The other shoe drops. Well, what did anyone really think would happen other than this?
By 2009, nearly every government in the world had endorsed the 2°C limit — global warming beyond that level was deemed "dangerous." And so, every year, the world’s leaders meet at UN climate conferences to discuss policies and emissions cuts that they hope will keep us below 2°C. Climate experts churn out endless papers on how we can adapt to 2°C of warming (or less).
Two decades later, there’s just one major problem with this picture. The idea that the world can stay below 2°C looks increasingly delusional.
Consider: the Earth’s average temperature has already risen 0.8°C since the 19th century. And if you look at the current rapid rise in global greenhouse-gas emissions, we’re on pace to blow past the 2°C limit by mid-century — and hit 4°C or more by the end. That’s well above anything once deemed "dangerous." Getting back on track for 2°C would, at this point, entail the sort of drastic emissions cuts usually associated with economic calamities, like the collapse of the Soviet Union or the 2008 financial crisis. And we’d have to repeat those cuts for decades.
The climate community has been slow to concede defeat. Back in 2007, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report noting that the world could stay below 2°C — but only if we started cutting emissions immediately. The years passed, countries did little, and emissions kept rising. So, just this month, the IPCC put out a new report saying, OK, not great, but we can still stay under 2°C. We just need to act more drastically and figure out some way to pull carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere. (Never mind that we still don’t have the technology to do the latter.)
Dennis, thanks for sharing this. What I find alarming is smart/intelligent people no longer believe in Global Warming because of the cold winter we had earlier this year.
I interact with business leaders here in Atlanta on a daily basis - people who are in charge of some of the largest corporations in the South and US e.g. UPS and because of the cold year here in Atlanta specifically - the 2 unprecedented ice storms we had - and generally the super cold winter the US had in 2014 - there isn't a belief [at least with some in corporate America] that, "global warming," is real.
I don't think there is a sense of urgency on this subject - at least this year - as a result of a very odd winter we had across the entire nation.