Gov­ern­ments take rose-tinted view of cli­mate pro­jec­tions

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH -

OSLO: Be­fore a sum­mit on cli­mate change in Paris next week, many gov­ern­ments are cit­ing sci­en­tific stud­ies in­di­cat­ing that their plans to curb green­house gas emis­sions un­til 2030 will come within 0.7 de­grees Cel­sius of an agreed 2C (3.6 Fahren­heit) tar­get for lim­it­ing global warm­ing this cen­tury.

Yet the stud­ies they choose to quote are only the most op­ti­mistic of a range of pro­jec­tions, and pre­sume that gov­ern­ments will go on to make even deeper emis­sion cuts af­ter 2030, which is far from cer­tain.

With no ac­tion, a UN sci­en­tific panel es­ti­mates that the global av­er­age sur­face tem­per­a­ture in 2100 will be around 4.8C (8.6F) above pre-in­dus­trial times, dra­mat­i­cally in­creas­ing the fre­quency of ex­treme weather events and rais­ing the sea level. To avoid the worst of th­ese ef­fects, a ceil­ing of 2C has been agreed, and about 170 gov­ern­ments have sub­mit­ted na­tional plans be­fore the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 sum­mit to curb emis­sions from 2020-30.

Keen to show their poli­cies will work, many cite two es­ti­mates that the pledges so far could limit the rise to 2.7C (4.9F). US Cli­mate En­voy Todd Stern men­tioned 2.7C in tes­ti­mony to a Se­nate sub-com­mit­tee last month, say­ing na­tional poli­cies marked “a pow­er­ful move in the right di­rec­tion”.

Chris­tiana Figueres, the head of the UN Cli­mate Sec­re­tariat, summed up the na­tional plans in a re­port last month by say­ing they “have the ca­pa­bil­ity of lim­it­ing the forecast tem­per­a­ture rise to around 2.7 de­grees Cel­sius by 2100”.

Yet Bill Hare, one of the sci­en­tists be­hind Cli­mate Ac­tion Tracker (CAT), a group of four Euro­pean in­sti­tutes that first es­ti­mated 2.7C, said prom­ises for ac­tion un­til 2030 “mark progress, but cur­rent poli­cies are far from enough”.

He said the CAT es­ti­mate re­quired all coun­tries to con­tinue deeper curbs on emis­sions right up to 2100 - far-stricter than the as­sump­tions by most other re­search in­sti­tutes.

The In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency also es­ti­mates an in­crease of 2.7C. But pro­jec­tions by at least 10 re­search groups range up to a rise of 3.7C (6.7F).

Thomas Spencer, of the In­sti­tute for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions in France, noted that there were huge un­cer­tain­ties in all pro­jec­tions be­yond 2030: “It’s like try­ing to pre­dict the win­ner of a marathon af­ter only the first 10 km.”

Bjorn Lom­borg, head of the Copen­hagen Con­sen­sus Cen­ter who won fame with his 2001 book “The Skep­ti­cal En­vi­ron­men­tal­ist”, reck­ons cur­rent na­tional plans will only make a frac­tion of a de­gree of dif­fer­ence to warm­ing this cen­tury.

“It’s like say­ing Greece is on track to solve its debt cri­sis af­ter pay­ing a first in­stal­ment of a loan,” he said.

This year is on track to be the warm­est on record, al­ready about 1.0C (1.8F) above pre-in­dus­trial times. An­drew Jones of US-based ex­perts Cli­mate In­ter­ac­tive, which es­ti­mated with MIT Sloan that the ex­ist­ing pledges put the globe on track for 3.5C (6.3C) of warm­ing by 2100, said 94 per­cent of the dif­fer­ence with CAT hinged on less op­ti­mistic pro­jec­tions about what hap­pens af­ter 2030.

Cli­mate In­ter­ac­tive reck­ons, for in­stance, that over­all green­house gas emis­sions from China, the world’s big­gest emit­ter, will rise af­ter 2030, while CAT says they will fall. —Reuters

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