Climate: Copenhagen pledges set Earth for +3 C warming - study

Apr 21, 2010
A scientist stands in front of a globe during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009. Carbon-curbing pledges under the Copenhagen Accord are likely to doom Earth to warming of three degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or more, compared to the deal's target of 2 C (3.6 F), scientists said on Wednesday.

Carbon-curbing pledges under the Copenhagen Accord are likely to doom Earth to warming of three degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or more, compared to the deal's target of 2 C (3.6 F), scientists said on Wednesday.

In an analysis published by the , researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) near Berlin said the promises fell very short of the headline-making mark.

"It's amazing how unambitious these pledges are," they said.

Born in the final hours of the chaotic UN last December, the Accord sets a goal of limiting warming to 2 C (3.6 F).

But it does not set a date for achieving this, nor stepping-stone targets for getting there, and the roster of pledges it sets up, gathering rich and poor countries alike, is voluntary.

If the promises are carried out, global yearly emissions of will increase by 10 to 20 percent above current levels, reaching the equivalent of 47.9-53.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2020, says the study.

"This would result in a greater than 50 percent chance that warming will exceed 3 C (5.4 F) by 2100," PIK said in a press release.

"To be on track for meeting the 'below 2 C' climate target, global emissions of no more than 40 to 44 gigatonnes (billion tonnes) of CO2 equivalent have to be achieved by 2020."

Added PIK researcher Malte Meinshausen: "Forty-eight gigatonnes of C02 emissions is not on track to meet the 2 C goal -- it is like racing towards a cliff and hoping to stop just before it."

The Copenhagen Accord remains politically contested.

It was devised by leaders of a couple of dozen countries to stave off a fiasco in Copenhagen, billed as the culmination of a two-year process towards a post-2012 .

Green groups lashed the deal as toothless and left-led countries in the Caribbean and Latin American charged it violated the principles of international democracy.

Talks have resumed under the 194-nation UN on Climate Change (UNFCCC) but there is negligible consensus on how to move forward or incorporate the Copenhagen Accord.

In their analysis, the PIK researchers said a big loophole was surplus allowances under the Kyoto Protocol, whose current provisions expire at the end of 2012.

These surplus allowances can be used by industrialised countries who undershoot their Kyoto targets for emissions reudctions.

The United States, the world's No. 2 carbon emitter, is not party to Kyoto, nor is China, the world's No. 1, because it is a developing country and does not have binding emissions targets.

The authors say that the Kyoto targets were weak, which means many countries will be banking their surpluses for use later -- a tally that they estimate at a huge 11 gigatonnes.

Warming of 3 C (5.4 F) or more would have a huge effect on Earth's climate system, possibly leading to more frequent drought, flood, storms and rising seas affecting millions of people, scientists have said.

Since pre-industrial times, Earth's mean surface temperature has risen by about 0.8 C (1.4 F), yet this has been enough to cause the loss of Arctic ice and glaciers, soften permafrost and affect seasons in northerly latitude.

Explore further: Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter northern forests in 50 years

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Draft Copenhagen deal targets maximum 2 C warming

Dec 11, 2009

The first official draft blueprint for a deal at the UN climate talks sees targets of limiting global warming to 1.5 or 2.0 degrees Celsius (2.7 or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), according to a document seen by ...

US in spotlight as UN climate talks resume

Mar 29, 2009

UN talks tasked with forging a global climate treaty by year's end were set to resume here on Sunday, with all eyes on the debut appearance of US negotiators from the administration of US President Barack ...

Clinton: No binding climate deal at Denmark talks

Nov 13, 2009

(AP) -- Next month's climate change summit in Copenhagen is not likely to produce a legally binding treaty to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that are widely blamed for global warming, U.S. Secretary of ...

Climate talks end with eye on next year

Dec 19, 2009

(AP) -- A historic U.N. climate conference ended Saturday with only a nonbinding "Copenhagen Accord" to show for two weeks of debate and frustration. It was a deal short on concrete steps against global warming, ...

Recommended for you

More, bigger wildfires burning western US, study shows

5 hours ago

Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years – a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

MikeLisanke
not rated yet May 01, 2010
These scientists competing for public attention. I really think the LHC or RHIC will get more attention when the violate symmetry on a larger scale. :-)

More news stories

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...