Climate change poses less of an immediate threat to the planet than previously thought because scientists got their modelling wrong, a new study has found. New research by British scientists reveals the world is being polluted and warming up less quickly than 10-year-old forecasts predicted, giving countries more time to get a grip on their carbon output.
An unexpected “revolution” in affordable renewable energy has also contributed to the more positive outlook.
Experts now say there is a two-in-three chance of keeping global temperatures within 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the ultimate goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
They also condemned the “overreaction” to the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, announced by Donald Trump in June, saying it is unlikely to make a significant difference.
According to the models used to draw up the agreement, the world ought now to be 1.3 degrees above the mid-19th-Century average, whereas the most recent observations suggest it is actually between 0.9 to 1 degree above.
The discrepancy means nations could continue emitting carbon dioxide at the current rate for another 20 years before the target was breached, instead of the three to five predicted by the previous model.
“When you are talking about a budget of 1.5 degrees, then a 0.3 degree difference is a big deal”, said Professor Myles Allen, of Oxford University and one of the authors of the new study.
Published in the journal Nature Geoscience, it suggests that if polluting peaks and then declines to below current levels before 2030 and then continue to drop more sharply, there is a 66 per cent chance of global average temperatures staying below 1.5 degrees.
The goal was yesterday described as “very ambitious” but “physically possible”.
Another reason the climate outlook is less bleak than previously thought is stabilising emissions, particularly in China.