Study: Climate negotiations relying on 'dangerous' thresholds to avoid catastrophe will not succeed

Oct 15, 2012

The identified critical threshold for dangerous climate change saying that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius seems not to have helped the climate negotiations so far. New research from the University of Gothenburg and Columbia University shows that negotiations based on such a threshold fail because its value is determined by Nature and is inherently uncertain. Climate negotiators should therefore focus on other collective strategies.

Presenting their results in the (PNAS), Astrid Dannenberg, Postdoc researcher at the Environmental Economics Unit, University of Gothenburg and Columbia University, and Professor Scott Barrett, Columbia University, explain the paradox of why countries would agree to a collective goal, aimed at reducing the risk of climate catastrophe, but act as if they were blind to this risk.

If the critical threshold for climate catastrophe could be identified with scientific certainty, their research suggests that countries very likely would propose a collective target certain to avoid catastrophe, would pledge to contribute their fair share to the global effort, and would act so as to fulfill their promises. However, if there is scientific uncertainty about the climate threshold, countries are very likely to do less collectively than is needed to avert catastrophe. Dannenberg and Barrett, who provide , grounded in a new analytical framework, show that failure of negotiations is practically certain, because the climate threshold is determined by Nature, and uncertainty about its value is substantially irreducible.

" are more complex that the game played by the participants in our experiment. The basic incentive problem, however, is the same and our research shows that scientific uncertainty about the dangerous threshold changes behavior dramatically," Dannenberg says.

Their research may explain why the UN negotiations have been framed around meeting the 2 degrees Celsius threshold and why negotiators wanted the threshold to be determined by science rather than by politics because only the former would be credible. Yet, the emission reductions countries have pledged in Copenhagen in 2009 virtually guarantee that this target will be missed.

"We will not know until 2020 if the Copenhagen Accord pledges will be met, but if our results are a reliable guide, countries may end up emitting even more than they pledged – with potentially profound and possibly irreversible consequences. Our research suggests that negotiators should focus their attention on alternative strategies for collective action, such as trade restrictions or technology standards," Barrett says.

Explore further: Colorado River Delta greener after engineered pulse of water

Related Stories

UN: Emission pledges fall short of climate target

Nov 23, 2010

(AP) -- Emissions cuts pledged by countries in a nonbinding climate accord last year fall short of what's needed to avoid the worst consequences of global warming, the U.N.'s environment agency said Tuesday.

China rules out 2015 climate deal deadline

Nov 30, 2011

A European drive to forge a legally-binding deal on climate change by 2015 that would include all major carbon polluters is "too much", a senior Chinese negotiator said at UN talks here.

Recommended for you

Obama bars oil, gas drilling in Alaska haven

11 hours ago

President Barack Obama declared Alaska's ecologically rich Bristol Bay off-limits for oil and gas exploration on Tuesday, saying the move was necessary to safeguard the region's fishing and tourism industries.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Jitterbewegung
1.6 / 5 (7) Oct 15, 2012
Newa just in.
HadCRUT4 says no change in global temperature in the last 16 years.

http://www.metoff..._avg.txt
VendicarD
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 16, 2012
But hadcrut 4 shows warming for the last 17 years and warming for the last 15 years.

And when I plot it for 16 years it shows warming there too.

https://docs.goog...QNlhKSVE

Poor JitterBoy. If only he had learned how to add and subtract.
Howhot
5 / 5 (3) Oct 18, 2012
HadCRUT4 says no change in global temperature in the last 16 years.

Is that a fact, or just made up crap from some far right blog-o-sphere nonsense factory where most of your BS factoids come from. Oh its the later because you didn't even read what the text says.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.