Researchers have determined that countries around the world are failing to fulfill their greenhouse gas reduction commitments under the Paris climate agreement, inevitably subjecting the world to unpredictable extreme weather. In a study published in the journal Science Advances, scientists concluded that extreme weather, such as drought, flooding, or heat waves, will increase across 90 percent of North America, Europe and East Asia if countries maintain their current pace of climate action. “We are not prepared for today’s climate, let alone for another degree of global warming,” study author Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford University professor of earth system science, told Time.
The Paris Agreement aims to keep global temperature rise below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, with an ideal goal of less than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. That extra 0.9 degrees will make a significant difference in how extreme weather manifests in the coming decades. The study documents the specific differences built into that temperature divergence, including the number of record warm or wet days. Following an extraordinary hurricane season in North America and a year that was once again dubbed the hottest on record, the urgency to address this challenge is clearer than ever.
Unfortunately, the Paris Agreement has a math problem. Each country in the agreement was encouraged to create their own pledges individually tailored to their political and economic situations. Though the goal remains less than 3.6 degrees of warming, the cumulative impact of all these pledges, if they were all fulfilled, would still result in a global temperature of 5.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Even the modest pledges made in the agreement are proving difficult to achieve. Some countries, most prominently the United States, have expressed interest in ignoring the consequences of climate change and are actively encouraging the growth of fossil fuels. In the meantime, greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb while the weather gets weirder.