What is a “carbon budget”

In order to avert the most dangerous impacts of climate change, the international community has agreed that average global temperature rise should be limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6° F). Staying within this boundary requires limiting cumulative global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1 trillion tonnes of carbon, or 3,667 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2), known as the “carbon budget.” We’ve already used up 52 percent of this budget since the Industrial Revolution, and if emissions continue unabated, the world is on track to exhaust the rest of it within three decades.

How important are fossil fuel reserves to the global carbon budget?

Fossil fuel use is by far the largest source of man-made emissions and the most important factor affecting whether we are able to stay within the carbon budget. In 2010, global fossil fuel use produced 32 GtCO2, 72 percent of the world’s man-made emissions. Limiting warming to 2°C will require capping fossil fuel emissions at 990 GtCO2 for the period between 2012 and 2100. Annual fossil fuel use would need to be one-third that of levels in 2010.

Source: World Resources Institute

Date: October 2017

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