COP15: Starting point is + 3.5°C
4 December 2009: Except for India, all countries in the world have now laid a number on the table regarding their ambition for greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the next few decades. The accumulation of these pledges is expected to give rise to a 3.5°C increase of the average global temperature in the 21st century. Reaching the ultimate goal of a 2°C maximum increase is still far away. On the other hand, current pledges are only the starting point for the Copenhagen negotiations.
The models that are the basis of the calculations indicate an uncertainty range from 2.8°C to 4.3°C. Both developed and developing nations are still far behind the pledges that would be necessary to stay under 2°C. The cumulative pledge of rich countries is about net 8%-14% under 1990 levels (needs to be 25%-40%). See also the press release.
By the way, India’s pledge is expected soon. Not confirmed yet, but the latest rumour mentions a 24% cut of carbon intensity between 2005 and 2020.
In two days Copenhagen will be the stage where some 15,000 negotiators and observers from 192 countries will discuss the world’s future climate policies. Ultimately on 19 December we will know which speculation about the outcome was wrong – definitely most of them, and which were right. And perhaps we will be surprised.
Next week, the technical discussions about procedures and texts will take place. For non-specialists these conventions are quite boring. They consist of detailed elaborations on chapters and texts of earlier or future agreements. However, they are necessary and they really matter, because they contain the detailed procedures for the actions for mitigation, adaptation or financing that are ‘valid’ for the international negotiations.
But they need to be explained for the laymen.
The second week of Copenhagen, starting on 13 December, will build up to the real Summit of Government leaders on the 17-18 December. Many government leaders have confirmed their attendance. US President Obama will stop by in Copenhagen on the 9th on his way to Oslo, to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He has not yet confirmed a second visit to Copenhagen during the Summit.
New shots have been fired recently. See for instance the threat of the Indian minister of environment to walk out of the negotiations, together with other developing countries, if the richer countries won’t improve their bids.
Collapse or success?
An interesting new view on the Copenhagen outcome came from James Hansen, top-scientist at NASA. He hopes for a complete failure of Copenhagen, forcing the world to start negotiating all over again. He expects a Copenhagen agreement at this moment will be flawed too much to provide a perspective on stopping climate change.
Niklas Höhne of Ecofys completely disagrees: “A Copenhagen failure will cost us at least five years. Of course there will be individual activities and bilateral agreements, such as between China and the US. But these pledges will be less meaningful than a Copenhagen agreement. So let’s strive for a political agreement, to be finalised into a binding agreement next year.”
Meanwhile, the climate research community has been aroused by the so-called ClimateGate affair. A couple of weeks ago, a hacker published e-mails from the British Climate Research Institute CSU that are very damaging for the reliability of climate research. Everywhere on the internet discussions are taking place about it.
Skeptics say data manipulation and exaggeration have discredited the whole climate change community. Nobel Prize winner Rajendra Pachauri of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change denies that the 2007 outcome of the IPCC assessments will change a bit.
The e-mails are quite damaging for climate science. A lot of people feel deceived, but at present, the case does not yet seem to affect ‘Copenhagen’. That is not so strange. Years of solid scientific work will not fade away because of suspicious contents of emails – although they will be taken into the equation.
In my view, the scientists’ discussion and the political discussion are two different things – although closely related. First you have the science. In principle, models will never prove for a full 100% a causal relation between emissions and climate change. But the evidence until now is overwhelming. On their turn, politicians have the responsibility to consider the consequences and do something about it, or not.
Anyhow, I have always argued that CO2 is not the only reason for a sustainable energy supply. Sustainable energy will serve business, the economy, the local environment and last but not least independence, especially for the poor that don’t have access to energy at present. So the insurance premium against climate change is almost for free…
Posted 08/12/2009 by Rolf de Vos
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