If the timetable for exactly when countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions has always seemed a little vague to you, well, we just got a deadline: 2100.
That's according to a new report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international organization of scientists dedicated to studying climate change. (Video via Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)
Using data from previous reports, the 116-page "Synthesis Report" warns global greenhouse emissions need to drop to zero by 2100 to avoid irreversible damage to our planet's atmosphere.
While some of that damage will be to the environment, the report also warns of food and water shortages, increased displacement of people, increased poverty, and coastal flooding.
If we go the next 86 years without effectively cutting emissions, the report warns a 2 degree celsius rise in global temperature will be unavoidable.
That 2 degree number was decided back at a 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference as the maximum rise in global temps before climate change starts having disastrous effects.
It was hopeful that countries would be able to agree avoiding that rise in temperature by cutting their emissions, but negotiations never resulted in anything stronger than a non-legally binding agreement saying, yes, emissions should probably be lowered. (Video via The Guardian)
But even with the warnings of irreversible climate change or its disastrous effects, the report says as long as world leaders act now, the prospects of the Earth's future won't be so gloomy.
A Wesleyan University professor who participated in the drafting the report told The Washington Post "It's not too late, but the longer you wait, the more expensive it gets."
A BBC science editor says nations' attitudes seem to have changed since 2009's less-than-stellar Copenhagen summit and that next year's summit in Paris might actually be more productive.
And last week IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri offered some optimism, saying “May I humbly suggest that policymakers avoid being overcome by the seeming hopelessness of addressing climate change. It is not hopeless. This is not to say it will be easy.”
While the IPCC suggests 2100 as the target for reaching zero emissions, it's up to the nations themselves to implement the policies required to reach that deadline. The next meeting on climate change is due to take place in Lima, Peru this December.