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The Rockefeller Foundation: The World Can Limit Global Warming to 1.9 °C by 2090

New analysis of 190 countries demonstrates why both rapid decarbonization of wealthy and emerging economies and scaling access to renewables in energy poor countries are needed

NEW YORK | November 29, 2023 ― Ahead of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), The Rockefeller Foundation’s new report identifies the core components of global action needed to prevent global warming from breaking 2 degrees Celsius (°C) by 2090. Analyzing data from 190 countries, the best-case scenario in Vulnerable Populations in a Warming World: Four Futures Explored requires developed and emerging economies to rapidly decarbonize while also supporting widespread access to renewable energy in the world’s most energy-poor countries. With input from The Climate Impact Lab at Rhodium Group and Catalyst Partners, The Rockefeller Foundation’s analysis also demonstrates the tangible effects of increased heat on health and mortality, agriculture and nutrition, and energy consumption across four global temperature scenarios ranging from 1.9 °C to 4.5 °C.

Leveraging the formulae behind the carbon budgets outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC’s) Sixth Assessment report, the four scenarios were built on different underlying assumptions about how energy demand, fossil fuel use, and the accompanying CO2 emissions evolve in developed, emerging, and energy-poor countries.

“The data is clear: there is a path for successful climate change mitigation that also expands opportunity for the vulnerable people who need it most,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “But that route – the only workable route – requires urgency and resolve that brings clean energy and, with it, economic opportunity to the 3.6 billion people now deprived of sufficient electricity.”

Best Case Scenario: 1.9 °C warming by 2090

Today, 3.6 billion people live in energy poverty in countries where the annual electricity consumption per capita is below 1,000 kilowatt-hours or have grids so unreliable that they constitute an impediment to development. While only responsible for 8% of the emissions currently accumulated in the atmosphere, energy-poor countries are often the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

The “Global Collaboration” scenario illustrates a future where developed and emerging economies get serious about addressing greenhouse gas emissions within their borders, while also redoubling their efforts to ensure that energy-poor countries have access to both the capital and technology required for them to decarbonize as they grow out of energy poverty.  The Rockefeller Foundation’s new report calculates that limiting global temperature rise to 1.9 °C by 2090 requires three things to occur simultaneously:

  1. Developed economies immediately ramp up mitigation efforts in a manner consistent with their announced carbon pledges under the Paris Agreement, allowing them to meet their 2050 net zero targets.
  2. Emerging economies like China take measures to implement their own net-zero pledges, with the late 2020s marking a clear inflection point followed by significant emissions reductions, leading to a net zero outcome in 2060.
  3. Energy-poor countries receive the financial, technological, and technical support needed to rapidly scale deployments of renewable energy resources within their own economies, which not only allows them to escape energy poverty by 2040, but also their emissions would peak in 2040, achieving net-zero emissions by 2070.

In contrast to the “Global Cooperation” scenario, 2.4 °C warming by 2090 results when developed and emerging economies rapidly decarbonize, but energy-poor countries continue to rely on fossil fuels to support rapid economic development. In this “Fossil Fuels for the Poor” scenario, these countries grow out of energy poverty by 2040 at the expense of considerably higher emissions.

In the “Business as Usual” scenario, the world warms by 2.8 °C by 2090 because previous emissions trends for developed, emerging, and energy-poor countries continue along their current trajectory. With decarbonization accelerating gradually thanks to the greater availability of cost-effective, low-carbon technologies, net zero emissions are achieved by developed economies by 2080, emerging economies by 2090-2100, and energy-poor countries by 2150.

The “Climate Catastrophe” scenario of 4.5 °C warming by 2090 occurs when climate action is halted as both developed and emerging economies opt for fossil fuel-based development, with no effort to reign in emissions. Emissions in developed economies grow at a rate of approximately 1% annually through 2030, and then continue to grow at under 1% for the rest of the century. For emerging and energy-poor countries, emissions growth continues at about 3% per annum until 2030, before falling to about 1% per annum for the rest of the century.

Tangible Impacts of a Warming World

The Rockefeller Foundation’s report also breaks down the findings into tangible consequences, including but not limited to:

  • Each 1 °C rise in global average temperature results in a daily loss of 130 calories per person.
  • Every region in the world is projected to experience a net decrease in total calories produced across six staple crops: cassava, corn, rice, sorghum, soy, and wheat.
  • Wheat yield losses occur across every scenario for the world’s top ten global exporters: Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, Romani, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States. In the “Business as Usual” scenario, where the world warms by 2.8 °C, France, Germany, Romania, Ukraine, and the U.S., experience wheat yield losses of 20% or more.
  • Efforts to avert warming could reduce losses to the yields of the staple foods of the world’s most food insecure countries by an average of two-thirds.
  • With a global temperature rise of 8 °C by 2090, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Kuwait, Mali, Niger, Pakistan, and Sudan could experience a mortality rate equal to, or greater than, seven of the 10 leading causes of death globally.
  • Keeping global warming below 2 °C would result in a decrease in total mortality rates in 61 of 82 energy-poor countries, with the remainder experiencing only modest increases.
  • 71 of the world’s 81 energy-poor countries will see increased demand for electricity linked to cooling even if concerted climate action limits warming to below 2 °C, with El Salvador, Gabon, India, Niger, and South Sudan experiencing increased demand of more than 50% of current per capita demand.
  • Because the rising demand for electricity for cooling would have a material impact on power generation, a temperature rise of 4.5 °C could require an additional 1,035 large new power plants be built in these countries just to meet the increasing demand linked to adapting to heat – without taking into account the additional capacity needed to address energy poverty.

“The issue of planetary warming and climate change is not binary – it’s not just a question of whether it will happen or not. The rate and extent of the change is vital: every degree of warming prevented will avert significant catastrophe,” said Ali Al-Saffar, Director of Energy Transition at The Rockefeller Foundation and co-author of the report. “This report illustrates in some detail what we have all instinctively known: the people who have done the least to cause climate change, most of whom live in poverty or are otherwise vulnerable, will be hit hardest by it. It also demonstrates that with international collaboration, we can keep warming below 2°C.”

This report follows The Rockefeller Foundation’s commitment to invest over $1 billion in advancing the global climate transition and achieving a science-based Net Zero standard for its operations globally. The new strategy, which is the first of its kind in The Rockefeller Foundation’s 110-year history, includes providing additional resources, advocacy, and strategic support to a series of Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) initiatives, co-launched with the IKEA Foundation and Bezos Earth Fund during COP26 in 2021. Then, The Rockefeller Foundation committed $500 million, which remains its largest single investment.

About The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation is a pioneering philanthropy built on collaborative partnerships at the frontiers of science, technology, and innovation that enable individuals, families, and communities to flourish. We make big bets to promote the well-being of humanity. Today, we are focused on advancing human opportunity and reversing the climate crisis by transforming systems in food, health, energy, and finance. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at and follow us on X @RockefellerFdn.

Media Contact

Ashley Chang
The Rockefeller Foundation