How much global warming is fossil fuel infrastructure locking in?

(Inside Climate News, 1 Jul 2019) To stay within the Paris climate goals, coal and other fossil fuel power plants would have to shut down early or be retrofitted for carbon capture, a new study says.

All the power plants, vehicles and other fossil fuel-burning infrastructure operating today will lock the world into 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming, exceeding the Paris climate agreement goals, unless the biggest polluters are shut down early or are retrofitted to capture their carbon emissions, a new study shows.

And that's just the infrastructure already built. When the researchers factored in the future emissions of coal- and gas-fired power plants that are currently planned or under construction, they found the total lifetime emissions would shoot past 1.5°C (2.7°F) warming and put the world on pace to burn about two-thirds of the remaining carbon budget for staying under 2°C (3.6°F) warming compared to pre-industrial times.

The findings imply profound changes for the planet and many of its inhabitants in this century. As global temperatures rise, heat waves continue to intensify, extreme precipitation increases, and an additional 10 million people face greater risks from sea level rise in just the half degree between 1.5°C and 2°C, among other threats, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wrote last fall.

"We have already built enough to take us over 1.5," said Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science and a co-author of the study. "For these 1.5 scenarios you would either need to retire CO2 emitting infrastructure early or have carbon dioxide removal strategies which are generally thought to be expensive."

Nine years ago, Caldeira co-authored a similar study that found the planet had already locked in about 496 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide with existing infrastructure, emissions that would result in about 1.3°C of warming above pre-industrial levels.

External link

Inside Climate News, 1 Jul 2019: How much global warming is fossil fuel infrastructure locking in?