A Warming Planet Is Inevitable, New Research Finds

The planet will heat up, according to new analyses. The question is by how much?
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A Warming Planet Is Inevitable, New Research Finds

Scientists have warned for years that an increase in global temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius could cause dangerous weather patterns, crunch the global food supply and force entire populations to migrate. Now, new research suggests a lot of that warming is unavoidable — no matter how much we cut emissions.

Studies usually use models to forecast climate behavior, but this time, researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder looked at "things that have already happened" to the planet. They weighed variables like the particulates in the air and what oceans do when they absorb carbon.

They said even if we turned off everything that creates carbon dioxide tomorrow, global temperatures will still be higher by the end of the century. They found there's a 13 percent chance Earth is already committed to a climate that's 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer.

Scientists at the University of Washington have an even more grim projection based on 50 years of economic and population trends. There's a 90 percent chance temperatures will climb by at least 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century — and they could get almost 5 degrees higher.

The carbon impact per dollar of gross world product has dropped in recent years, but that trend could reverse when the economy must support 11 billion people.

Experts agree we can still slow down warming, but the University of Washington team says we need "an abrupt change of course." The Paris climate agreement won't be enough. Even before this new research was published, the U.N. expected countries would have to cut 25 percent more emissions than agreed to stay below the 2 degrees Celsius threshold.