Saturday, April 15, 2017

Are climate targets set in Paris achievable?

© Richie Chan | Shutterstock

                                                          Comments due by Apr. 22 , 2017

In order to have a good chance of meeting the limits set by the Paris Agreement, it will be necessary to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions while preserving carbon sinks,  with net emissions peaking in the next ten years, according to a new study.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can be reduce in  two ways—by cutting our emissions, or by removing it from the atmosphere, for example through plants, the ocean, and soil.
The historic Paris Agreement set a target of limiting future global average temperature increase to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to even further limit the average increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Yet the timing and details of these efforts were left to individual countries.
In a new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) used a global model of the carbon system that accounts for carbon release and uptake through both natural and anthropogenic activities.
“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,” says IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management Program Director Michael Obersteiner, a study coauthor.
According to the study, fossil fuel consumption would likely need to be reduced to less than 25% of the global energy supply by 2100, compared to 95% today. At the same time, land use change, such as deforestation, must be decreased. This would lead to a 42% decrease in cumulative emissions by the end of the century compared to a business as usual scenario.
“This study gives a broad accounting of the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, where it comes from and where it goes. We take into account not just emissions from fossil fuels, but also agriculture, land use, food production, bioenergy, and carbon uptake by natural ecosystems,” explains World Bank consultant Brian Walsh, who led the study while working as an IIASA researcher. 
Atmospheric carbon concentration [ppm] in the various scenarios, shown with CDIAC data and RCP projections © Walsh et al, 2017

The compares four different scenarios for future energy development, with a range of mixtures of renewable and fossil energy.  In a “high-renewable” scenario where wind, solar, and bioenergy increase by around 5% a year, net emissions could peak by 2022, the study shows. Yet without substantial negative emissions technologies, that pathway would still lead to a global average temperature rise of 2.5°C, missing the Paris Agreement target. 
Walsh notes that the high-renewable energy scenario is ambitious, but not impossible—global production of renewable energy grew 2.6% between 2013 and 2014, according to the IEA. In contrast, the study finds that continued reliance on fossil fuels (with growth rates of renewables between 2% and 3% per year), would cause carbon emissions to peak only at the end of the century, causing an estimated 3.5°C global temperature rise by 2100.
 The authors note that not only the mix of energy matters, but also the overall amount of energy consumed. The study also included ranges for high energy consumption and low energy consumption.
The study adds to a large body of IIASA research on climate mitigation policy and the chances of achieving targets.
“Earlier work on mitigation strategies by IIASA has shown the importance of demand-side measures, including efficiency, conservation, and behavioral change. Success in these areas may explain the difference between reaching 1.5C instead of 2C,” says IIASA Energy Program Director Keywan Riahi, who also contributed to the new work.


Lindsay Brewster said...

Although the targets set by the Paris agreement may seem unattainable, it is important to try to achieve these goals. If we try and fail, at least we have improved a bit. As you've mentioned, decreasing fossil fuel consumption from 95% to 25% seems like an impossible jump, but who knows what kind of technological advancements we will make by 2100. There are new ways to be more environmentally conscious all the time, it is just a matter of getting more people on board. With the Trump administration's views on climate change, this may be difficult. Trump has openly promised to "cancel" the U.S. involvement in the Paris agreement, and this could have a drastic effect on how our nation goes about reducing our carbon footprint.

Bradley Pidgeon said...

The goals set by the Paris agreement are going to be tough to achieve, but not impossible. Each nation must formulate a plan for both corporations and households to implement greener practices, while not imposing immense costs. Households can work primarily to reduce fossil fuel consumptions. Governments can invest in and promote widespread public transportation use. The innovation in new technologies will also allow for drastic carbon reductions, utilizing renewable energy sources for future production. The timeline for these goals will vary from country to country. In the US, the changes may not be realized or even prompted until the next administration comes to office. By the end of this century, with new technology and advancements, I think reduction of fossil fuel consumption from 95% to just 25% of supply is possible.

Marc Rinosa said...

This closes off our blog discussions nicely as one of the most important takeaways I've gotten from this course is to what extent the paradigm shift is involved in changing how we think about the implications of climate change on today's society, and how damaging our activities have been to the climate overall.

The study by IIASA projecting that fossil fuel use needs to decrease to less than 25% compared to 95% is an ambitious goal, and is important component of today's dialogue in changing how we look at climate change, especially with many politicians today questioning climate change's impact and potentially scaling back policy devoted to addressing it.

There must be a paradigm shift in the "demand-side" implications of addressing climate change if we will ever find a way in mitigating its damaging effects to our world.

Anonymous said...

Going off of what Walsh said about the efforts to reduce the carbon as ambitious , I agree it is ambitious but dramatic changes need to happen for there to be substantial changes. As far as demand-side measures out of efficiency, conservation, and behavioral change; behavioral change should be a main focus. The US is responsible 20 metric tons per person per year that is 6,360 metric tons per year for the entire US and we only have four percent of the world population. The US puts a lot of pressure on the individual instead of the large companies that cause the most of the carbon output.
Victoria Viguera

Elizabeth Eggimann said...

I think the United States is at an important juncture with the Paris Climate agreement. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said that President Trump will make a a final decision on the fate of the Paris agreement by the end of May.

While campaigning, Trump promised to “cancel” the climate deal,basically meaning that the US would pull out of the agreement. This move would substantially weaken the pact.

Hopefully, the president decides to remain in the Paris agreement and not undermine the United States' ability to meet its Paris pledge.

Austin Provancher said...

This is a great article written by our professor that really depicts the Paris Climate agreement. President Trump has the final say with regard to the Paris Agreement. Policy Advisors are urging the President to the United States part of the agreement. The withdraw from such a largely committed agreement can create a diplomatic issue and potentially weaken the United States leadership from energy and the environment.
Mr. Trump has undermined the US ability to meet its Paris pledge in the recent months. This seems that policy advisors need to continually speak with the President and urge him that this is a huge world issue and as Americans we need to be seen as taking a proactive approach rather than the backseat.

Janelle Gonzalez said...

Although it sometimes seems as though the goals of the Paris Agreement are too ambitious for America to achieve, it is important to continue our efforts in reducing our future global average temperature. Some may say that the 2 degrees celsius goal is unreachable, especially given the new Administration's view on the matter. CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions must be dramatically reduced in order to see our goals be met. As detailed in the above post, humans must commit to making lifestyle changes if we want to see progress towards the 2degrees Celsius, and then maybe even the 1.5 target. Behavioral changes will also play a huge role in whether targets of the Paris Agreement can be reached. Being that the power to enforce regulations are at the individual country levels, each area must develop a method in order to keep on track. These goals are only possible with a combined effort.

Angelique Cardoza said...

The goal of the Paris Agreement will only be achieved if we all participate. We live in a world that is finally at a point where we no longer have to rely on fossil fuels. We have all types of energy, in abundance. Our responsibility is to take advantage of that. The goal of the Paris agreement may be far-fetched now, but it is not impossible. We have seen how far we have come with renewable energy, now we must see how far we can go. This calls for innovation, unity, and respect for what's surrounds us.

Katherine Murphy said...

The most important thing to come out of this article is that although the Paris Agreement goals may certainly be out of the U.S's reach right now, but in the long run serious change regarding climate change needs to be taken into action. We will never reach the goals of the agreement if not everyone is on the same page. In order to reach these goals by 2100 we need to do something about it soon. This includes drastic lifestyle changes, such as being environmentally cautious about what you buy, what you eat, and what you do on a day to day basis. The Paris Agreement is the incentive this country needs to get on the same page. Unfortunately, Trumps plan to "cancel" the agreement can ruin the chances of this happening. Honestly, with the agreement in place or not, the Trump administrations outlooks on climate change and environmentalism is bleak and worrisome, and will be a difficult journey to gain support and action on climate change.

Tasfin Hossain said...

The head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt has said that the US should back out of its commitment to the Paris climate agreement. The Paris climate agreement includes the groundbreaking plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions in a bid to limit global warming to below 2˚C. This follows President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to cancel the agreement, with a decision on whether he will do so expected within the next month. China and India have already taken action to reach the goals they set for 2030, and China has committed to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by a higher percentage than US commitments. The White House has stated that a decision about whether to leave the Paris agreement will be made before the next G7 summit in May.

Tasfin Hossain

Anonymous said...

The Paris agreement is something that should not be taken lightly. Considering the fact that we only have one Earth and we need to preserve it for as long as possible; it is an agreement that all countries should be on board with. Mr. Trump is one of the people who are not for the Paris agreement. In order to limit carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses to below 2 degrees Celsius each year; it is vital that all nations participate; the United States especially. Global Warming is not something that is going to solve itself. However, reducing fossil fuel consumption by 25% just doesn't seem attainable. Although we are a society that is moving towards clean and renewable energy, I don't think it would be possible to just stop using this many non renewable resources and reduce the emissions by the target level. As a society, we need to keep pushing for clean energy and continue to move away from using fossil fuels that produce so much carbon dioxide emissions. In order to reach the goals set by the Paris agreement, all nations should be on board and being a leader in the world; the United States should be a major focal point in taking action.

Nicholas Arciszewski

Anonymous said...

Here is a video in response to my comment. ^

Well known scientist Neil De Grasse Tyson speaks well on this situation.

Nicholas Arciszewski