The world's leading climate scientists have for the first time established a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases that can be released before the Earth reaches a tipping point and predicted that it will be surpassed within decades unless swift action is taken to curb the current pace of emissions.
The warning was issued Friday by a panel of U.N.-appointed climate change experts meeting in Stockholm.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that once a total of 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into atmosphere, the planet will exceed 3.6 degrees of warming, the internationally agreed-upon threshold to the worst effects of climate change.
"We've burned through half that amount" since preindustrial times, Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University who reviewed the report and is a co-author of the panel's upcoming report on the effect of climate change, said in an interview. "Because the rates of emissions are growing, it looks like we could burn through the other half in the next 25 years" under one of the more dire scenarios outlined in the report.