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What is the Global Carbon Budget, and Why is It Important?

Since the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1750, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have risen, resulting in a supercharged natural greenhouse effect that has increased global temperatures. With severe consequences for the earth’s climate patterns, habitats, and sea levels occurring after every tenth of a degree of global warming, it’s crucial to understand how various human activities impact carbon emissions and global warming. 

That’s where the Global Carbon Budget comes in.

What is the Global Carbon Budget?

Developed by the Global Carbon Project, the Global Carbon Budget quantifies CO2 emissions from human activities and balances them against earth’s carbon storage capabilities. The Global Carbon Budget helps people understand and monitor the impact of their actions on carbon emissions and climate change, with the ultimate goal of preventing irreversible climate change.

Each year, the Global Carbon Project releases an annual Carbon Budget that analyzes CO2 emissions and projects how long it would take for current emissions rates to increase global temperatures past the point of irreversible climate change. The report also outlines necessary reductions in carbon emissions to achieve global temperature targets.

How is the Global Carbon Budget Calculated?

The Global Carbon Budget is calculated using 1.5 degrees celsius as the global warming threshold. This number is based on a  2018 report from the IPCC, which found that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius — rather than the initial 2-degree threshold established by the 2015 Paris Agreement — could reduce the number of people exposed to climate-related risks, inadequate water supplies, and poverty by up to several hundred million. 

Carbon emissions rates from the current year are used to project when our world will reach the 1.5-degree celsius global warming threshold. The number of years until global temperatures reach a 1.5-degree increase then becomes our Global Carbon Budget. 

How Much is Left in the Global Carbon Budget?

The results of the 2022 Global Carbon Budget are bleak. This year’s report explained that carbon emissions continue to rise, and if they continue at this pace, our Carbon Budget is only nine years. In other words, if global CO2 emissions continue at their current levels, we will reach irreversible climate change in just nine years. Moreover, if we continue with business as usual, current projections place global warming increases at 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2050 and 4.4 degrees (8 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. This trajectory compromises natural ecosystems, sea levels, weather patterns, and public health outcomes, and it places a heightened emphasis on the need for clean energy solutions.

How to Reduce CO2 Emissions and Expand the Carbon Budget

The 2022 Carbon Budget Report outlines several ways to reduce our CO2 emissions, starting with decreasing carbon pollution by 45 percent by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. To achieve this goal, we will need to develop innovative solutions that advance and accelerate the transition to clean energy sources. We will also need to make large-scale investments in clean technologies and change how we produce and consume energy. 

Setting Sights on a Sustainable Future

The 2022 Global Carbon Budget report revealed that our planet is headed toward irreversible climate change if current CO2 emissions rates persist. While this outlook is concerning, we still have the power to change its trajectory. By innovating, collaborating, and conserving, we can change the human activities behind carbon emissions and catalyze the transition to a sustainable future. 

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