Research & Reports

Research Finds Inequality Threat to Paris CO2 Target

Stockholm (NordSIP) – A new paper published Monday (March 5th) from researchers at the Vienna-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) suggests that the risk of missing the Paris Agreement target of limiting global-mean temperature rise to 1.5˚ Celsius this century is significantly heightened under economic scenarios that include high degrees of socio-economic inequality and economic growth powered by carbon emissions.

The Nature Climate Change journal-peer reviewed paper, Scenarios towards limiting global mean temperature increase below 1.5˚C, set out to explore the transition pathways to the Paris agreement targets “using six integrated assessment models and a simple climate model under various socio-economic, technological and resource assumptions from five Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SPPs).”

The SPPs demonstrating successful transition pathways are characterised by “a rapid shift away from traditional fossil-fuel use towards large-scale low-carbon energy supplies, reduced energy use, and carbon-dioxide removal,” according to the paper’s abstract.

Conversely, pathways could not be achieved in several SPPs modeling “strong economic inequality, high baseline fossil-fuel or scattered short-term climate policy.”

“Climate change is far from the only issue we as a society are concerned about,” said lead author Joeri Rogelj. “ We have to understand how these many goals can be achieved simultaneously. With this study, we show the enormous value of pursuing sustainable development for ambitious climate goals in line with the Paris Agreement.”

The paper crystallises the dilemma facing policy makers the coming century: intensifying global and national income inequality robs economies of the dynamism needed to boost resilience to climate change, while same economies are overly reliant on carbon emissions that preclude the Paris target of reducing temperatures below 2˚ Celsius, which will increase floods, famines and other blights.

“Fragmentation and pronounced inequalities will likely come hand-in-hand with low levels of innovation and productivity, and thus may push the 1.5˚ Celsius target out of reach,” said Keywan Riahi, a contributor to the paper.

Image: (c) Gerd Altmann –



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