All-time high greenhouse gas emissions as heating “triple whammy” spurs world closer to 1.5°C threshold

An international network of climate scientists collaborating on a new open data platform say the world’s remaining carbon budget has been halved in just three years.

That, the 50 researchers affiliated with the Indicators of Global Climate Change open data project say, is putting Earth on track to exceed the 1.5°C threshold of post-industrial heating within the coming years.

The Paris Climate Agreement aspires to keep Earth temperatures below 2°C, and preferably 1.5°C by the end of the century. Recent projections suggest that the world will pass the preferred target at some point in the next decade.

Indicators of Global Climate Change, launched today, has calculated just 250 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide remains in the planet’s carbon budget for 1.5°C, although it says its estimate is “very uncertain” – indicating more analysis is required to refine the extent of the budget’s decline.

Global carbon budget figures show record levels of greenhouse gas emissions

But the figure is half of the 500 gigatonnes budget calculated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its sixth assessment report in 2020.

A carbon budget is an account of how much greenhouse gas can be emitted to keep average global warming below a temperature marker.

Professor Piers Forster, Director of the Priestley Centre for Climate Futures at Leeds University, says the fast-disappearing budget is the result of a “triple whammy” of heating already occurring from record levels of carbon dioxide emissions, increases in other greenhouse gases and reduction in cooling aerosol emissions.

Forster and his colleagues will speak at the UN’s climate change conference being held in Bonn, Germany. This meeting of scientists is an intersessional calibration that takes place between annual COPs – the flagship conferences of the parties where delegates from all nations address climate change challenges.

Science Academy calls for carbon removal focus

“If we don’t want to see the 1.5°C goal disappearing in our rear-view mirror, the world must work much harder and urgently at bringing emissions down,” Forster says.

When indicators in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth and most recent assessment report were compared to those of the Indicators of Global Climate Change data, global average temperatures were shown to have jumped another .07°C on average in the last three years.

Record levels of carbon output were also detected – now at a level of 54 gigatonnes per year over the last decade; an increase of a gigatonne on the IPCC’s most recent assessment.

Per decade, global average temperatures appear to be increasing by 0.2°C.

The Indicators of Global Climate Change findings are published in a preprint in Earth System Science Data.

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