer nuclear power.

Another solution would be the imposition of more punitive fines and fees to dissuade would-be polluters.

“We can hope for some magic breakthrough or we can do the unpleasant task of charging more when we’re polluting, but even that might not be enough,” Startz warns.

The study’s findings were published July 31 in the journal Nature Climate Change.


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