Don't expect the landmark U.S.-China climate change agreement, announced Wednesday, to nudge the world's rising thermostat downward unless other countries help, say scientists who study heat-trapping carbon dioxide. China, the world's No. 1 polluter, will still increase its emissions until 2030 or so, under the agreement. The U.S., which ranks second, promised to cut pollution from the burning of coal, oil and gas to levels that haven't been seen since 1969. But any U.S. cuts will be swamped by Chinese pollution growth over the next 15 years, said Glen Peters, a Norwegian scientist who was part of the Global Carbon Project that tracks global emissions.
In 2009, countries across the globe set a goal of limiting warming to about another 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) above current levels. Peters' team calculated this fall that the mark would be reached around 2040 and the U.S.-China accord doesn't change that, he said. MIT professor John Sterman compared the numbers to a driver flooring the accelerator and heading toward a cliff. This agreement is like letting up on the pedal, not slowing the car. "It doesn't buy a lot of time for when we blast through the 2-degree level," Sterman said.
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