Global 'Climate Clock' Suggests We're Now Only a Decade Away From Hitting 1.5 C

The global carbon dioxide emissions are expected increase to 2019 levels, which will reverse the unprecedented drop last year due to COVID-19 lockdowns. These emissions are now trending upwards, whereas they should be falling rapidly if we want to limit global warming to 1.5C above preindustrial levels.
The Climate Clock was created in 2015 by the Climate Foundation to indicate how fast we are approaching 1.5C. This is the lower limit of Paris Agreement's global temperature goal. It also serves as a threshold for climate impacts.

The clock monitors global temperature and global emissions data and uses the five-year most recent trend in emissions to calculate how long it will take for global warming to reach the 1.5C threshold. We are now just 10 years away from 1.5C with the new estimate of 2021 emission.

Global warming monitoring in real-time

The Climate Clock allows you to see and track progress towards our global climate goals. As emissions increase, the date will move closer to the present or further back as they fall. Every year, the clock is updated to reflect the most recent global data and our better scientific understanding of the level of emissions required to limit global warming to 1.5C.

Three sets of new data were used to reset the clock for this year. The first is that new estimates of global temperature rise from the Sixth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC), show that human greenhouse gas emission are the main cause of almost all the observed warming.

The Global Warming Index provides an estimate of human-induced global heating. It has reached 1.24C as of November 2021. This is 1.24C higher than the average temperature between 1850-1900.

The Global Carbon Project predicts that global energy-related carbon dioxide omissions in 2021 will rise by 4.9 percent compared to 2020. This is after a drop of 5.4 percent between 2019 and 2020. To project the global trend of fossil fuel carbon dioxide emission, we use data from the last five years. We assume that land-use carbon dioxide emissions will remain at an average level for the past five years.

The data from 2016-2021 suggests that global carbon dioxide emissions will continue to rise at an average rate of 0.2 billion tonnes per year, which is about half a point less than the amount predicted by policy.

The third step is to use the most recent estimate of the remaining carbon budget. This is the amount of carbon dioxide we can still emit without exceeding a certain global temperature target.

The IPCC estimates that there is still 500 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to be emitted by 2020, according to their latest estimate. In 2020-21, we will have emitted nearly 80 billion tonnes. After 2021, there will be 420 billion tonnes carbon dioxide emissions.

Global temperatures will reach 1.5C in the year we have emitted the most carbon from our remaining carbon budget.

According to the current emissions trend, this moment is only 10 years away.

Global CO2 emissions fell by 5% between 2020 and 2019, but they are now near their 2019 levels. (Global Carbon Project).

Global emissions reductions can increase time.

The Climate Clock was updated in 2020 due to a decrease in global emissions from COVID-related lockdowns. This added almost a year to our clock. However, in 2021, the emissions are increasing again and the time that was previously added is now lost. The annual update this year has removed nine months from our countdown, now at 10 years and 5 months until 1.5C.

However, a lot can happen within ten years. Each unit of time we add to the clock for every carbon dioxide avoided is a unit of energy. The 1.5C timeline will be extended if other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide are reduced. These effects are included in the estimation of the remaining carbon budget.

We have a good chance to avoid 1.5C if we can reduce global carbon dioxide emissions to zero within the next 20 years. This ambition is not shared by many countries. Only a few, such as Uruguay, Finland and Iceland, have offered net-zero emission pledges for a target year of 2040.

Although net-zero by 2040 seems like a daunting task, it is possible to do so. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us one thing. It is that it is possible to take swift and broad action to mitigate the threat. Global climate change is an equally serious but less urgent global threat. We can also limit the damage to future generations if we are able to respond in kind.

The Climate Clock was created in collaboration with David Usher, musician and author.

H. Damon Matthews is Professor and Concordia University Research chair in Climate Science and Sustainability. Glen Peters is Research Director at Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo.

This article was republished by The Conversation under Creative Commons. You can read the original article.