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Choose Your Future: 4 Possible Emissions Pathways

Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that the impacts of climate change are already “widespread and consequential.” Yet the effects we may see in the future still largely depend on the actions countries take to reduce their emissions today.

Our new infographic, based on IPCC data, depicts the likely consequences of various emissions pathways ranging from a low-carbon future to a fossil fuel-intensive one. Alongside each pathway, known as a “Representation Concentration Pathway,” we show what the future might hold in terms of climate impacts—ranging from temperature increases to precipitation changes to ecosystem degradation.

In each pathway, we also note the year we will likely exhaust the remaining carbon budget, the amount of carbon we can emit before likely locking ourselves into warming of greater than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The bottom line is that it’s still possible to limit global temperature rise to 2°C, thus preventing some of the more disastrous consequences of climate change—but it will require ambitious cuts to global greenhouse gas emissions.

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LEARN MORE: Check out our IPCC infographic series page.

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