The Next Six Years Determine Earth’s Entire Future

By Robert Scucci | Published

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Nature highlights a new goal for global carbon emissions. The report suggests that over the next six years, we need to consider reducing our overall “carbon budget” if we want to avoid exceeding a global temperature increase of 1.5°C (2.7° Fahrenheit).

In order to reach the desired numbers, we will have to take efforts to reduce not only our CO₂ emissions, but also lower the presence of other pollutants that have accelerated global warming since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

The Next Five Years Are Crucial

The carbon budget that has been calculated for this new climate goal to be reached states we can only emit another 250 gigatonnes of CO₂ over the next six years. But when we consider the fact that this data was compiled at the beginning of 2023, we really have more likely five years to stay on track with this climate goal. And we have to act quick, because the 2023 numbers that were calculated are half the carbon budget we originally had in 2020, which would have been closer to 500 gigatonnes.

It’s worth noting, however, that a shrinking carbon budget isn’t necessarily a bad thing when we consider our overall years-long climate goal. In fact, this overall decrease in our carbon budget paints a more realistic picture now that we have updated numbers, and know the severity of the situation. With updated information, comes an updated climate goal.

The New Climate Goal Delivers Up To Date Data On The Carbon Budget

Think of climate change as a terminal disease, and think of the current data as the most up-to-date prognosis. Though it may seem like a reduction to the carbon budget is a turn for the worse, it’s actually a good thing that we have updated numbers because we can hope for the best while planning for the worst with our new climate goal, which involves reaching a sort of equilibrium in the form of reaching “net zero” emissions.

Annual Global Emmissions Reaches 40 Gigatonnes

As of this writing, the current level of global emissions is in the ballpark of 40 gigatonnes per year. But even if we achieve net zero CO₂ emissions, which means achieving an overall balance between total greenhouse gas emissions as well as the emissions taken out of the atmosphere through the use of cooling aerosols, Earth may still continue to warm because of other climate system changes that we’re not considering at the present moment.

So even if we successfully reach our current climate goal, forces beyond our control may still skew the numbers as new climate data is compiled.

Reducing Man-Made Emissions Has Short-Term Consequences, But Is Better In The Long Run

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We can attain a net zero level of emissions with pollutants such as sulphates, which are produced from car exhausts and furnaces, and offset our overall CO₂ emissions. Our overall climate goal involves reducing the amount of these cooling aerosols, which could potentially lead to a short-term increase in temperature, however. But when we look at the big picture, reducing any and all man-made emissions will be beneficial over the next few decades.

Is It Too Little Too Late?

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Scientists assert that in an ideal world we can hit this climate goal if air quality legislation that leads to cleaner combustion is taken seriously. If we fall short of the current goal, we still have time to course correct, so it’s not all doom and gloom. Experts agree that we have up to 30 years to keep our global temperature from increasing by 2° Celsius, but we should still stay the course and try not to exceed 1.5° Celsius.

If we ignore the data, and keep up with our current emission rates, we won’t be able to reach either climate goal. But now that we know how serious the situation is, we can only hope that our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint are successful.

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