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The 2 Degree Limit

The world is facing a climate crisis and global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are a significant contributor to this crisis. According to recent projections, global GHG emissions from nationally determined contributions (NDCs) announced prior to the COP26 conference would make it likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C and also make it harder after 2030 to limit warming to below 2°C.

To address this issue, human interventions that reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are released from fossil fuel infrastructure into the atmosphere, also known as abatement, are crucial. Limiting warming to 2°C will require most remaining fossil fuel CO2 emissions to be projected outside the power sector, mainly in industry and transport. However, there are high mitigation challenges, including slow tech change, high global population growth, and high fragmentation.

The service sectors, including transport, buildings, and industry, are important areas for both demand-side and supply-side interventions. Additionally, indirect/upstream emissions from industries, processes, energy conversion, transmission, and distribution also need to be addressed. Reducing GHG emissions across the fuel energy sector, deploying low-emission energy sources, switching to alternative energy carriers, promoting energy efficiency and conservation, and reducing overall fossil fuel use are all potential strategies.

Continued installation of fossil fuel infrastructure will "lock-in" GHG emissions. On the other hand, achieving net-zero, which involves reducing overall fossil fuel use, using carbon capture and storage (CCS), having electricity systems with no net CO2, electrifying the energy system and end-uses, promoting sustainable biofuels and low-emissions hydrogen, and integrating across the energy system, is crucial.

Maintaining emission-intensive systems may be more expensive than transitioning to a low-emission system. Electricity systems powered predominantly by renewables are becoming increasingly viable. Coal assets are projected to be stranded before 2030. Additionally, the use of steel, cement, and plastics is increasing globally, making net-zero emissions from the industrial sector challenging but possible.

In conclusion, reducing GHG emissions is essential to address the climate crisis. Policymakers, industries, and individuals must work together to adopt a range of interventions to reduce emissions and transition to a low-emission system. It is important to take action now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, Vulnerability: Summary for Policymakers - IPCC

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