Limiting the world’s temperature levels to below 1.5 of pre-industrial levels is a distinct possibility if the global economy takes immediate steps to de-carbonise, a new research report by the University of Leeds has found.
The report calculated a 64% chance of limiting temperature rises if fossil fuel infrastructure is immediately phased out and replaced with renewable energy production.
In the study’s scenario, fossil fuel power plants, cars, aircraft, ships, and industrial infrastructure are replaced with zero carbon alternatives at the end of their design lifetime – the point where large scale refurbishments or maintenance would be required.
The team found that if the process of replacing these systems with zero carbon alternatives – or not replacing them at all – began from the end of 2018, and their subsequent CO2 emissions decreased at close to a linear rate as a result, the chance of keeping global temperature rise to below 1.5°C is 64%.
The study’s lead author Dr Chris Smith said that avoiding the lock-in effect by carrying on investment in carbon intensive energy production is at the core of mitigating temperature increases due to climate change.
“Investments into carbon-intensive infrastructure and their development and maintenance lock us in to the associated carbon emissions and make the transition to lower-carbon alternatives more difficult,” Dr Smith said.
“Our research found that the current amount of fossil fuel infrastructure in the global economy does not yet commit us to exceeding the 1.5°C temperature rise limit put forward by the Paris Agreement. We may have missed starting the phase out by the end of 2018, but we are still within the margin of achieving the scenario the model put forward.