Carbon cuts will only give us a 50/50 chance of saving the planet

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New research from the UK Met Office, one of the world’s leading providers of environmental and weather-related services, shows that the world’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions would only offer a 50-50 chance of keeping temperature rises below the two degree threshold.

Dr Vicky Pope, Head of Climate Change Advice at the Met Office states: "Even with drastic cuts in emissions in the next 10 years, our results project that there will only be around a 50% chance of keeping global temperatures rises below 2 °C.

"This idealised emissions scenario is based on emissions peaking in 2015 and quickly changing from an increase of 2–3% per year to a decrease of 3% per year. For every 10 years we delay action another 0.5 °C will be added to the most likely temperature rise."

The new research shows that early action against man-made climate change is a must to be able to avoid the doomsday scenarios that comes with a two degree increase in global temperatures.

“These new figures suggest quite unambiguously that the world is on course for calamity unless rapid action can be taken which is far more drastic than any politicians are so far contemplating – never mind the general public.

If action is sluggish or non-existent, the model suggests that climate change is likely to cause almost unthinkable damage to the world; under a "business-as-usual" scenario, with no action taken at all and emissions increasing by more than 100 per cent by 2050, the end-of-the-century rise in global average temperatures is likely to be 5.5C, with a worst-case outcome of 7.1C – which would make much of life on earth impossible.”

The new findings from the UK Met Office were presented at the Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions Congress in Copenhagen last week. And they will put even more pressure on the countries around the world now starting to gather and negotiate in Copenhagen for the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference this December – the last chance we have to take action against “the greatest threat the world has ever faced”.

Al Gore says the world will agree on a new and better climate deal this time. He argues that a "political tipping point" regarding climate change has been reached:

"There is a very impressive consensus now emerging around the world that the solutions to the economic crisis are also the solutions to the climate crisis," he says. "I actually think we will get an agreement at Copenhagen."

I am on the other hand not that optimistic. Sure, we might reach an agreement in Copenhagen. But will it be a strong agreement that actually take the new scientific findings into account? Or will it surrender to short-sighted economic gains from corporate interests?

I do see light in the tunnel. With the election of Barack Obama we got rid of the ignorant and idiotic stopping block, that is to say George Bush and the Republican Party. But even Obama is showing signs of weakness. Todd Stern, the Obama administration’s new top climate-change negotiator, says that a 25% greenhouse gas reduction by 2020 is "not possible":

“It’s not possible to get that kind of number. It’s not going to happen,”

And so far all the climate conferences and talks have ended in a total failure. The climate targets that have been set and agreed on are too conservative and don’t take the science into account. And pretty much all the reductions that countries so far have managed to do have been by outsourcing the pollution to poorer developing countries. For example the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznań, Poland, ended in embarrassment for the European Union when it’s leaders failed to agree on a strong climate deal. George Monbiot, Europe’s leading green commentator, even called the new EU deal for “carbon colonialism”.

What we need is a new stronger climate deal that is based on science and not corporate interests. We need a climate deal with a goal of 350 ppm as a level to balance and stabilize the CO2 in our atmosphere. And we need a climate deal that includes sanctions against countries that do not follow the climate roadmap. Is that really too much to ask for?


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Simon Leufstedt
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