Is UN negotiating an unattainable climate goal?

Jun 13, 2013 by Claire Snegaroff
French climatologist Jean Jouzel poses on March 13, 2013 in Paris. "The two-degree limit is perhaps symbolic, but if we exceed it, we take big risks," said Jouzel—pointing out the world is not geared for the climate extremes likely to result from a higher level of warming.

As UN negotiators roll up their sleeves for the last push towards a universal climate deal, many fear their end-goal of halting global warming at two degrees Celsius is moving out of reach.

In the corridors of UN gatherings, negotiators concede the window of opportunity appears to be closing.

Few will admit this on the record, and none will even consider shifting the goal posts even as science points to a likely four-degree increase on current trends.

"The two-degree limit is perhaps symbolic, but if we exceed it, we take big risks," said Jean Jouzel—pointing out the world is not geared for the climate extremes likely to result from a higher level of warming.

"On paper it (2 C) is still possible," Jouzel, vice president of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (), told AFP—while admitting "it seems difficult".

The target of limiting planetary warming to 2 C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels was formally adopted at a UN in Copenhagen in 2009, and remains the holy grail for negotiators drafting a new, that must enter into force in 2020.

A 12-day session of talks that will close in Bonn on Friday forms part of the countdown to a much-anticipated UN summit in Paris in 2015 tasked with signing the most ambitious deal yet in the fight against global warming.

The pact will for the first time bind all the world's nations to measurable targets for curbing Earth-warming .

But while negotiators whittle away at geopolitical intricacies to agree on who must cut back how much, the level of pollutants being pumped into the atmosphere continues to rise.

Last month, the concentration of climate-altering carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere exceeded 400 particles per million for the first time since humans have walked the Earth.

The last report of the IPCC, which informs policy makers, said a 400 ppm ceiling was key to halting the thermometer rise at between 2 C and 2.4 C.

Last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said the world was on course for a temperature rise of between 3.6 C and 5.3 C.

Former UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said last year the two-degree objective was "out of reach".

And just this week, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs think tank wrote in The Guardian newspaper that "the two-degree target will have to be modified eventually."

"Nobody really wants to talk about the coming failure of the 2 C target. But from a political point of view it is pretty clear that a target that is considered to be unattainable cannot fulfil either a positive symbolic function or a productive governance function," it said.

The 20-year-old global climate negotiations have been hamstrung from the very beginning by nitpicking, procedural bickering and defence of national interests.

As the UN process hobbles along, national and bilateral efforts have started yielding results—take a US-China deal reached last week to phase out potent "super greenhouse gases"—hydrofluorocarbons found in refrigerators and air conditioners.

Yet the UN's 2 C target—the only tangible goal for negotiators—retains many staunch defenders, including EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard, who told a recent Paris conference the world couldn't just shift the target because it was "challenging".

The IEA said the 2 C target could still be met with political will to make a global move away from coal-fired power stations and phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

According to Jason Lowe of the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Exeter, sticking to a 2 C scenario would avoid one-fifth of the water stress problems associated with 4 C, and result in two-thirds fewer coastal flood victims.

"In terms of spring wheat productivity, it (2 C) avoids between a third and a half" of impacts, he said.

— Flight of fancy? —

According to climatologist Jouzel, "we must cut our emissions by half at least from now to 2050, with a peak in 2020 at the latest" to stand any chance of keeping warming in check.

"We need political will and vision, and for the moment we don't have it," said one European negotiator in Bonn—while stressing the 2 C target must not be changed.

"If we raise it, why would we stop at 3C? We cannot allow that kind of thinking."

For Ronald Jumeau, the negotiator for Seychelles—one of the nations most at risk of -induced sea level rise—tampering with the target would amount to "sacrificing" the world's most vulnerable people.

In fact, Seychelles and other island states want it lowered to 1.5 C.

"If we were to abandon the 1.5-2 C target, the for the SIDS (Small Island Developing States), other low-lying countries and the LDCs (Least-Developed Countries) might as well pack our bags and go home and exchange them for life rafts," said Jumeau.

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User comments : 13

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Shootist
2 / 5 (20) Jun 13, 2013
Like the Law, the UN is an ass.

Unlike the Law, the UN is lawless.
ValeriaT
1.5 / 5 (16) Jun 13, 2013
The only way, how to distract the people from burning of fossil fuels is to give them alternative cheaper than oil, more reliable than solar/wind plants and more safer than nuclear fission: the cold fusion
Neinsense99
4 / 5 (12) Jun 13, 2013
The only way, how to distract the people from burning of fossil fuels is to give them alternative cheaper than oil, more reliable than solar/wind plants and more safer than nuclear fission: the http://hydrofusio...mw-plant

The only fusion going on is a merging of one comment on the topic with another and another....
deatopmg
1.6 / 5 (19) Jun 13, 2013
only the models show significant warming. the actual data continues to show little or no warming for the past 15 - 17 yrs and the same <1 deg K/century for the past century+, even after all the data has been "homogenized", i.e. arbitrarily lowered before ~1940 and arbitrarily raised after that date.

This scam is a money AND a power grab.
deepsand
3.7 / 5 (16) Jun 14, 2013
only the models show significant warming.

Was it the models that fried your brain, so as to cause you to repeatedly utter this lie?

You are like an insane woodpecker pounding at a concrete block in hopes of finding a grub.

Noumenon
1.2 / 5 (33) Jun 14, 2013
The 20-year-old global climate negotiations have been hamstrung from the very beginning by nitpicking, procedural bickering and defence of national interests.


Which should be a clue that the UN is not the apparatus to achieve anything complex like this. Countries will seek their own interests by nature, and individuals will seek their own interests by nature. Make it in their best interests to reduce carbon based energy, in a way that is not merely theoretical, but is such that they can react to something actual and present. The only way is to compete with Oil via technology, so that by choice people want the alternative. Capitalism and the free market.

The UN is useless and counter free-market. The UN is anti Israel, and just like how they will fail to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and how they failed to prevent genocide. If they are useless in accomplishing these relatively simple things, how to expect them to control the global thermostat?
antialias_physorg
3.8 / 5 (11) Jun 14, 2013
It's like with any endeavour: To get it halted at 4C difference you need to set the target to 2C (Or has any of you ever seen a project that didn't end either in a cost overrun or under-performance at projected cost? Thought not.)

If they change the official goal to 4C we'll not achieve 4C - because there are lots of lax countries out there that think "a degree more or less won't matter" (mostly those with an uneducated public)
Noumenon
1 / 5 (29) Jun 14, 2013
To get it halted at 4C difference you need to set the target to 2C [...]

If they change the official goal to 4C we'll not achieve 4C - because there are lots of lax countries out there that think "a degree more or less won't matter" (mostly those with an uneducated public)


I hardly think its a psychological issue, nor even one of supposed lack of education, ....by which you likely mean "deniers". There are enough AGW true believers to make the difference. Not a sufficient number of them drive electric cars to justify blaming the sceptics.

It is an economic issue. It is lack of a replacement technology at competing cost. One 3rd of carbon emissions come from transportation. People will choose more efficient transportation only if it is available AND in their individual and immediate best interest to do so. That's just reality. Another 3rd comes from burning coal. Liberals were against nuclear for decades.

[I didn't mean to rate you a
Noumenon
1.1 / 5 (30) Jun 14, 2013
...1]
Noumenon
1.4 / 5 (33) Jun 14, 2013
Some 92,000 citizens have been killed in Syria trying to rid themselves of their dictator. Where was the UN during this?

They can't even stop this present slaughter, yet you dingbats think they can control the earths climate. Is it because the UN is full of "war is bad" deniers? There is a scientific consensus that war is bad,... so why is there still war?

Economic and political realities cannot be coercively controlled enough to dial in the earths climate. We must evolve off if oil/coal like everything else.

Fund tech to compete with oil/coal, or wait until this occurs anyway.
antigoracle
1.6 / 5 (13) Jun 14, 2013
only the models show significant warming.

Was it the models that fried your brain, so as to cause you to repeatedly utter this lie?

You are like an insane woodpecker pounding at a concrete block in hopes of finding a grub.

-- deepsandTurd
Someone has a fascination with wood/pecker/pounding.
Howhot
4.6 / 5 (9) Jun 14, 2013
There is only one world body where countries can get together exchange ideas and negotiate treaties that are binding in world law. That is the UN. The man-made global warming problem is having immediate effects on many UN nations that transcends the borders of the nations. Inland nations, and vast cost lines are being swallowed by sea level rise, lands have become parched from elevated temperature extremes and drought, violent storms have devastated communities from the super saturation of water and temp swings in the local atmospheric phenomena, all caused by human economic and development activity. The UN, is a very logical place to debate, discuss, plan, and pass world law that can effect the producers of CO2. I see nothing wrong with the UN heading up and issuing the goals to mitigate climate change.

A person can sometimes set an unrealistic goals too high and fail. However, when it's the UN and the case is life-or-death for a planet, it might be worth pursuing.

deepsand
3.5 / 5 (12) Jun 15, 2013
only the models show significant warming.

Was it the models that fried your brain, so as to cause you to repeatedly utter this lie?

You are like an insane woodpecker pounding at a concrete block in hopes of finding a grub.

-- deepsandTurd
Someone has a fascination with wood/pecker/pounding.

You lack the humour to be entertaining, the knowledge to be informative, and have all the charm and attraction of a deceased rat which suffered from leprosy and incontinence.

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