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Experts sound alarm over dangerous new predictions for warming planet: 'Every tenth of a degree matters a lot'

Stopping every ton of toxic gasses emitted into our atmosphere will help reduce the damage and suffering.

Stopping every ton of toxic gasses emitted into our atmosphere will help reduce the damage and suffering.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

A recent survey of climate scientists revealed that only a small number of them think our planet won't surpass a crucial threshold. 

What's happening?

The Guardian asked more than 350 climate scientists about a critical "climate benchmark" from the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty agreed to by 195 countries. The agreement's target was to limit average surface warming on our planet to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial temperatures (or, less ambitiously, to "well below" 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of warming). While our world is already experiencing many effects of an overheating planet, scientists think we run the risk of more severe impacts once we hit the 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 C) threshold. 

Just 6% of the experts surveyed thought achieving that aim was possible, according to The Guardian, and even that would "require extraordinarily fast, radical action to halt and reverse the world's rising emissions from fossil fuel burning."

Why is this threshold so important?

This survey comes at a time of unprecedented human-induced warming. April was the Earth's 11th consecutive hottest month on record and the 542nd consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th-century average (based on record highs since a report that December 2023 was the 538th). 

Once the 2.7 degrees threshold is surpassed, scientists say that disasters such as heat waves, droughts, and wildfires will intensify even more than they already have. 

This is because rising global temperatures have been supercharging our weather. These extreme climate events contribute to food insecurity, inflated prices for essential goods, and displacement.  

What can be done to limit additional warming?

Eliminating even a small amount of planet-warming gases will make a difference.

"Climate change is not a black or white question, and every tenth of a degree matters a lot, especially when you look at the socioeconomic impacts," Dr. Henri Waisman, who works at France's IDDRI policy research institute, told The Guardian. 

Some experts surveyed also noted that the 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit threshold "was not a cliff-edge," meaning that reducing pollution also prevents some suffering.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to do this. Renewable energy investments are already providing people around the world with non-polluting electricity. For example, California set a benchmark after pulling from a clean-energy grid for 25 out of 32 days in a recorded span. 

On May 19, Mark Z. Jacobson, a Stanford University professor of civil and environmental engineering, wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter) that it was the state's 44th straight day and the 68th out of 74 where wind, water, and solar energy sources exceeded energy demand for the day.

The actions we take every day can help, too. Weatherizing our homes can save us money by reducing the need for heating and cooling. Unplugging energy vampires can eliminate more than 800 pounds of pollution annually. 

Some actions even benefit us by providing tax breaks and credits. Many models of electric vehicles, for example, qualify for incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act. 

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