People are very slowly moving away from coal to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, an international climate change treaty aimed at combating global warming, according to a new study.
The goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit the rise in global average temperature to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and to “make efforts” to keep the rise below 1.5 degrees.
Phase-out of coal is a great way to do this, given that humans currently emit about 15 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, with coal accounting for about 40% of those emissions. Once carbon dioxide gets there, it can linger for centuries, trapping the sun’s heat and changing climate around the world.
Many countries are planning to phase out coal, or at least use it less as part of their obligations under the Paris Agreement. This is progress, a huge leap from the state of international climate negotiations before the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015.
However, researchers say we are moving in the right direction at the wrong pace.
The authors of a new research report write: “At our current rate of coal phase-out, we are on track to exceed the 2° Paris Agreement limit for maximum global warming. They warn that without major changes we are heading towards 2.5-3 degrees of warming.
This is not the first time researchers have made this prediction.
“More countries are promising to phase out coal in their energy systems, and this is positive,” says study co-author and environmental scientist Oleg Sherb from Lund University in Sweden.
“However, unfortunately, their commitment is not strong enough. If we have a realistic chance of hitting the 2 degree target, the coal phase-out needs to happen faster, and countries dependent on other fossil fuels need to increase the pace of the transition.”
To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed the plans of 72 countries that have pledged to phase out coal by 2050. The good news is that a 2°C rise in temperature can still be avoided. But only in the best-case scenario, the researchers say, China and India are phasing out coal over five years.
Even so, they add, warming will still be less than 2 degrees if China and India adopt ambitious plans at least matching the pace of the UK’s cuts so far and exceeding the cuts promised by Germany.
Other scenarios, which researchers describe as more realistic, put the Earth on track for global warming of 2.5 to 3 degrees.
Dozens of countries have failed to meet their obligations under the Paris Agreement, and the 2021 report says the Gambia is the only country currently on the right track.
Climate change is already wreaking havoc before temperatures rise 2 degrees, but scientists expect worse consequences as we get closer and closer to that line.
This warming is unprecedented in human history, but the Earth has experienced similar warm spells for a long time, which gives us some clues about what to expect.
The loss of the Antarctic ice sheet could raise sea levels by up to 20 meters, for example, while people around the world face relentless disasters ranging from heatwaves and extreme droughts to hurricanes and ice floods, as well as reduced food security and increased risk diseases.
Despite the rapid growth in the use of renewable energy sources and the growing taboo against coal-fired power plants, coal has proven to be a difficult habit.
Coal consumption is gradually declining in many countries. After a 3.1% decline in 2020, global coal consumption increased by 1.2% in 2022, bringing annual global coal consumption to over 8 billion metric tons for the first time, according to the International Energy Agency. . . .
Global carbon dioxide emissions also continue to rise, rebounding from pandemic-related lows in 2020 to new highs in 2021 and 2022. According to the International Energy Agency, carbon dioxide emissions from coal increased by 1.6% in 2022, and coal remains the main contributor to the increase in total carbon dioxide emissions.
The study was published in IOPscience.
Source: Science Alert