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New research highlights time’s key role in climate change mitigation

The European researchers bring attention to important time tables regarding global warming
FILE - This Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 GOES-16 satellite image shows the eye of Hurricane Irma,...
FILE - This Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 GOES-16 satellite image shows the eye of Hurricane Irma, left, just north of the island of Hispaniola, with Hurricane Jose, right, in the Atlantic Ocean. In a four-week span, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria ravaged Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands. (NOAA via AP)(AP)
Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 7:52 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - A recent study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has highlighted the risks of global warming if significant action isn’t taken over the next few decades. The research shows that the current standards set by the Paris Climate Agreement may not be enough to curb some of the worst impacts of climate change.

The threat of increased extreme weather events caused by the warming climate have already been realized in some instances. We have seen forest fires get worse on the west coast due to drought. Rainfall has hit record levels across the Southeast with many locations seeing historic flooding. Four of our top six wettest years here in Eastern N.C. on record have occurred after 2000, with three of them happening over the last five years. Last year we had to most named storms in the Atlantic Basin in recorded history.

Homes, businesses and roads are flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in LaPlace, La.,...
Homes, businesses and roads are flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in LaPlace, La., Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)(Gerald Herbert | AP)

The Paris Climate Agreement’s goal is to keep global average temperatures below two degree Celsius of pre-industrial levels. While this goal is sufficient from keeping the worst of climate change from occurring, the standards, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), set in place may not be enough to reach that goal.

The computer model created by the PIK research team compares forecast population increases and how much of that population would face global warming extremes. “If we add population growth to two degree Celsius global warming, in 2050 we could even see an increase of 40 percent more people exposed to cyclones. As the global population is projected to peak around mid-century, more people will face more intense cyclones, due to climate change – putting that higher population at greater risk,” says Tobias Geiger, researcher at PIK and the Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD), lead author of the study published in Nature Climate Change.

The computer model shows that if the two degree Celsius change is met by 2100 instead of 2050, the number of potential people impacted would be cut in half. Katja Frieler, co-lead of PIK’s Research Department on Transformation Pathways, says “Emission reductions [and adjusted NDCs] that would limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius could cumulatively protect over 1.8 billion people from exposure to tropical cyclones until the end of this century compared to the warming under currently proposed emission reductions. It is thus high time to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep as many people safe as possible.”

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