Biden Win Puts 1.5C Global Warming Limit Back Within Reach, Say Experts
By Megan Rowling
Nov 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — The election of Democrat Joe Biden as the next US president puts the world "within striking distance" of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — a key international goal — for the first time, scientists said this week.
In contrast to climate-change sceptic Donald Trump, who last week pulled his country out of the 2015 Paris climate accord, Biden has made curbing planet-warming emissions a priority and plans to put the economy on an "irreversible path" to net zero emissions by mid-century.
Biden has vowed to lead the United States back into the Paris Agreement as soon as he takes office in late January — a process that would require about a month. His team's transition website also says he will "go much further than that".
"He is working to lead an effort to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets," noted the website, which went online after the race was called for Biden at the weekend.
It did not give further details. But Biden's election campaign plan said that during his first 100 days in office, he would convene a "climate world summit to directly engage the leaders of the major greenhouse gas-emitting nations of the world to persuade them to join the United States in making more ambitious national pledges".
Climate analysts expect Biden's presidency not only to give global climate diplomacy a shot in the arm, but also to give the world a realistic chance of meeting the Paris pact's most ambitious 1.5C warming limit.
Scientists have said that is vital to protecting people, economies, and ecosystems from far worse floods, droughts, storms, and sea level rise than have already hit at just over 1C of warming.
Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, a partner organization in the independent Climate Action Tracker (CAT) research project, said Biden's win could mark "an historic tipping point".
With Biden's election, China, the United States, the European Union, Japan, and South Korea — representing two-thirds of the world's economy and over half of climate-changing emissions — would have net zero emissions commitments for mid-century in place, he said in a statement.
If Biden goes ahead with his plan for net zero emissions by 2050, it could shave about 0.1C off global warming by 2100, the CAT said.
That — together with an additional reduction of 0.2-0.3C from China's recently announced goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2060 — would reduce the tracker's estimate of end-of-century warming to 2.3-2.4C.
The CAT's previous estimate was for a global average temperature rise of 2.7C above pre-industrial times, based on existing pledges and targets, with UN agencies predicting warming of 3C or more.