We’re ‘likely’ to break climate speed limit

Global warming projection
This projection shows how a rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius is expected to affect North America, Greenland and the Arctic. (NASA Graphic)

A statistical analysis led by researchers at the University of Washington sees almost no chance that the world’s nations will be able to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over the course of the 21st century, as promised in last year’s Paris climate accord.

“Our analysis shows that the goal of 2 degrees is very much a best-case scenario,” lead author Adrian Raftery, a UW professor of statistics and sociology, said today in a news release. “It is achievable, but only with major, sustained effort on all fronts over the next 80 years.”

The analysis, published in Nature Climate Change, is consistent with the mainstream view held by climate scientists and policymakers.

In discussions about the future effects of climate change, the 2-degree mark has been called a “speed limit” that, if broken, would significantly heighten humanity’s peril. But even as the goal was being set, experts voiced worries that it would be very hard to stay below the speed limit by 2100.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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