Earth likely to warm more than 2 degrees this century

Atmospheric Sciences' Dargan Frierson
Atmospheric Sciences’ Dargan Frierson

Warming of the planet by 2 degrees Celsius is often seen as a “tipping point” that people should try to avoid by limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

But the Earth is very likely to exceed that change, according to new University of Washington research. A study from lead-author and Professor of Statistics and Sociology Adrian Raftery and Associate Professor of Atmospheric SciencesDargan Frierson uses statistical tools to show only a 5 percent chance that Earth will warm 2 degrees or less by the end of this century. It shows a mere 1 percent chance that warming could be at or below 1.5 degrees, the target set by the 2016 Paris Agreement.

“Countries argued for the 1.5 C target because of the severe impacts on their livelihoods that would result from exceeding that threshold. Indeed, damages from heat extremes, drought, extreme weather and sea level rise will be much more severe if 2 C or higher temperature rise is allowed,” said Frierson. “Our results show that an abrupt change of course is needed to achieve these goals.”

The new, statistically-based projections, published July 31 in Nature Climate Change, show a 90 percent chance that temperatures will increase this century by 2.0 to 4.9 C.

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