Scientists say there is a "very high risk" that we will overshoot our global warming target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to a draft summary report from the United Nations.
Scientists have long agreed that keeping average global temperatures below the 1.5-degree threshold is an important goal if we wish to successfully tackle climate change. Anything beyond that, and we put the future of humanity and planet Earth in serious danger.
But a new report, which was written for policymakers by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, offers some sobering news. It estimates that at the current level of greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will reach 1.5 degrees of warming within just 12 to 16 years.
For small island nations and other vulnerable countries, the report is more bad news. The draft states that "climate change and climate change responses will affect people in countries at all levels of development" but that those living in "multidimensional poverty, persistent vulnerabilities and various forms of deprivation and disadvantage" will face the most risk.
Avoiding this dangerous rise in temperature will be extremely difficult to avoid, if not already impossible. Unless we dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions and soon, the report says keeping the planet's temperature below the 1.5-degree target is largely unavoidable and likely to be "already out of reach."
Sure, if we somehow manage to improve our carbon capture technology that might help, but the feasibility of such technology is still up for debate.
It must be remembered, however, that the draft is only in a preliminary stage.
"The text is highly likely to change between this draft and the final approved summary for policymakers," spokesman Jonathan Lynn told The Washington Post.
While the details may be altered, the overall conclusion is not likely to change. Duke University climate expert and one of the report authors Drew Shindell told The Washington Post that as a scientist with expertise in the matter, the findings hardly come as a surprise.
"Some of the high level messages I think come as no surprise, in that we are not on track anywhere near toward 1.5 C, and getting there would require enormous changes," said Shindell, not speaking as an author of the draft report or on behalf of the IPCC.
"That basic conclusion, I think it's okay to say that it's not a surprise to anybody. Any climate scientist would have told you that even without the report."
The report was obtained by Climate Home News this week, although scientific experts have had access to the report for several weeks. The full and finished report is set to be published in October of this year.