Do as I say, not as I do

The countries that have pledged emissions reductions under the Copenhagen Accord are having some trouble with their math. In a hot crowded room tonight, scientists outlined the findings from the United Nations Environment Program report that showed without a doubt that the current proposed emissions reductions are not enough to keep the world from becoming less than 2 degrees warmer.

The 2 degree target was chosen because it is thought to be the level that would avoid “dangerous climate change”- the runaway effect of natural feedback systems. However, there’s lots of evidence that there are some pretty dangerous impacts from  less than 2 degrees, and everyone has agreed to assess whether 1.5 degrees is a better target.

To achieve the 2 degree target, we would have to be emitting no more than 44 gigatonnes (GT) of carbon in the year 2020, yet we are already at 48 GT. But reducing by 10 GT in 10 years is a breeze compared to the cuts that need to come after. By 2050 we would need be emitting no more than 20 GT, and eventually make it to zero or even go negative.

Even if all the “holes” with the Copenhagen Accord were tightened up- forestry gaps and use of excess credits from the Kyoto agreement-we would still have a gap of 5 GT between what is pledged and what is required. This is not small beans- it’s equivalent to the global annual emissions from all cars, buses and trucks in 2005.

The report also outline which emissions pathways we could follow that could keep us below 2 degrees, and all of them involved stronger cuts than currently exists. The Copenhagen Accord, either “holey” or fixed, will not take us to where we need to be for achieve 2 degrees.


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