Good COP, BAD COP – Mexico 2010

Are we in line to likely evade adverse and irreversible changes in climate?
by -- December 3rd, 2010

A large topic of contention within COP16 is if Party pledges as stated in the Copenhagen Accord are sufficient to keep the Earth’s global temperature rise below a 2°C.

The IPCC found in their Assessment Report 4 (AR4) that an increase in global average temperatures exceeding 2°C creates a more likely scenario that humanity cannot adapt to climate change at acceptable economic, social and environmental costs.  In addition, temperatures exceeding 2°C are believed to considerably increase the risk of triggering irreversible changes to the climate system as well as large-scale adverse impacts.  Thus the basis of the Copenhagen Accord was to limit warming below 2°C.

The EU’s Climate Change Science Experts commissioned an advisory board to inform climate change policy makers of the likelihood of reaching this goal and steps needed to reach the 2°C goal.

The board found that to ensure a likely (which they define as >66%) chance of achieving the prescribed 2°C maximum warming the following steps are suggested:

1.   A peak in global emissions by approximately 2015, after which reduction rates of greenhouse gas emissions become increasingly infeasible.

2.  A decrease in greenhouse gas emissions of 50-70% relative to 1990 emission by 2050, assuming further reductions afterwards.

3.  It may be necessary to implement carbon negative practices (e.g. carbon capture and sequestration).

Are we in line to achieve these goals?  In short, no.  Considering the most optimistic interpretation of pledges (countries have thus far typically pledged a range of reductions), the global reduction falls 2-6 gigatons of COequivalents short.  The 2015 peak in emissions is 5 years away, after which it is predicted to be much harder to reduce the GHG emissions to stay below the 2°C goal.  Clearly, significant action is required immediately.

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