Ben­e­fits of green­house gas pact may fall short of high hopes

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

A pact by al­most 200 na­tions to slash green­house gases used in re­frig­er­a­tors and air con­di­tion­ers will likely fall short of gov­ern­ments’ hopes of avert­ing a full half-de­gree Cel­sius (0.9 Fahren­heit) of warm­ing this cen­tury, sci­en­tists say.

Satur­day’s agree­ment in Ki­gali, Rwanda, is the big­gest sin­gle step to limit cli­mate change since gov­ern­ments reached a global agree­ment in Paris last year to shift the world econ­omy from fos­sil fuels this cen­tury.

Amid cel­e­bra­tions of the legally bind­ing Ki­gali pact to phase down use of fac­tory-made hy­droflu­o­ro­car­bons (HFCs), many gov­ern­ments and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists said it could avert 0.5C of warm­ing this cen­tury, cit­ing a 2013 sci­en­tific study. But some lead­ing re­searchers ex­pect it will be less. Ea­ger to de­clare a vic­tory, gov­ern­ments glossed over many un­cer­tain­ties about HFCs. Some more re­cent re­search in­di­cates HFCs may be less pow­er­ful in trap­ping heat than once feared, said Michiel Scha­ef­fer of Cli­mate An­a­lyt­ics. “My guessti­mate would be around 0.2 de­gree Cel­sius (0.36F) by 2100” of avoided warm­ing, he said. Cli­mate An­a­lyt­ics is one of four Euro­pean re­search groups work­ing to­gether to project tem­per­a­tures based on gov­ern­ment pledges.

Their Cli­mate Action Tracker in­di­cates that gov­ern­ment prom­ises for cut­ting green­house gases - if all car­ried out and be­fore ac­count­ing for the HFC agree­ment - would raise av­er­age tem­per­a­tures by 2.7C (4.9F) over pre-in­dus­trial times by 2100. Half a de­gree would be a gi­gan­tic sav­ing. Last year’s Paris Agree­ment set an over-rid­ing goal of lim­it­ing a rise in av­er­age tem­per­a­tures to “well be­low” 2C (3.6F), ideally just 1.5C (2.7F), to avert more droughts, floods, ris­ing sea lev­els and food and wa­ter short­ages.

US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry, whose gov­ern­ment hopes to leave a strong legacy in fight­ing global warm­ing, hailed the Ki­gali agree­ment as a “mon­u­men­tal” step for­ward. “It will give us the op­por­tu­nity to re­duce the warm­ing of the planet by an en­tire half a de­gree centi­grade,” he said.

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