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Society isn’t changing fast enough to stop climate change: study

The Hill: “A new report has found that significant social change is needed to halt catastrophic climate change — and society isn’t changing fast enough. Keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius — the limit set in the Paris Agreement — is implausible for social reasons, not technical ones, according to the Hamburg Climate Outlook, published Wednesday. The annual publication from Germany’s University of Hamburg includes data from over 140 countries. It is time for scientists to focus on “the question of what is not just theoretically possible, but also plausible, that is, can realistically be expected,” said Anita Engels, a professor of sociology at University of Hamburg, in a statement. “When it comes to climate protection, some things have now been set in motion,” Engels said. While progress has been made, it has been insufficient to meet the UN’s climate goals set in 2015. The researchers looked at 10 drivers of social change — including UN climate policy, legislation and climate protests — that could cut emissions and hold down temperatures. These social factors are also significantly more important than the “tipping points” — such as the melting of Arctic sea ice and ice sheets or the collapse of global rainforests — that are a familiar specter haunting climate prediction. While avoiding these fearsome tipping points is essential to the sustainability of human civilization in the late 21st century, the researchers concluded, they would have limited influence on global temperatures before 2050.

These findings of the University of Hamburg study reinforced another study published on Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). That study — which focused on the United States — found that while there has been some progress in terms of reducing carbon emissions, the overall trajectory has not been enough to prevent dangerous levels of climate change. In that publication, two climate scientists using machine learning concluded that the world would breach the internationally agreed-upon limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius warming by 2033 to 2035. The results of this study are more pessimistic than previous models. They also reignite a debate on whether it’s still possible to limit global warming to the 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming set as an aspirational goal in the Paris climate agreement of 2015…”

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