Friday, May 29, 2009

What is required cut in carbon emissions?

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, most notably carbon (CO2) emissions, are the solution to stop global warming impact in years to come. But world still delays necessary action because politicians can't agree on a required cut in carbon emissions. Developing countries are suggesting emission cuts of more than 50 percent while most industrialized nations are reluctant to go over 30 percent.

The latest study carried out by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany showed that world will overshoot its long-term target on greenhouse gas emissions within two decades, and that if we continue our current trend in emissions the average global temperature will rise above the threshold causing dangerous climate change during that time. Scientists have warned us many times that world needs to keep temperature increase under 2C because anything above is likely to cause a real catastrophe. Since world has already produced about a third of the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that could be emitted between 2000 and 2050 and still keep within a 2C rise in global average temperatures, we really do not have much time for political discussions.

In situation where current global rates of CO2 are increasing by 3 per cent a year, politicians really do not have much room for maneuvers because if we continue burning fossil fuels at current tempo, we will exhaust the carbon budget in merely 20 years, and global warming will go well beyond 2C, opening the door for the worst imaginable climate change scenario. Scientists concluded how significant reductions in global emissions definitely have to begin as sooner as possible, in any case before 2020. The longer world awaits new Kyoto protocol the more problems will arise in form of much bigger economic costs and different technological challenges. Time is really a key factor that could mean the difference between success and total failure in the whole climate change story.

However time is not only factor that will determine the success of future climate deal, there is also the how much question that needs to be answered before scientists can make further calculations. Authors of this study concluded that the world must agree on a cut in carbon dioxide emissions of more than 50 percent by 2050 if the probability of exceeding a 2C rise in average temperatures is to be limited to a risk of 1 in 4 (25 percent). As Reto Knutti from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, a member of the research team, said: With every year of delay in agreeing on further cuts, we consume a larger part of our emissions budget, losing room to manoeuvre and increasing the probabilities of dangerous consequences. Is politics aware of this? We'll soon see.

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