The goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius set in December last year in Paris are almost impossible to achieve, according to a new study.
In December last year, officials representing more than 190 countries met in Paris to participate in the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
The historic outcome from that conference was the “Paris Agreement” in which each country agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above temperatures seen near the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 1850s.
Such a level was considered acceptable, or “safe,” by all participating countries, but the goal is unrealistic and almost impossible to achieve, according to a new study by researchers at the Texas A&M University at Galveston.
Researchers modelled the projected growth in global population and per capita energy consumption, as well as the size of known reserves of oil, coal and natural gas, and greenhouse gas emissions to determine how difficult it will be to achieve the less-than-2 degree Celsius warming goal.
“It would require rates of change in our energy infrastructure and energy mix that have never happened in world history and that are extremely unlikely to be achieved,” said Glenn Jones, professor of marine sciences.
The Paris Agreement’s overall goal is to replace fossil fuels, which emit huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which in turn leads to higher temperatures, with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power and biofuels.
“Just considering wind power, we found that it would take an annual installation of 485,000 5-megawatt wind turbines by 2028. “The equivalent of about 13,000 were installed in 2015. That’s a 37-fold increase in the annual installation rate in only 13 years to achieve just the wind power goal,” said Jones. Similar expansion rates are needed for other renewable energy sources.
“There will be about 11 billion people on Earth by 2100 (compared to 7.2 billion today),” Jones said. “Currently 1.2 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity, and there are plans to try to get them on the grid,” he said.
“To even come close to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, 50 per cent of our energy will need to come from renewable sources by 2028, and today it is only 9 per cent, including hydropower. For a world that wants to fight climate change, the numbers just don’t add up to do it,” Jones said.
“If we don’t worry about global warming and the 2-degree Celsius goal, we can continue to burn known fossil fuel reserves, but even here we will have to achieve more than 50 per cent renewable energy by 2054, but warming will exceed 2.5 to 3 degrees Celsius,” he said. The research was published in the journal Energy Policy.