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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.


LEARN MORE: Check out our IPCC infographic series page.


Curious why degrees C and not degrees F? Who are the various 'audiences' for this graphic?

embrace nuclear power temporarily along with renewables and you get rid of fossil fuels faster. in return for less climate change devastation there is a CHANCE a few plants and nuclear storage sites might statistically suffer chernobyl scale accidents. We lose maybe several hundred square kilometers per century of usable land to radiation and a death toll maybe at worst in the millions per century


status quo. Nuclear is being supressed. Renewables are increasing in number slowly so fossil fuel hangs around much much longer. Climate change then FOR SURE becomes worse, what else is the CO2 being spewed gonna do?. We lose millions of square kilometers per century to desertification and sea level rise. At worst case, death toll in the billions per century from heat waves, displacement of populations, famine, increased extreme weather events, new diseases or tropical diseases moving to temperate areas, economic collapse and maybe resource wars

The IPCC report was overly cautious and is already out of date. It failed to account for the vast amounts of methane very likely to be released from permafrost and methane clathrates in the bottoms of the Arctic Ocean. New studies have found that it is virtually certain that Western Antarctica's Thwaites and Pine Glacier will melt within 200 years raising sea levels 10 feet. It has been misreported in the media that the melting may take 1000 years, but the author says 200 years at current temperatures which are very likely to get warmer, so the likelihood is less than 200 years. Another study found that some of the important Greenland exit glaciers don't rest on shallow valleys but rest on the bottoms of deep fyords, meaning that warm water will get underneath them, just like with the West Antarctic glaciers and cause them to melt much more rapidly than previously projects. Yet another Swedish study has recent documented high level of methane in the waters and bubbling to the surface from depths of 500 meters in the Arctic Ocean. No one thought that methane clathrates that deep would melt.

We have already past many tipping points. We are certain to experience much worse catastrophes this century than the IPCC projects and it will even be much worse next century. Rapid action now will save billions of humans from deaths due to starvation and a huge percentage of plant and animal species from extinction. It has been conservatively estimated that even 150 tons of carbon dioxide emitted now will kill one person later this century and probably a couple more next century. This means that the average American is killing one person every 10 years with his or her emissions. We must stop now. No Beef, no pork, no fossil fuel cars. Buy only wind and solar energy starting today. It is available, and you have a moral obligation to do your best not to kill other human beans. Eats more nuts and healthy oils like canola and olive. They have very low carbon footprints. Eats beans, lentils, and grains cooked from scratch at home. Flax can replace most if not all seafood. Eat vegetables and fruits with low footprints. Vote only Democrat. It is clearly immoral to vote Republican. The best Republican voting record is worse than the worse Republican voting record on global warming. Say global warming, because that is exactly what the gases are doing and the newest research shows that global warming worries more people that the phrase climate change.

Vacation locally. ideally, stop showering and turn off the water heater. Use water heating in the microwave and either sponge bathe or simply exercise vigorously to the point of a heavy sweat and dry off vigorously with a towel. No clothes dryers, no dishwashers. Wash dishes and hands with cold water. Research with surgeons shows that it is just as effective of getting rid of germs.

Wake up America. We are killing people including our own grandchildren.

What does the "Low Emissions Pathway" mean in terms of the average citizen of the world? The Y axis shows PgC at 10. This is PgC of Carbon and really represents 36.7 billion metric tons of CO2.

If you divide 36.7 billon metric tonnes of CO2 by 7 billion people, and divide that by 365 days, and convert to pounds, I believe you get 36 pounds of CO2 per person per year. Might a new graph show "pounds of CO2 per person per day" on the Y axis, and give us examples of what we can do in California and stay below 36 pounds of CO2 per day? Driving a 25 mpg car 50 miles makes 40 pounds of CO2. Heating and cooling our homes, and buying groceries can use up a lot of those 36 pounds. How can we fly from San Francisco to New York (1,000 pounds of CO2) and stay within that 36 pound of CO2 per day budget? How can we build new homes, with about 44 pounds of CO2 being emitted for every $100 we spend? Might your discussion of the "Low Emissions Path" tell us what we can do on a day to day basis? Can you set a goal of "pounds of CO2 per day" so we know what we can do each day and not exceed that goal. Does the "Low Emissions Pathway" set that goal at 36 pounds of CO2 per person per day?

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