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Warning comes as world leaders concluded the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York with a plan to establish some sort of international climate agreement in Paris, though the scope of the accord remains to be seen. (Photo: Bald Eagle Bluff/cc/flickr)

Warning comes as world leaders concluded the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York with a plan to establish some sort of international climate agreement in Paris, though the scope of the accord remains to be seen. (Photo: Holland Island Waterfront Home for Sail, Oct 2009  - Actually water front, side and rear. In 1900 there were about 350 people living on Holland Island, before rising sea level from global warming, the general subsidence of the Eastern Shore and storm erosion took their toll. Some of the houses were moved to the Eastern Shore, others to Tangier and Smith Islands.  - Bald Eagle Bluff/cc/flickr)

International Pledges Not Enough to Avoid Worst Impacts of Climate Change

MIT Sloan study highlights need for long term climate plan, which prioritizes switch to renewable energy supply

Lauren McCauley

The world is still on track to experience "the worst impacts of climate change," according to a new report, as nations' pledges to reduce carbon emissions still fall substantially short of what's needed to keep warming levels beneath the 2°C threshold.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management (MIT Sloan) along with climate analysts with the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Climate Interactive on Monday released the latest findings from their interactive Climate Scoreboard. Based on the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) put forward in advance of the UN climate talks in Paris this November and December—and assuming countries adhere to the non-binding measures—the planet still faces a global temperature increase of 3.5°C.

Under the 0.8°C of warming already recorded since the Industrial Revolution, the world has experienced significant melting of land ice, punishing drought, an uptick in extreme weather events, and a destabilization of the global food supply. However, should nations continue along their current path, the study predicts that the Earth could see increases up to 4.5°C.

The emissions reductions must be paired with "further action," the groups warn, namely a cohesive plan to switch the global energy system from fossil fuels to a renewable energy supply.

"We need stronger efforts to reduce emissions," said MIT Sloan's Dr. John Sterman, "but the good news is that the costs of emissions reductions through efficiency and clean renewable energy are falling fast. Nations that adopt policies to cut their emissions will speed the innovation we need and position themselves to prosper in the decades to come."

Andrew Jones of Climate Interactive added that the current barriers prohibiting such changes "are political and social."

The warning comes a week after Greenpeace published a report detailing the specific actions world leaders can take to reach the goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

World leaders concluded discussions at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York on Sunday with a plan to establish some sort of international climate agreement in Paris, though the scope of the accord remains to be seen.

"Janos Pasztor, United Nations assistant secretary general for climate change, said the task in Paris would be to put mechanisms into the deal to encourage countries to ramp up their ambitions over time. Requirements for periodic reviews and fresh pledges are under discussion as a potential part of the agreement," the New York Times reports.

In a statement Monday, Greenpeace International executive director, Kumi Naidoo, said, "For the Paris agreement to be effective, according to the best available climate science, it will need to provide a long term vision and a clear trajectory from now through mid-century. All actions for climate by political leaders will be measured by this goal." 

"Government leaders must not play games and offer competing long term directions which will only help the polluters to continue with devastating the planet and ruining the people's homes and lives. More and more cities, communities and companies are making commitments to 100% renewable energy: evidence that the global energy transformation is not only feasible but also an environmental and moral imperative," Naidoo added.

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