The question of two degrees

At Cancun the consensus was that temperature rises must be stopped at 2 degrees higher than the beginning of the century. Despite some countries pleas for a rise below 1.5 degrees, with low lying, and less developed nations being the most threatened by rising sea levels, the cap at present for average global temperature is 2 degrees.

We currently stand at about a rise of 0.8 degrees, which for many does not sound like a significant rise at all, but we have already seen the impacts. More and more extreme weather events are getting blamed on climate change, the flooding in the UK, the European heat waves, and typhoons in Australia. And we have already witnessed significant melting of the ice in the Arctic, another event directly linked to the changes in climate.

So what would a two degree mean? In Rob Hopkin’s book ‘The Transition Handbook’, he looks at a world where a two degrees rise is realised, a world which we are currently on a path towards. If global tempuratures peak at two degrees, the melting of the ice will increase significantly, extreme weather events will continue to increase and much of the world’s coral reefs could be destroyed.

However, recent research paints an even more pessimistic picture. Mark Lynas’ blog post, gives a good reflection of the new research, published in the Geophysical Research Letters, and conducted by a Canadian team. The researcher used new methods of tracking and predicting temperature changes, finding that 2 degrees Celsius is out of reach, and unachievable, making the calls from the nations wanting 1.5 degrees even more futile, something the developed nations have pledged to review between 2013 and 2015.

So what could this research mean? Well if this new process is included in the next IPCC predictions, there could be a much wider calls for real and urgent action to prevent this rise being realised. Could this then filter down into the negotiations between countries, the pledges by governments and the actions by businesses and organisations to make real changes, and energy groups to make further and quicker moves away from fossil fuels and towards renewables.

I don’t want to bring more pessimism, but I somehow think this could be a little doubtful. If previous experience is anything to go by, this new research could provide a talking point for a while, but whether this equates to real action is a whole other story. Even worse, the research could be somewhat ignored and not even considered outside of the scientific world.

Rob Hopkins, in his book, says that realistically even to meet current targets much firmer action is needed, bigger cuts in a shorter time frame. The 80 per cent emissions target for the UK, while ambitious, and possibly unachievable at the current rate, would not be enough to reach the targets needed. Hopkins believes not even 100 per cent reductions is enough, but as much as 110-120 per cent, removing all emissions and sequestering carbon that has already been emitted.

What will happen is yet to be seen, and it may not be noticeable until it is too late to do anything about. While the current push is a start, it would appear we need to be cutting deeper and quicker. However, for now it is the case of wait and see, and try to do the little things we can to limit our own impact, while continuing to push action in the wider world.

Thanks to NOAA for the pictures.

All views mine and mine alone.

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