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Fighting the climate crisis: For the 1.5 degree target, the USA must no longer emit CO₂

2022-01-23T19:32:47.125Z

By the end of 2021, the United States will have exhausted its calculated carbon budget. Germany also only has five years left. This shows that emissions must fall rapidly if the climate crisis is to be contained.



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Photo: Pete Saloutos/Image Source/Getty Images

According to a recent calculation, the time for effective climate protection has already expired for the USA: Since the beginning of 2022, the United States has been the first large industrialized country to have used up its CO₂ budget per inhabitant, which it theoretically needs to comply with the 1.5-degree limit is available.

This is the result of the CO₂ calculator on the scientifically maintained website »showyourbudgets«, which compiles data on government CO₂ budgets.

According to this, the USA has exhausted its per capita budget for climate-damaging emissions, which would prevent a global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to 1850 with a 50 percent probability. In 2021, the total US emissions were around 5.5 billion tons of CO₂ - but by the end of 2021 they should be zero according to "Show your Budget": The historically largest CO₂ polluter would therefore have all its climate-damaging emissions from January 1, 2022 to make their contribution to the climate target of 1.5 degrees.

"Our global CO₂ budget is shrinking rapidly, which is why it is so important that the USA adopt the climate rules in the government's infrastructure project," says Tayrn Fansen, climate expert at the US think tank "World Resources Institute". “All countries need to recognize that we need to act quickly before the carbon budget is exceeded – and that some countries, like the US, have spent much more of the budget than others, so they need to cut their emissions faster.”

The "Showyourbudget" website calculates the permissible amount of greenhouse gases for individual states on a per capita basis.

This measures what countries would have to do to fulfill their share of the Paris climate agreement promise: namely to limit global warming to “well below 2 degrees” by 2100 and to aim for 1.5 degrees.

According to this calculation, the US must be at zero emissions by 2027 in order to have at least a 66 percent chance of meeting 1.8 degrees.

The calculation refers to the emissions of the individual countries and puts them in relation to the global total budget that can still be emitted for 1.5 degrees: According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), since 2018 this has been between 420 and 580 billion tons, around 15 to 20 years at current emissions levels.

This number is then distributed evenly per capita worldwide and related to the current emissions of the countries.

Climate protection groups like Fridays for Future have long called for compliance with a per capita budget to emphasize the urgency and distributive justice of climate protection measures.

For Germany, with currently more than 770 million tons of greenhouse gases per year, the calculation is only slightly better than for the USA: According to this budget, with the current CO₂ emissions, Germany would have to stop emissions in 2027 in order to keep the 1.5 degrees.

However, the official German goal of climate neutrality for 2045 only gives Germany a 50:50 chance of 1.8 degrees.

Many other countries are also exhausting their per capita emissions very quickly: Canada has already exceeded the 1.5 limit, as have the oil states of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

China, on the other hand, currently the largest CO₂ emitter, only has until 2030 for 1.5 degrees and for 1.8 degrees at most until 2050.

The EU as a whole, in turn, exhausts its per capita budget according to the figures for 1.5 degrees in 2033; there is still time for 1.8 degrees in 2057.

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Countries with large populations and relatively low CO₂ emissions, on the other hand, have even greater leeway according to this calculation: India by 2079 for 1.5 degrees or even 2150 for 1.8 degrees, Bangladesh even by 2196 for a two-thirds chance of 1.5 degrees and even to 2388 for 1.8 degrees.

The statistics leave the whole world with time for net zero for 1.5 degrees until 2036, with 1.8 degrees even until 2062.

The per capita approach is supported not only in the climate movement but also in science.

In 2020, the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU), an advisory body to the federal government, called for Germany to base its climate policy on such a per capita budget.

And already at the failed climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, the »Scientific Advisory Council of the Federal Government on Global Environmental Change« (WBGU) demanded a »cash drop for the world climate treaty« with such a »budget approach«.

"The calculation shows that it has become impossible for countries like the USA to meet the budget for the 1.5 degree limit domestically," says Stefan Rahmstorf, climate scientist and head of the Earth System Analysis department at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who scientifically supported the »Show your Budgets« website.

"They need to work with emerging and developing countries to offset the emissions that go beyond their own budget."

Carla Reemtsma, spokeswoman for Fridays for Future, also believes that the statistics show “how incredibly quickly emissions must fall”.

If the USA now exceeds its budget, it only shows "that it is all the more responsible for supporting reductions in other countries with much more money than before." All industrialized countries would need much more money than the 100 billion dollars agreed in Paris each year and initiate "systemic changes": "It's not enough to talk about a speed limit or a higher CO₂ price," says Reemtsma.

And don't get used to the bad news when budgets are exceeded: "Every tenth of a degree avoided warming counts."

Source: spiegel

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