The world has until 2070 to bring down net carbon emissions to zero to avoid irreversible climate change impacts, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said in a report. Carbon emissions are still rising at an alarming rate despite countries pledging to cut emissions. More action is required to rein in climate change.
Take more action to cut carbon emissions
The Emissions Gap Report describes the level of carbon emissions that can be managed. It says that the global temperature shouldn’t rise more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-Industrial Revolution level to the end of 21st century. Warming of 2 degrees Celsius or more from the pre-Industrial Revolution will raise the risk of rising sea levels, more violent storms and droughts.
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UNEP said that the world must reach carbon neutrality between 2055 and 2070. Carbon neutrality (or zero emission) means any carbon dioxide produced by burning coal, oil or natural gas must be compensated by measures that suck the greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Those measures may include planting more forests, using carbon-capture technology, or promoting renewable energy.
The world not headed in the right direction
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a statement that taking more action now will reduce the chances of taking “more extreme action” later to stay within safe emission limits. However, the governments are far off track in curbing emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions have jumped 45% since 1990. Notably, 2014 is on track to be among the warmest years on record.
The agency said that carbon emissions should be no higher than 44 gigatons (44 billion tons) in 2020. But CO2 output has already surpassed that figure and stood at 54 gigatons in 2012. At the current rate, the annual carbon dioxide output will increase to 59 gigatons in 2020. UNEP said that the countries have made no pledges to substantially reduce greenhouse gases over the next five years.
China and the United States, two of the world’s largest polluters, agreed last week to cut carbon emissions after 2020. Unfortunately, they have made no changes in their near-term efforts.