Copenhagen Accord puts world on pathway to 3ºC

by Gareth on April 22, 2010

German scientists have added up the emissions reductions pledged in the Copenhagen Accord and calculate that they put the planet on a pathway that misses the Accord’s stated 2ºC target, and only delivers a 50/50 chance of coming in under 3ºC by the end of the century. In an opinion article in this week’s Nature, Copenhagen Accord pledges are paltry, Joeri Roelgj et al show how the current emissions commitments amount to little better than “business as usual”, and effectively mean that global emissions will have increased by 20% by 2020. The key points in the article are:

  • Nations will probably meet only the lower ends of their emissions pledges in the absence of a binding international agreement
  • Nations can bank an estimated 12 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalents surplus allowances for use after 2012
  • Land-use rules are likely to result in further allowance increases of 0.5 GtCO2-eq per year
  • Global emissions in 2020 could thus be up to 20% higher than today
  • Current pledges mean a greater than 50% chance that warming will exceed 3°C by 2100
  • If nations agree to halve emissions by 2050, there is still a 50% chance that warming will exceed 2°C and will almost certainly exceed 1.5°C

A lack of ambition now means that countries will face steep emissions cuts in future. Co-author Malte Meinshausen told the BBC:

In an ideal world, if you pull off every possible emission reduction from the year 2021 onwards, you can still get to get to 2C if you’re lucky. But it is like racing towards the cliff and hoping you stop just before it.

Commenting on the article, Andy Reisinger of VUW’s Climate Change Research Institute told the SMC:

“This analysis shows that it is imperative to substantially strengthen the emissions targets for 2020 as part of a strong international agreement if the world is to have a realistic chance of limiting warming to 2°C. We are no longer gambling the future of the planet — if we stick with current emissions targets we are folding our cards entirely and leaving it to our (and other people’s) kids to pay our accumulated debts.”

VUW’s Martin Manning points out that politicians need to be given the mandate to act decisively:

It is becoming increasingly obvious that dealing with climate change is something that needs to become driven by society more broadly. People need to consider how much of a problem we want to pass on to our grandchildren and tell politics and industry to act accordingly.

The BBC coverage is excellent, dramatically illustrating the lack of ambition in European targets. Reports also at the Herald & Stuff

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim Sokolich April 22, 2010 at 12:42 am

It's a shame that most people still take no notice (the three monkeys come to mind). And how can the NZH print that article and STILL print opinion pieces from one of stupidest, ignorant men I have had the misfortune to read?
Apparently according the god-botherer Garth, God put the sun in 'orbit', probably 10,000 years ago if he was pressed for an answer. It beggars belief that they print the stuff he writes. Why don't we have opinion pieces in there from other extremists, because that is what he is. I'm going to email him but I fear he'll just think I'm a devil worshipper and delete it.

Gareth April 22, 2010 at 12:46 am

Stay tuned for something on Garth's latest eruption…

RW1 April 22, 2010 at 6:05 am

For all the sense George makes, his vapourings may as well have come from his rear nether anatomy. Very low standards on the Herald's part.

dappledwater April 22, 2010 at 10:19 am

Yup, the analysis pretty much confirms what James Hansen has insisted for some time now – the proposed reductions will be insufficient to stave off dangerous climate change.

Jonathan April 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Actually this is but the latest science article saying that we are most like to break the 2'C theoretically safe warming barrier.

Earlier this year UNEP did a short internal note called "How Close are we to the Two Degree Limit?"

And last year I did an appraisal that came to the same conclusion. The on-line version of which is here

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