If you worry about the effects of climate change, we have some bad news. There is currently only a 5% chance that Earth will be able to avoid warming by two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) come the end of the 21st century, according to a study published Monday on Nature Climate Change.
“We’re closer to the margin than we think,” Adrian Raftery, a researcher from the University of Washington who led the study, told The Guardian. “If we want to avoid two [degrees Celsius], we have very little time left. The public should be very concerned.”
According to the study, we're seeing trends around the globe in economic developments, carbon emissions, and population growth that are deeply influencing whether Earth can remain below the two degrees Celsius threshold that was established when the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015. And for now, the outlook is grim.
The Paris climate deal, which was signed by 195 countries and came into the spotlight recently because President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord, committed nations to take certain measures to ensure the average global temperature would remain "well below two [degrees Celsius] " above pre-industrial levels. The magic "two degrees" is not arbitrary: Scientists have concluded that it's as far as temperatures can rise on Earth before we start experiencing the most destructive consequences of climate change.
The deal also established a goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, the study found that there's only 1% chance that temperatures will rise by less than that target by the end of the century.
But Raftery, the researcher, told The Guardian that even if the outlook is worrisome, it shouldn't stop anyone from taking measures that can help fight the rising Earth temperatures.
"Even if the two [degrees Celsius] target isn’t met, action is very important. The more the temperature increases, the worse the impacts will be," he said. "We would warn against any tendency to use our results to say that we won’t avoid two [degrees Celsius], and so it’s too late to do anything. On the contrary, avoiding the higher temperature increases that our model envisages is even more important, and also requires urgent action."
However, other climate experts fear the study's results are presented in a way that's too negative. Glen Peters, an expert at the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway, told The Washington Post the study only takes into account previous climate policies and doesn't consider a development in major action to combat climate change at the global level or the possibility of new technological developments.
"Less than two degrees of warming is unlikely if we don’t try," he said. "I’m one that says that two degrees is not likely anyway — but if we try, at least it’s an option that we can get to two degrees."