Dangerous climate change is likely, concludes new research

New study reveals sensitive regions of the world are still at risk from the dangerous and potentially irreversible effects of climate change.


A new study has revealed sensitive regions of the world are still at risk from the dangerous and potentially irreversible effects of climate change – even if we meet the target of not increasing global temperature above 1.5°C over the next 100 years.

The research, led by The Open University in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, reviewed the targets set in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and concluded that regions of the world, such as the Arctic and South-East Asian monsoon region, could be damaged irreversibly as they are particularly sensitive to changes to global temperatures.

However, the study - published in Nature Climate Change - also concludes that meeting the target set by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement of limiting the increase in global average temperatures to well below 2°C does not depend on future generations to remove vast amounts of carbon from the Earth's atmosphere.

Instead, governments can achieve the goals through emission reductions, but only if they act now to promote a range of policies to fully support the existing pace of technological change, as described in a related paper in Nature Climate Change.

Professor Richard Wilkinson from the University of Sheffield's School of Mathematics and Statistics, a contributing author, said: "By accounting for climate-carbon cycle uncertainties we have been able to show that there is an approximate 50 per cent probability that we can limit peak post-industrial peak global warming to less than 1.6 degrees Celsius.

This has been made possible by using Gaussian process emulation to find plausible climate trajectories at a fraction of the computational cost."

Prof. Richard Wilkinson

Professor at the University of Sheffield

The international team of researchers developed a three-dimensional climate-carbon cycle model, and simulated the different climate futures.

Dr Philip Holden, Lecturer in Earth Systems Science at The Open University and lead researcher of the study, said: "The regional uncertainties associated with the Paris Climate Agreement have not been explored before. This is because, until now, researchers have used either very simple models or models that were too complex to investigate the range of possibilities."

Our models show that it is possible to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement, but only if governments take decisive and urgent action through strengthening climate change policies to encourage rapid divestment from fossil fuels."

Dr Philip Holden

Lecturer in Earth Systems Science

The research team also included academics from:

  • University of California – Riverside
  • Max Planck Institute of Meteorology, University of Hamburg
  • Cambridge Econometrics, University of Cambridge
  • Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance, University of Cambridge
  • Radboud University in the Netherlands.

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