Leaked draft report indicates Paris climate targets are practically impossible

Keeping global warming below the lower Paris agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius is “extremely unlikely,” according to a leaked draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a trend that can only be countered if countries like the United States devote themselves to countering rising global temperatures.

The annual IPCC report draft, obtained by Climate Home News, is far from finalized and will likely undergo a number of revisions prior to its publication in September. But the draft offers a look at the challenges inherent in holding global warming increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

While the IPCC has traditionally been conservative in how its findings are worded, the draft doesn’t mince words.

“There is a very high risk that under current emissions trajectories and current national pledges global warming will exceed 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require a rapid phase out of net global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and deep reductions in non-CO2 drivers of climate change such as methane, with more pronounced and rapid reductions required than for limiting global warming to 2°C,” the draft reads.

While the Paris agreement called for nations around the world to keep rising temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, the 1.5 degrees Celsius cap is more ambitious and received support from countries more likely to be impacted by climate change. But it’s looking more and more unlikely as a goal, according to the IPCC.

“With a 66 percent probability, it [keeping the increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius] lies beyond our capabilities,” the draft reads.

The IPCC draft argues that even if the 1.5 degree goal is achieved, “climate trends and changing extreme events in the oceans and over land imply risks for ecosystems and human societies even larger than today”, especially in vulnerable areas.

The report contains a number of key points: The world is on track to pass 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming in the next few decades; some areas will hit that marker far more quickly than others, for short periods of time; if “rapid and deep” emissions cuts — coupled with sucking already-present carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere — don’t happen, the odds of avoiding a far more serious climate scenario are virtually impossible.

Low-income and coastal areas are among those set to be most impacted. Crop production and fishing capabilities are already threatened by climate change, something that will only worsen in the years to come. That means wealthier, Western countries with access to greener technology will need to step up and help their more vulnerable counterparts.

“Delaying actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions increases the risk of cost escalation…and reduced flexibility in future response options in the medium to long-term,” the draft reads. “These may increase uneven distributional impacts between countries at different stages of development.”

In order to counter that, “all countries would need to significantly raise their level of ambition, shift financial flows and investment patterns, [and] improve coherence in governance,” among other efforts.

That’s bad news — thanks largely to the United States.

Climate change is taking its toll on the United States, harming coastal communities and worsening natural disasters like wildfires and the hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico and parts of Texas and Florida last fall. On a more global scale, climate change is imperiling almost half of U.S. military sites around the world. But under President Trump, a climate skeptic, the United States has largely shifted away from climate action. The White House has rolled back environmental protections while pushing for “clean” coal — widely considered a myth by experts.

That approach has extended to the Paris Agreement: Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the the landmark pledge in June 2017, although the process will take until 2020. International leaders slammed the decision and vowed to stand by the deal — earlier this month, E.U. officials said the body would not make new trade deals with countries that have not ratified the agreement. But without the United States, meeting the agreement’s target goals will be hard.

In addition to withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, the Trump administration has also targeted the Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries adapt and acquire green technology and sustainable methodologies for growth. Instead, the White House is pushing for international climate funding to go towards coal — an energy source developing areas are working desperately to shift away from.

In addition to steering other countries away from sustainable solutions, the United States itself is on track to become the world’s largest oil producer, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia as early as this year. According to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), U.S. crude production could exceed 10 million barrels a day in 2018.