Carbon emissions from existing and planned fossil fuel energy projects means limiting global temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees will not be possible, according to a new report.
Published this week in the prestigious science journal Nature, the report stated that emissions must approach zero by 2050 in order to meet the international targets agreed at the Paris Climate Talks.
But it found that the 1.5 degree warming limit is already impossible with the forecasted emissions, and at the current projected rate of expansion, two thirds of the carbon budget that would mean a temperature rise of two degrees are already accounted for.
If global temperatures rise by two degrees, rather than 1.5, almost all coral reefs will become extinct, millions more people will be displaced by sea levels rising, as well as extreme heat, and twice as many plants, and three times as many animals, will lose their habitats.
Food production is already being affected by more extreme weather patterns, while volatile production of commodity crops such as wheat and maize would lead to widespread food insecurity.
Emissions from intensive agriculture have previously been highlighted by other reports as ways to reduce global warming, but the Nature report puts the energy sector firmly in the spotlight.
Writing on Twitter, science writer Mark Lynas said that in order to meet even the two degree warming target, there needs to be “no new coal or gas power plants, anywhere, ever”, alongside an immediate transition to fully electric and a “massive renewables and nuclear deployment.”
Despite annual climate talks and international agreements, researchers at the University of East Anglia found that global carbon emissions rose by more than two per cent in 2018, an all-time high.
It comes amid renewed pressure on the government in the UK by climate activists Extinction Rebellion, who staged a huge protest march at Glastonbury Festival last weekend.
The group have another national week of protests planned for mid July, with direct action taking place in cities across the UK.
The government responded to the last wave of action by declaring a climate emergency, but has since been criticised after an investigation by environmental journalism outlet DeSmog UK found that the UK invested almost £2 billion in fossil fuel projects overseas during 2018.