In a recent report, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned about the absolute necessity of cutting down the greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2070, in order to prevent the temperatures rise 2C above pre-industrial levels.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and the extensive deforestation of native forests have led to a 40% increase in atmospheric increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) and to extreme climate changes.
Among the dangerous greenhouse gases that need urgent reduction UNEP mentioned: carbon dioxide, carbonmethane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). UNEP has also said that overall greenhouse gas emissions should reach net zero between 2080 and 2100.
A UN panel of climate researchers found that in order to stay below the 2 degrees, “carbon neutrality will need to be achieved sometime between 2055 and 2070”.
Carbon neutrality means staying to a net zero level of carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released into the atmosphere with an equivalent amount absorbed by newly planted trees.
In its report, UNEP has suggested greenhouse gas emissions should drop by about 15 per cent or more by 2030, compared to 2010 levels, and be at least 50 per cent lower by 2050, if we wish to have a chance of staying below 2C.
“Taking more action now reduces the need for more extreme action later to stay within safe emission limits,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UNEP.
In a run-up to a next year UN summit in Paris, China, the US and the EU have agreed to limit their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and beyond. China promised to reduce its current emissions by around 2030, but it didn’t specify the level. By doing so, countries hope their actions will limit floods, extreme temperatures, devastating storms and rising sea levels.
Talking about extreme weather: This year was the warmest on the record, while the US faced on Tuesday their coldest November morning since 1976 (temperatures below freezing level in all 50 states).
“An increase in global temperature is proportional to the build-up of long-lasting greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide,” Achim Steiner added.
UNEP suggested several alternative solutions. It said there was a possibility of keeping some of the gas emissions at the end of the century, if they would be compensated by measures that limit carbon, such as planting trees, better insulation of buildings or cuts in the of global fossil fuel subsidies of $600 billion a year.