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Date posted: 20 September 2017
We may not be doomed after all. That’s one message that could be taken from a study published this week in Nature Geoscience. The study was looking into how much of the ‘carbon budget’ is left for us to emit before global temperature rise breaks through the 1.5C target of the 2015 Paris climate accord. Examining several different climate modeling approaches, the report’s authors claim that we can still limit global warming to below 1.5 °C above preindustrial temperatures.
Some media commentators are seizing on this as evidence that climate change poses less of a risk, along the lines of ‘scientists got the modelling wrong’, and we can all stop worrying. However, the report’s authors most emphatically do not say this.
In fact, one of the authors, Prof. Myles Allen, said, ‘If people are saying, “Can we now relax?” that’s not the right message to take at all.’ He also said that to have a 2 in 3 chance of keeping temperature rise below 1.5C, we will have to reduce carbon emissions in a straight line to zero over the next 40 years, which will be extremely challenging. Clearly, this is no time to take our foot off the brake.
However, what this paper gives is hope. In 2015, many of us celebrated the Paris climate deal, but some of us did so through gritted teeth because we felt that its goals were beyond us. It was a pipe dream. The countries’ pledges to cut their emissions were too little, too late, and the likelihood was that we were all doomed.
This week, Michael Grubb, one of the Nature Geoscience paper’s co-authors, said: ‘This paper shows that the Paris goals are within reach.’ If this is true, then it is good news. It means that there is all the point in the world in making far-reaching changes to our lifestyles and reducing our combined fossil-fueled consumption, because the goal of saving life on earth is achievable.
There’s no time to lose, but there may be time to win, and we should all be encouraged to renew our efforts to win that goal of a world in which life can flourish.
Alex Mabbs is an Operation Noah trustee and minister of Brighthelm URC Church.