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Why the Paris Agreement might not be enough to stop dangerous climate change

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WASHINGTON (Circa) — A new United Nations climate change report gave a stark warning for the future of the climate on Monday: Without some major changes, the global community will likely fail to prevent potentially dangerous global warming in the near future.

The report was issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group made up of the world’s top climate researchers. They concluded that the climate change agreements made in Paris in 2015 will not be enough to stop a global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial conditions, the ideal target established at the summit. Approximately 2.0 degrees Celsius was later determined to be a more realistic goal, but either situation could prove dangerous.

“A 1.5 degree world is still worse than the one we are living in right now,” said Dr. Ilissa Ocko, a climate scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, in an interview with Circa. “And so we expect to see more extreme weather events, have them be more intense, more frequent, and we expect impacts to agriculture, and seal level rise for coastal communities.”

That said, Ocko added a 1.5 world is still significantly better than a 2.0 one. And achieving the 1.5 goal is technically possible, according to Jim Skea, the co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III, but doing so would require some drastic changes.

Global human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, which are currently on the rise, would need to be cut by 45 percent from what they were in 2010 by 2030. By 2050, they would need to be at a net zero, meaning any remaining emissions would need to be removed from the air. That, according to Ocko, could prove difficult.

“While there are a number of different pilot projects going on across the world, the technology right now is not there in order to scale it up at a really affordable rate,” she said.

5 facts you may not know about global climate change

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Current “carbon capture” techniques cost as much as $1,000 per ton, according to a National Public Radio report, and billions of tons would need to be removed.

William Nordhaus, the recent winner of the Nobel prize in economics, has a different idea. He believes the only real solution requires buy-in from the general public.

“And the reason is that if you look around, who are we talking about that’s going to solve the problem? It’s you and me,” said Nordhaus during a press conference on Monday. “There are billions of individuals, millions of firms, thousands of governments, hundreds of nations. And for them to take action, they’re going to have to have incentives and the kind of incentives we’re talking about are not speeches – we can sermonize all day – but the incentives of market prices.”

Nordhaus’ research focuses on economics and climate change. During the press conference, he argued that raising the price of carbon-intensive goods and services and lowering the price of those that are not would be a good step.

“I mean, we need to persuade … we need to educate. Sounds condescending to educate, but I think we do need to have people realize how important a problem this is,” he said.

Ocko agreed that buy-in is an important factor, and that education is an important aspect.

“It will be way more expensive to deal with climate change in the future if we don’t act than if we act now,” she said. “And so there are very strong economic arguments for why we want to take action now, even though it may seem pricey now, it will save billions of dollars in the future.”

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