There is a worrying problem associated with global climate change: emit too many tons of greenhouse gases and there could be an unstoppable and rapid increase in temperatures around the world.
The estimated total amount of greenhouse gas that can be emitted before reaching this point is called the global “carbon budget.” If no action were undertaken to reduce emissions around the world – and assuming emissions don’t increase – it’s thought that less than 20 years remain until the planet’s climate will warm by two degrees Celsius. This is typically viewed as the absolute most the climate can be allowed to warm before dire consequences of warming begin to emerge.
Want to learn a little more about this important environmental concept? Here’s what students at environmental schools need to know.
The UN IPCC Offers Official Estimates for the World’s Carbon Budget
When discussing the world’s carbon budget, experts will often refer to numbers issued by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The organization maintains multiple versions of the budget, corresponding to predicted levels of warming associated with exceeding those levels of emissions. There is a budget for 1.5 degrees Celsius, 2 degrees Celsius, and 3 degrees Celsius.
It is important to note that these numbers, and the amounts of carbon emissions they are associated with, are not considered to be perfectly scientifically accurate. Rather, they are good ballpark estimates that facilitate conversation between climate researchers, governmental, intergovernmental, and nongovernmental agencies, and the public. By presenting the threat of ongoing warming in a way that is easily understood, it is hoped that decisive action can be encouraged.
This is a perfect example of the kind of value that scientifically trained environmental experts can offer to the ongoing conversation about the climate. Top environmental science colleges make popularisation of scientific concepts an important part of the educational process, allowing graduates to contribute to similar sorts of campaigns designed around raising public awareness. Every vote and policy can make a difference, meaning this is an important ability to have.
Students at Environmental Science Colleges Won’t be Surprised to See the Budget is Depleting
That the world is reacting too slowly to the growing threats posed by climate change is well understood. As the years pass, this is resulting in a rapid depletion of the carbon budget and a fast approach for the various temperature increase milestones.
Estimates suggest that the threshold for 1.5˚C of warming could be reached as soon as five years from now, and the nightmare scenario of 3˚C of warming might not take long to reach after the 2˚C mark is passed (currently projected for about 20 years from now).
The aggressive timeline suggested by the carbon budget is a stark reminder of just how seriously action is needed to prevent the disasters associated with global warming. Desertification of arable land, increased intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes, rising sea levels, and other repercussions could await in a future where global warming is not addressed decisively. Passionate experts from environmental studies graduate programs will be needed to help lead the way to necessary change.
Students at Environmental Science Colleges Will Be Glad to Know There’s New Hope
Environmental news is often bleak, but recent findings from a review of the IPCC’s carbon budget and forecasting suggest there is reason to be optimistic. A recent research paper published in Nature Geoscience found that the standard model of the carbon budget assumes existing warming has a greater effect on future warming than it actually does, and that this means it might be safe for the planet for a substantially greater amount of greenhouse gases to be emitted. They claim it may even be possible to keep warming to below 1.5˚C – something considered an unlikely dream based on current projections.
The researchers caution that ambitious policy and decisive action are still required to achieve the goal of preventing catastrophic warming. The findings are not, as some have reported, new license for polluters to stick with business as usual. They are also not definitely true – the standard model may prove to be more correct over time. If this new assessment is accurate, though, it means greater opportunity for trained experts to lead the way to a brighter future.
Individuals hoping to contribute to this goal can be of immense use in a variety of contexts if they complete interdisciplinary training at a top environmental school like Unity College. Learning hard scientific facts, great communication techniques, and important business concepts can allow you to lead people and organizations of all stripes toward greater sustainability. It’s an educational path that leads to many professional opportunities to make the world a better place.
Do you want to help prevent the Earth from hitting a temperature tipping point?
Contact Unity College to learn about our environmental science online degree programs!