The Paris agreement commits nations to keeping “a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

The researchers say this “overshooting”—hitting a 2-degree rise first and then attempting to bring it down—is problematic.

“Overshooting is a risky strategy and getting back to lower levels after an overshoot will be extremely difficult. However, since we are officially on an overshooting trajectory, we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility that we may never get back to safer levels of warming. Policymakers should understand that there is no elementary proportionality between cumulative CO2 emissions due to human activity and global temperature, as previously believed, and that overshooting may have serious consequences,” Gasser stated.

To achieve the 1.5 degree Celsius target, “reductions in the median remaining budget range from ~10% to more than 100%,” the researchers warned.

“We should have changed course a while ago,” Gasser told The Independent, “and we should now significantly increase our efforts to do so.”

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