The goal of limiting global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees as set by the Paris Agreement seems unlikely to be achieved, with current trends indicating a potential temperature rise of 2.5–3 degrees. Nonetheless, it’s still possible to avoid this elevated warming. Evidence for this has been demonstrated in a recent study by scientists from Chalmers University of Technology and Lund University in Sweden.
“More and more countries are promising that they will phase out coal from their energy systems, which is positive. But unfortunately, their commitments are not strong enough. If we are to have a realistic chance of meeting the 2-degree target, the phasing out of coal needs to happen faster,” says Aleh Cherp, professor at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics at Lund University.
China and India need to begin phasing out their coal use
Phasing out coal is necessary to keep the world’s temperature increase below 2 degrees, compared to pre-industrial levels. In a study by the research program Mistra Electrification, a group of researchers analyzed 72 countries’ pledged commitments to phase out their coal use by 2022–2050.
In the best-case scenario, the researchers show that it is possible that the temperature increase will stay at 2 degrees. But that assumes, among other things, that both China and India begin phasing out their coal use within five years. Furthermore, their phase-out needs to be as rapid as it has been in the UK, which is the fastest that ever happened in a large country, and faster than Germany has promised. This may create inequities that will need to be addressed by international policies.
Global warming of up to 3 degrees is likely
The research group has also developed scenarios that they consider to be the most realistic. These scenarios indicate that Earth is moving towards a global warming of 2.5–3 degrees.
“The countries’ commitments are not sufficient, not even among the most ambitious countries. In addition, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may prevent some countries from phasing out coal as they promised,” says Jessica Jewell, Associate Professor at the Division of Physical Resource Theory at Chalmers University of Technology.
The study shows that the 72 countries’ commitments to phase out coal power are similar to each other and in line with historical data for how quickly coal power was phased out in the past.
Reference: “Phasing out coal for 2 °C target requires worldwide replication of most ambitious national plans despite security and fairness concerns” by Vadim Vinichenko, Marta Vetier, Jessica Jewell, Lola Nacke and Aleh Cherp, 11 January 2023, Environmental Research Letters.