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World’s Carbon Budget to Be Spent in Three Decades

EDITOR'S NOTE 11/18/13: After this blog post was published, the IPCC updated its Summary for Policymakers. The figures in this blog post have been updated to reflect new information.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) has delivered an overwhelming consensus that climate change impacts are accelerating, fueled by human-caused emissions. We may have just about 30 years left until the world’s carbon budget is spent if we want a likely chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees C. Breaching this limit would put the world at increased risk of forest fires, coral bleaching, higher sea level rise, and other dangerous impacts.

When Will Our Carbon Budget Run Out?

The international community has adopted a goal for global warming not to rise above 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures. Scientists have devoted considerable effort to understanding what magnitude of emissions reductions are necessary to limit warming to this level, as the world faces increasingly dangerous climate change impacts with every degree of warming (see Box 1).

IPCC AR5 summarizes the scientific literature and estimates that cumulative carbon dioxide emissions related to human activities need to be limited to 1 trillion tonnes C (1000 PgC) since the beginning of the industrial revolution if we are to have a likely chance of limiting warming to 2°C. This is “our carbon budget” – the same concept as a checking account. When we’ve spent it all, there’s no more money (and the planet’s overdraft fees will be much more significant than a bank’s small charges for bounced checks).[^1]

Editor’s Note: Experts are available in Michigan and Washington, D.C. to discuss this analysis

New analysis of Michigan’s power sector shows that the state can meet – and possibly even exceed – national carbon pollution standards that will be established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA is expected to announce emissions standards for new power plants later this month and additional standards for existing power plants in 2014.

Launch Features Former President of Mexico Felipe Calderon, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, and International Ministers and Representatives

Former President of Mexico Felipe Calderon and ministers from a diverse group of countries will launch a major new international initiative, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, comprising former heads of government, finance ministers, and leaders in the fields of economics, business and finance.

New Study Sheds Light on Methane Leakage from Natural Gas

Natural gas wells represent a significant source of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as many of them leak methane, which is more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. But while scientists know that “fugitive methane” is a concern, there’s much uncertainty about the full extent of the problem. A new study from the University of Texas—developed in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund and nine natural gas production companies (Anadarko, BG Group, Chevron, EnCana, Pioneer, Shell, Southwest, Talisman, ExxonMobil)—sheds some light on this perplexing issue.

Designing Greenhouse Gas Reporting Systems: Learning from Existing Programs

Mandatory reporting programs help build a strong foundation to manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and strengthen countries’ capacity to adequately tackle climate change. This working paper provides insight into the factors influencing the design and development of reporting programs and...

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