Feb 7, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Climate models suddenly predict much faster warming, stumping scientists

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Several climate models from top institutions around the globe are suddenly predicting the world will warm by 5°C (9°F) by 2100, a possible "nightmare scenario," and scientists aren't sure why, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: The 2015 Paris climate agreement set an agreed threshold to attempt to limit warming below 1.5°C (2.7°F). Should these newest projections turn out to be accurate, the Paris agreement's goals would already be well out of reach.

The state of play: These models have projected global warming with relative accuracy for the last half-century, and there has long been a general consensus that warming of 3°C (5.4°F) would produce catastrophic change.

  • Yes, but: Researchers don't yet agree on how to interpret the hotter results — based on supercomputer simulations of climate models — and some believe they may have "overshot."

The bottom line: These models inform how policymakers and politicians can plan for the future effects of climate change, so any unexpected and extreme change in their output would radically lessen the time that humanity would have to prepare.

Go deeper: Dissecting Trump's State of the Union energy claims

Go deeper

Ex-diplomats sketch out two visions of climate change in 2050

Christiana Figueres at the 2019 Web Summit. Photo: NurPhoto / Contributor

Two architects of the Paris Climate Agreement present a pair of possible scenarios for the global climate in 2050 — one in which we've met the carbon reduction targets laid out in the agreement, and one in which we've failed.

Why it matters: The authors argue that we have a decade left to pick which path the planet will take: catastrophe or hope.

Hardly anyone talks about climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Politicians, corporations, the media and activists are talking about climate change more than ever — but most Americans are not.

Be smart: If you’re reading this on social media, you’re probably the exception, not the rule. Just 9% of Americans talk about climate change often, surveys by Yale and George Mason University indicate.

South Carolina exit polls: Climate change slips as top priority vs. Iowa, New Hampshire

A voter in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

South Carolina's Democratic primary voters were less likely to list climate change as a top issue compared to previous nominating contests, according to the AP's VoteCast exit polls.

The big picture: Health care, climate change and the economy have been the top 3 issues in each primary to this point.