By the end of the century, the global temperature is likely to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
This rise in temperature is the ominous conclusion reached by two different studies using entirely different methods published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Monday.
One study used statistical analysis to show that there is a 95% chance that Earth will warm more than 2 degrees at century’s end, and a 1% chance that it will be at or below the 2 degree mark.
“The likely range of global temperature increase is 2.0-4.9 [degrees Celsius] and our median forecast is 3.2 C,” said Adrian Raftery, author of the first study. “Our model is based on data which already show the effect of existing emission mitigation policies. Achieving the goal of less than 1.5 C warming will require carbon intensity to decline much faster than in the recent past.”
The second study analyzed past emissions of greenhouse gases and the burning of fossil fuels to show that even if humans suddenly stopped burning fossil fuels now, Earth will continue to heat up about two more degrees by 2100. It also concluded that if emissions continue for 15 more years, which is more likely than a sudden stop, Earth’s global temperature could rise as much as 3 degrees.
“Even if we would stop burning fossil fuels today, then the Earth would continue to warm slowly,” said Thorsten Mauritsen, author of the second study. “It is this committed warming that we estimate.”
Taken together, the similar results present a grim reality.
“These studies are part of the emerging scientific understanding that we’re in even hotter water than we’d thought,” said Bill McKibben, an environmentalist not affiliated with either study. “We’re a long ways down the path to disastrous global warming, and the policy response — especially in the United States — has been pathetically underwhelming.”
Because both studies were completed before the United States left the Paris Agreement under President Trump earlier this year, that has not been accounted for in either study.
“Clearly the US leaving the Paris Agreement would make the 2 C or 1.5 C targets even harder to achieve than they currently are,” said Raftery.
Why two degrees?
The 2 degree mark — that’s 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — was set by the 2016 Paris Agreement. It was first proposed as a threshold by Yale economist William Nordhaus in 1977. The climate has been warming since the burning of fossil fuels began in the late…