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Earth’s climate could warm by four degrees before end of century

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Earth’s climate could warm by as much as 4 degrees Celsius before the end of the 21st century, far surpassing temperatures hoped to be avoided under the Paris Agreement, according to a new study.

While the Paris Agreement aims to prevent an increase of 2 degrees, a new analysis suggests temperatures could be double that within the next 50 to 80 years if we do not curb emissions.

Experts warn that this much warming could spur devastating weather events around the world, from extreme heat and droughts to catastrophic floods.

The new study published to the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences last week examines a scenario in which the world does not mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

By comparing 39 climate model experiments from the fifth phase of the Couple Model Intercomparison Project, the researchers estimated how temperatures could rise in the next few decades.

The models projected a rise of 4 degrees C as early as 2064 and as late as 2095. The year 2084 appeared as the median.

“A great many record-breaking heat events, heavy floods, and extreme droughts would occur if global warming crosses the 4 °C level, with respect to the preindustrial period,” said Dabang Jiang, a senior researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“The temperature increase would cause severe threats to ecosystems, human systems, and associated societies and economies.”

According to the researchers, land areas would experience more annual and seasonal warming than regions over the ocean.

And, the Arctic would be among the hardest hit, with a greater degree of temperature variation.

This would also drive an increase in precipitation in the Arctic and Pacific, the researchers say.

While similar effects are expected with a 1.5 or 2 degree rise, the consequences would be far more severe with 4.

“Such comparisons between the three levels of global warming imply that global and regional climate will undergo greater changes if higher levels of global warming are crossed in the 21st century,” wrote Jiang.

The team plans to investigate the changes that could come from 4-degree warming in greater detail moving forward.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide a comprehensive picture of the mean and extreme climate changes associated with higher levels of global warming based on state-of-the-art climate models, which is of high interest to the decision-makers and the public,” said Jiang.

What are the key goals of the Paris Climate Agreement?

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals with regards to reducing emissions:

1) A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels

2) To aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change

3) Governments agreed on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this would take longer for developing countries

4) To undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science.


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