Can We Do 50×30 ?

April 19, 2021

Launch event for this science/tech/policy initiative Wednesday, free registration here.


The 50×30 coalition is an alliance between cryosphere and emissions research institutions, and governments that have accepted the scientific necessity to reduce emissions 50% by 2030; in order to prevent cascading and irreversible damage, on a planetary scale, from the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the cryosphere.

Because of cryosphere, carbon neutrality by 2050 is not enough: the way we get there matters.  Overshoot of the 1.5°C goal cannot be considered a viable or safe option, from either an economic or social standpoint. This is because much of the Earth’s polar and mountain regions – whether glaciers, snowpack, permafrost, sea ice, polar oceans and seas, or the great polar ice sheets – react directly to peaks in temperature and carbon dioxide emissions.  

This can tip many of these systems into a state of decline, where a later return to lower temperatures and CO2 levels makes little difference: the damage is done, and cannot be reversed on any human timescale.

We cannot negotiate with the melting point of ice.

Scientist’s Statement:

As cryosphere scientists and research institutions, we are alarmed by the rapid changes from global warming that we see today in these polar and mountain regions.  Most importantly, we need to communicate to the world that these changes, if they are allowed to continue, will not be reversible; and will spread across the entire globe.

We see this damage already today.  Cold polar seas are acidifying more quickly than any on the planet, threatening humanity’s richest fisheries.  Arctic sea ice continues to disappear at a stunning rate, with warming poles disrupting global weather patterns.  Permafrost thaw is now releasing carbon at the same scale as a top-20 emitter, while intensified wildfires in drier sub-Arctic forests, grasslands and peatlands release even more.  Shrinking glaciers and snowpack threaten reliable water supplies for billions of people, and rising sea levels from melting ice sheets will not be reversible on any human timescale.

Ambitious and effective near-term emissions reductions also lead to less reliance on carbon dioxide removal. These near-term reductions help avoid trade-offs with other needs such as food supply and ecosystem preservation, with. the necessary “negative emissions” achieved in more sustainable ways including more nature-based solutions.

The 2018 IPCC SR1.5 outlined the need for 50% global reductions by 2030 in order to remain within 1.5°C of warming. There are other non-cryosphere impacts from exceeding 1.5°C; but the cryosphere stands out because its changes will persist for hundreds or thousands of years – in the case of ocean acidification, 50-70,000 years.

This is truly an emergency of global proportions.  We call on our governments, and other major stakeholders to listen to the science, and act accordingly.

Science Panelists
     Dr. Julie Brigham-Grette, UMass-Amherst, AGU Fellow, former Chair US Polar Research Board
          Past is Present: What Paleo-climate Says About Overshoot

     Dr. Tim Naish, Antarctic Research Centre, University of Victoria/Wellington (NZ), IPCC AR5
          Melting Ice, Rising Seas: Overshoot and Antarctica

     Dr. Phillipus Wester, ICIMOD (Nepal), IPCC AR6
          Glaciers and Snow: Long-Term Loss of Water Resources

     Dr. Carol Turley, Plymouth Marine Laboratory (UK)
          Polar Oceans: 50,000 Years of Overshoot Impacts

     Dr. Gustaf Hugelius, Bolin Centre for Climate Research
          Permafrost Thaw: Committing Six Generations to Negative Emissions

     Dr. Julienne Stroeve, NSIDC (U.S.)/University of Manitoba (Canada), IPCC SROCC
          Arctic Sea Ice Loss and Impacts Past 1.5°C

3 Responses to “Can We Do 50×30 ?”

  1. There are only nine years left to do so. Till the present all plans to reduce CO2 had no impact whatso ever on global emissions, They have only rissen and very drastically. Why would it work now?

  2. J4Zonian Says:

    “a later return to lower temperatures and CO2 levels makes little difference: the damage is done, and cannot be reversed on any human timescale.”

    “the way we get there matters.”

    By 2030 it’s the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet will probably be unavoidable as well as irreversible. Thwaites and other large glaciers in Antarctica will also probably be unsavable, guaranteeing meters of sea level rise before 2100, maybe by 2050. After 2030, floods, fires, storms, sea level rise, droughts, crop failures, large and increasing newly uninhabitable areas of the world and other inconveniences will be drastically curtailing our ability to even respond to them, let alone respond and continue to build clean safe renewable energy, transform agriculture and industry, set up sports teams in more poleward cities*, and put together a permanent Taxicab army or Dunkirk fleet of trucks and wheelbarrows to haul soil and golf course sod north to Canada.

    Yes, it matters how we get there (not Canada, 100% clean safe renewable energy). A single GE Haliade-X 12 MW turbine installed in Dogger Bank or off the coast of New Jersey this year will prevent 520,000 tons of CO2 by 2030. One built at the end of 2029 will prevent zero tons by 2030. Obviously we have to do the work now.

    The idea that 50 by 30 is even remotely close to enough is absurd and insane, and increasingly obviously so. 100 by 30, 120 by 35.

    *There are lots of easy mascots in our future in Canada—Beaver Creek, Old Crow, Foxe Basin, the Great Bear Lake Bears, the Great Slave Lake…well, never mind.

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    We shouldn’t think of it as racing against coral bleaching or herds of Cat 5 cyclones or wildfires or megafauna extinction, but as racing against permafrost melt, which can take away any attempt to mitigate or restore what’s broken.

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