Feb. 9 (UPI) -- The Paris Agreement's prescription for emissions reductions won't be enough to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures, according to a new study.
To avoid catastrophic levels of warming, the latest analysis -- published Tuesday in the journal Communications Earth & Environment -- suggests emissions reductions 80 percent above Paris Agreement targets will be necessary.
According to an international team of climate scientists working with the United Nations, 2 degrees Celsius of warming above preindustrial averages is the threshold where warming and climate instability is likely trigger catastrophic amounts of intolerable heat, prolonged drought, extreme weather and devastating sea level rise.
Warming above 2 degrees Celsius, scientists warn, would disrupt global food systems and force millions of people to relocate.
"A number of people have been saying, particularly in the past few years, that the emissions targets need to be more ambitious," lead author Adrian Raftery, professor of statistics at the University of Washington, said in a news release.
"We went beyond that to ask in a more precise way: How much more ambitious do they need to be?" said Raftery, a professor of statistics at the University of Washington.
Raftery and his research partners used a statistical model to project a range of greenhouse gas emissions.
The model considered three primary drivers of greenhouse gas emissions: national populations, per capita GDP and a figure known as carbon intensity, the amount of carbon emitted for every dollar of economic activity.
Scientists relied on data on economic activity and greenhouse gas emissions collected between 1960 and 2015 to work out the links between population and economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions.
For the model, researchers assumed population and economic growth rates are unlikely to change much in the short-term. To reduce carbon emissions, governments must find ways to reduce carbon intensity.
Current Paris Agreement calculations call for nations to reduce carbon emissions by 1 percent per year, but the latest models showed such progress would only give the world a 5 percent chance of staying below the Paris Agreement target of 2 degrees Celsius warming.
Countries must be more aggressive in curbing carbon emissions, according to the new study. The new model suggests that annual carbon emissions decreases of 1.8 percent would give the world a 50 percent chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees by 2100.
Currently, the United States has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by roughly 1 percent per year through 2026, while China has pledged to shrink it's carbon intensity by 60 percent by 2030.
The latest model suggests the United States would need to increase its carbon reduction efforts by 38 percent to give the planet a realistic shot at meeting the Paris Agreement targets, while China would only need to strengthen its carbon reduction plans by 7 percent.
Britain only needs to be 17 percent more aggressive, according to the statistical model.
"To some extent, the discourse around climate has been: 'We have to completely change our lifestyles and everything,'" Raftery said. "The idea from our work is that actually, what's required is not easy, but it's quantifiable. Reducing global emissions by 1.8% per year is a goal that's not astronomical."
"If you say, 'Everything's a disaster and we need to radically overhaul society,' there's a feeling of hopelessness," he said. "But if we say, 'We need to reduce emissions by 1.8% a year,' that's a different mindset."