3C of separation: COP15’s failure

The shape of things to come?

A recent Nature paper is worth reading, if only for pondering the implications. As reported by the BBC:

Pledges made at December’s UN summit in Copenhagen are unlikely to keep global warming below 2C, a study concludes.

Writing in the journal Nature, analysts at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research in Germany say a rise of at least 3C by 2100 is likely.

The team also says many countries, including EU members and China, have pledged slower carbon curbs than they have been achieving anyway.

They say a new global deal is needed if deeper cuts are to materialise.

“There’s a big mismatch between the ambitious goal, which is 2C… and the emissions reductions,” said Potsdam’s Malte Meinshausen.

The paper can be found here: Copenhagen Accord pledges are paltry, Nature 464, 1126-1128 (22 April 2010) | doi:10.1038/4641126a

The shape of things to come?

3C may not sound a lot.

But how about a 4C world? Consider some of the papers of a conference held in Oxford in late 2009. Take the time to review the papers, presentations and audio materials. Before anyone rushes to accuse me of alarmism, I’d like to state that models can contain a degree of uncertainty.

This is about probabilities: just like smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, continuing to emit CO2 at presents rates nudges us closer to a 4C world.

Dr Mark New, the Conference steering committee leader, provides an overview:

Time for greater reflection on what can be done.

Time to consider the next steps.

Time to act.

4 thoughts on “3C of separation: COP15’s failure

  1. Jonathan says:

    Actually this is but the latest science article saying that we are most like to break the 2’C theoretically safe warming barrier.

    Earlier this year UNEP did a short internal note called “How Close are we to the Two Degree Limit?”

    And last year I did an appraisal that came to the same conclusion. The on-line version of which is here

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Jonathan, thanks for the link to your paper – I’ve started rading the paper and looking at your other resources. I like the multi-disciplinary approach and consideration of how CC will impact biology, ecology and human society.

      You put the impact of temperature drops/rises into the right context:

      “To put this 2 – 4 ºC warming window for the 21st century into context, the average global temperature was about 5 ºC or so cooler than 1990 during the depth of the last ice age (glacial). In short we will, over the next hundred years give or take a decade or two, warm the Earth by the same temperature difference as between now and the depth of the last ice age (glacial) some 25 thousand years ago!”

      I find it incredible that many deniers continue to use the argument that “the Earth has always cooled/warmed”. True, no one is denying that. It’s the speed in which we are doing it that should be alarming.

      Your conclusion is worth noting:

      “Yes, there are these aforementioned threshold events. For example, one of these might be the warming of the oceans releasing methane from methane hydrates. Methane is a greenhouse gas that over a few decades is far more powerful than carbon dioxide. Another is that permafrosts, or peat lands, might be more sensitive to carbon dioxide release with warming than is thought. (For example some recent research(10) suggests that warming of just 1°C could result in northern, high-latitude peats losing 38 – 100 megatonnes of carbon a year (which is worth about 2.4- 6.3 billion Euros based on current carbon trading prices.)) Another could be that some tropical rain forests could be on the point of collapse with trees dying and in turn releasing their carbon into the atmosphere. Another might be that some ice fields (be they in west Antarctica or Greenland) might start melting a lot faster with only a little warming… You get the idea…”

      Obviously sober thoughts. Have you read Clive Hamilton’s Requim for a Species?


      Hamilton talks about the inevitability of a 2C (if not >4C) world. He takes the long view: climate change is now unavoidable, we should be getting ready for it’s inevitable consequences. He cautions againts “false hope”.

      Here’s a review in the Sydney Morning Herald:


      I’ve read it once, reading it again before I review it on this blog.

      With your permission, I’d like to link your paper in upcoming review of the Hamilton book as further examples of the emerging awareness of what our failure to curb Co2 emissions means.

  2. manuelg says:

    But, but, but, RPJr’s book review from Nature March 17 2010



    “exhortation and authority are not enough to solve the climate crisis — it is time for some humility!”

    Haven’t we learned from RPJr that “facts” can be contaminated by scientists who don’t absolve themselves of the preference for one environmental outcome over another? We cannot trust the “facts” of scientists who prefer an environment consistent with human existence, over an environment consistent with a bug infested human-free heated marsh. A truly scientific mind must embrace total nihilism [oddly, no other actor in the debate is so required to handicap themselves…].

    Quick, hook these alleged scientists to the RPjr “Humble-Meter”!


    The denialists have already realized that Bjorn is spent. After RPJr’s book is published, I will feel relief as he most assuredly flings himself off the same cliff.

    I will thank Nature only after they go a few years without aiding the obscurantists.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Thanks for the links Manuel, indeed this is the exact dilemna we face. We can’t keep saying “Here are the facts, now act accordingly”. But RPjr’s piece is well… let me be polite and say his approach is not very helpful.

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