“Equivalent to racing towards a cliff and hoping to stop just before it”
- “Copenhagen Accord pledges are paltry”
Nature, April 22 (subscription required)
- “Report points to Canada’s lack of emissions cuts”
Vancouver Sun, April 22.
- “Copenhagen Accord misses 2° C climate target”
News Release April 22, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
by Ben Webster
Times Online, April 21, 2010
The national pledges on cutting emissions made under the Copenhagen Accord are so weak that they have left the world “in dire peril” from rising temperatures, according to a leading scientific research institute.
Political leaders, including Gordon Brown, exaggerated the significance of the accord by claiming that it would limit the increase in temperature to 2C, the study found.
The “unambitious” emissions cuts by 2020 agreed under the accord meant that the actual increase would exceed 3C, which would trigger regular heatwaves across Europe similar to the one in 2003 that killed 30,000 people.
In an analysis published by the journal Nature, researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that the 76 countries that had made pledges under the accord had put off making difficult decisions and were “betting on extreme reduction rates” in emissions after 2020.
They said this was “equivalent to racing towards a cliff and hoping to stop just before it”.
The institute accused Lord Stern of Brentford and other government advisers of misleading world leaders by suggesting that emission reductions of 4-5 per cent a year were possible after 2020.
“Such pathways lull decision-makers into a false sense of security that emissions trends can continue upwards for the next decade without any ramifications.”
The institute concluded: “The prospects for limiting global warming to 2C — or even to 1.5C as more than 100 nations demand — are in dire peril.” Most climate scientists believe that warming of 3C would lead to more frequent droughts, floods, storms and rising sea levels.
The Amazon rainforest could reach a tipping point where extreme heat and lower rainfall resulted in much of the canopy being replaced by desert and savannah.
The oceans would become increasingly acidic from absorbed CO2, bleaching coral reefs and destroying many species of plankton and shellfish.
The Met Office said that a global average increase of 3C would conceal more extreme temperatures in some regions, with the hottest days of the year in Europe being 7C warmer and the temperature in the Arctic rising by 8C.
The vaguely worded Copenhagen accord, hastily agreed in the final hours of last December’s summit, sets a goal of limiting warming to 2C but does not set out how this will be achieved nor provide any overall emissions targets. The national pledges on cutting emissions made under the accord are only voluntary.
The institute found that if these promises were carried out, global yearly emissions of greenhouse gases would increase by 10 to 20 per cent above current levels, reaching the equivalent of 47.9-53.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2020.
“This would result in a greater than 50 per cent chance that warming will exceed 3C (5.4F) by 2100,” the institute said.
“To be on track for meeting the ‘below 2C’ climate target, global emissions of no more than 40 to 44 gigatonnes (billion tonnes) of CO2 equivalent have to be achieved by 2020.”
The researchers said that the accord failed to address the problem of countries carrying forward 12 billion tonnes of surplus emissions allowances for use after 2012. The weak targets set by the Kyoto Protocol meant that several countries have not used up all the allowances they had been allocated for the 2008-12 period.
“The Copenhagen Accord does not mention whether banked surpluses can be used. Because anything profitable is likely to be pursued, we assume that nations will [use[ these.”
A spokesman for Lord Stern denied that he had misled politicians by making unrealistic assumptions about rapid emissions cuts after 2020.
He said: “We said it was difficult to achieve an average reduction of 4 per cent a year after 2020, but it is not impossible.” “