Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Climate change: Committing to failure

Last year, in an effort to snatch some good spin from the disaster of the Copenhagen climate talks, wealthy nations signed up to the meaningless Copenhagen Accord. The accord commits its parties to limiting climate change to less than 2 degrees of warming. But an analysis of the parties' non-binding emissions-reduction targets by New Scientist shows that they will fail to meet this promise:

The commitments were made to meet a deadline set at the climate talks held in Copenhagen in December. But they mostly reiterate national pledges made before the summit, and are steeped in conditions. The US, for instance, reaffirmed its commitment to cut emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels, contingent on legislation being passed at home. China repeated that it would "endeavour to lower its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 per cent" between 2005 and 2020.

"The vast majority of nations has failed to seize this opportunity to make their pledges more ambitious," says Niklas Höhne, a policy analyst at Ecofys in Cologne, Germany. "Our analysis suggests that the world is still on track for a 3.5 °C rise."

According to the IPCC [PDF], 3.5 degrees means "widespread coral mortality", 30% of all species going extinct, the biosphere becoming a net carbon source rather than a sink, increased water stress and decreased cereal productivity. Or, in English, mass drought and famine, followed inevitably by war. That's what our short-sighted "leaders" are committing us to. Time to de-elect them all and get better ones.