Last December, officials representing more than 190 countries met in Paris to participate in the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
The historic outcome from that conference was the “Paris Agreement” in which each country agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above temperatures seen near the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 1850s.
Such a level was considered acceptable, or “safe,” by all participating countries—but the goal is unrealistic and almost impossible to achieve, experts say.
For a new study published in the journal Energy Policy, researchers modeled the projected growth in global population and per capita energy consumption, as well as the size of known reserves of oil, coal, natural gas, and greenhouse gas emissions to determine just how difficult it will be to achieve the less-than-2 degree Celsius warming goal.
“It would require rates of change in our energy infrastructure and energy mix that have never happened in world history and that are extremely unlikely to be achieved,” says Glenn Jones, professor of marine sciences at Texas A&M University.