Story at a glance

  • To meet the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius), countries must cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.
  • Three-quarters of the 184 countries that signed the Paris Climate Agreement have climate plans that experts deem “totally insufficient” in a new report.
  • The small group of nations the report identifies as having sufficiently ambitious climate change plans includes the 28 countries of the European Union and a few others, such as Norway, Switzerland and Ukraine.
  • The world is on pace to warm by a catastrophic 5.4-7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (3-4 degrees Celsius) by the end of the century if current trends continue, say the report's authors.

If the world’s nations fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, damages from climate change-fueled hurricanes, droughts, fires and floods will total $2 billion a day, according to a new report. 

Without aggressive action, the planet and all its inhabitants are currently on pace to pay that staggering economic, environmental and humanitarian price.  

Three-quarters of the 184 countries that signed the Paris Climate Agreement have climate plans that experts deem “totally insufficient” to keep the planet well below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) of warming, according to the authoritative new analysis. 

The Paris signatories agreed to keep global temperatures from rising past 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), with a more ambitious goal of halting warming at 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius). To stop temperatures at 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) of warming, emissions must fall by 50 percent by 2030, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. How each country achieves that target is up to them, but the new report says current trends have the world on a path for a disastrous increase of 5.4-7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (3-4 degrees Celsius) by the end of the century.

Four countries are responsible for half of all carbon emissions. Of these countries, Russia has made no commitments to reduce emissions, while the U.S.’s pledge, deemed inadequate by the report, now looks unlikely to be fulfilled due to President Donald Trump's intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. 

China and India have pledged to reduce their carbon emissions and are working hard to increase their use of renewable energy, but their booming economic growth has them on pace to emit more and more carbon every year until 2030.  

The small group of nations the report identifies as having sufficiently ambitious climate change plans includes the 28 countries of the European Union and a few others, such as Norway, Switzerland and Ukraine. 

The report calls for major improvements in energy efficiency, including replacing 2,400 coal power plants with renewables in the next decade. The authors say such a shift would be cost effective as well as prudent, yet 250 new coal plants are slated for construction around the world. 

A separate declaration signed by 11,000 scientists from 153 countries warns of a “climate emergency” that will cause “untold human suffering,” should the world fail to act on climate change. 

The U.S.’s exit from the Paris Agreement will not be finalized until Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the country’s next presidential election. Though the wheels are in motion for the U.S. to depart from the agreement, a request to re-enter within 30 days would allow America to renew its commitment.

Published on Nov 15, 2019