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As warming approaches 1.5°C, talk of a carbon budget for the Paris targets is delusional

As warming approaches 1.5°C, talk of a carbon budget for the Paris targets is delusional

There’s a lot of delusional talk about how much “carbon budget” (or new emissions) are allowable that would still keep global heating to the Paris target of 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C). The reality is that over the last year, global average warming was already close to 1.5°C, based on a true, pre-industrial baseline.

And the warming already in the system may well be enough to take the planet past 2°C, without any more emissions. The propositions pushed by governments, big business and many large climate movement NGOs that we have a “carbon budget” available for the Paris targets runs contrary to the evidence and suggests a world of politically convenient make-believe. 

Figure 1: Global warming July-to-June, illustrated here with a 1981-2010 baseline.  Image by CarbonBrief.

Here’s why:

  • According to CopernicusECMWF, globally, the twelve-month period from July 2019 to June 2020 was 0.65°C warmer than the 1981-2010 average (see chart above).
  • Then 0.63°C should be added to these values to relate recent global temperatures to the pre-industrial level defined as a late 19th century baseline.
  • So warming for the period July 2019-June 2020 is 1.28°C, compared to the late19th  century, for which instrumental temperature records are available from 1850.  This ties with the warmest year on record.
  • But there was also warming from the start of the industrial revolution and the use of coal from the mid-eighteenth century, up to the end of the nineteenth century. That figure ranges up to 0.19°C, according to Importance of the pre-industrial baseline for likelihood of exceeding Paris goals
  • And new research published last year found that gaps with missing data in the observational temperature record are responsible for an underestimation of the global warming between 1881–1910 and 1986–2015 by 0.1°C.

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