The Rio de Janeiro heat index: Breaking a world greenhouse gas record after last year’s Paris agreement and the role of fossil fuel extraction
It felt like 139.5 degrees Fahrenheit (59.7 degrees Celsius) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday. The heat index is a measure of heat and humidity and is important because it curbs the ability of the body to cool itself by sweating. The night before, a thousand people reportedly fainted from the heat during a Taylor Swift concert in the city, and one person died. Brazil’s wetlands are ablaze during this month’s monster spring heatwave.
Even the lower end of the current projected temperature range – 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit of warming – is catastrophically high. The goal is to limit warming to 3.6 degrees, and ideally closer to 2.7 degrees, according to the Paris agreement. The new analysis finds that, in order to meet those targets, global greenhouse gas emissions would need to fall at least 28% more than they’re currently on track to.
And if you zoom out even more, it’s clear that humanity has made significant progress since the landmark Paris agreement was signed in 2015. The United Nations predicted that the planet was on track for a 8 degrees Fahrenheit warming.
“This year’s report is called a ‘broken record’ for a reason,” says Taryn Fransen, a report coauthor and the director of science, research, and data at the World Resources Institute. We know we’re a broken record as authors after the world blew past previous emissions and temperature records this year. Year after year, we say the world is not doing enough to address climate change.”
In last year’s analysis, the new range was expected to be higher, but it is so much lower than that it shows how slow humankind is making on slowing emissions and limiting future warming.
That means all new oil, gas and coal extraction is essentially incompatible with avoiding catastrophic warming later this century, according to the analysis. Right now, many countries including the United States are still allowing new fossil fuel extraction.
Transitioning to renewables is sound economic policy with a host of co-benefits. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,which is pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into the green economy in the United States, has already created thousands of jobs. Burning less fossil fuel also improves air quality, reducing health care costs. Do it already. The chief scientific editor of the new report says that it shows us that we are able to do it. There’s no reason not to do this. Most of the good reasons for not doing so are running out.