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Next decade will be crucial in achieving climate change goals

If carbon dioxide is the main culprit in climate change, then our two options are to cut emissions or remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Following the goals set at the 2015 Paris Agreement, the next 10 years will be prove incredibly crucial in finding out if all countries involved will be able to deliver on their promises.

Most of the nations of the planet agreed to take steps to reduce greenhouse gases so that the global temperature rise would be less than 2 degrees Celsius more than during the pre-industrial age, and hopefully more like a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise by 2100. That was the easy part. Now the trouble is figuring out how to get there, as researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) learned when taking deeper dive for an article that will appear in the journal Nature Communications.

“The study shows that the combined energy and land-use system should deliver zero net anthropogenic emissions well before 2040 in order to assure the attainability of a 1.5°C target by 2100,” said coauthor and IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management Program Director Michael Obersteiner.

To get there, the IIASA report showed that fossil fuel usage rates would have to drop dramatically, to less than 25 percent of global energy supply by the end of the century. Currently, fossil fuels provide 95 percent of that total. Deforestation would have to be radically curtailed too, since trees and vegetation traps CO2 from release into the atmosphere.

If the current rate of conversion to renewable sources – about 2.6 percent annually – continues, CO2 emissions wouldn’t peak until the end of the century and global temperatures would be at a 3.5C increase, far off the target, by 2100.

The study concluded that it will take a mix of changes in human behavior, a stronger commitment to adapting renewable energy sources faster, and adapting better land-use strategies to reach the climate change goals.

By David Searls, Staff Writer

Source: Nature Communications

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