Friday, February 12, 2010

Carbon targets pledged at Copenhagen 'fail to keep temperature rise to 2C'

MIT analysis shows pledges submitted to the UN falls short of reduction targets by at least 11bn tonnes of CO2

John Vidal, Friday 12 February 2010

The pledges made by governments resulting from the Copenhagen climate conference are nowhere near enough to hold global temperatures to the summit's agreed goal of no more than a 2C rise, researchers have calculated. The results, which are the most rigorous analyses yet made of pledges submitted to the UN last month, will increase pressure on rich countries to make far deeper cuts in negotiations over the next year.

Researchers from the Sustainability Institute, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Ventana Systems in the US conclude that emissions reduction pledges would allow global mean temperature to increase approximately 3.9C, a level that could see global warming run out of control. "Under the current proposals, global emissions of greenhouse gases would increase 0.8C a year between now and 2020, , warned the joint report. It concluded that to reach the Copenhagen accord's goal of no more than a 2C rise, global emissions must peak within the next decade and fall to at least 50% below 1990 levels by 2050, which would require emissions cuts of 3% annually after 2020.

"A new degree of collective ambition and cooperation will be required before the world sees a climate agreement consistent with limited warming to even 2C let alone the 1.5C goal named by a growing number of governments and civil society groups," said Elizabeth Sawin of Sustainability Institute in Hartland, Vermont, referring to a push at Copenhagen by the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) and 48 developing nations for a deal that limits temperature rises to 1.5C.

"The situation is serious. An increase of temperature of more than 1C above pre-industrial levels would result in the disappearance of our glaciers in the Andes, and the flooding of various islands and coastal zones," said Bolivian foreign minister minister, David Choquehuanca, responding to the US study. Scientists are agreed that an overall rise of 2C in world temperatures would be serious for food production, species loss and freshwater supplies. But anything over 3C would lead to the collapse of the Amazon rainforest, crippling water shortages across South America and Australia and the near-extinction of tropical coral reefs, they have said.

Earlier this week, teams of European researchers from Ecofys, Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute in Germany concluded that the pledges made so far if acted upon would lead to a global temperature rising "over" 3C.

The low end of the reduction proposals made by governments at Copenhagen would deliver a reduction of only 2 billion tonnes by 2020, and the best would be nine billion tonnes. However, at least 13-17 billion tonnes of reductions are needed to have more than an even chance of limiting warming to 2C.They said that only two out of 10 developed countries' reduction targets submitted to the Copenhagen accord qualify as "sufficient" to keep global temperature rise below 2C.

In the lead, said the European researchers, were the Maldives and Costa Rica, which have proposed to become "climate-neutral" by around 2020. Also at the ambitious end of the scale are Norway, Japan and Brazil, which are proposing to reduce their emissions significantly.

A third analysis of the pledges of only developed countries, undertaken by the US-based World Resources Institute, concluded that they fall "far short of the range of 25-40% emission reductions [by 2020] that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is needed to stabilise concentrations of CO2 equivalent at 450 parts per million ppm" Climate campaigners such as Bill McKibben have been pushing for a limit of 350 ppm.

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