Worst-Case IPCC Climate Change Trajectories Are Being Realized: Copenhagen Climate Congress Concludes


photo: International Rice Research Institute via flickr

Though a comprehensive compilation of the research presented at the Copenhagen Climate Congress will be completed by June, and the results published in an academic book, as well in a 30-page executive summary to be presented to politicians heading into the COP15 talks at the end of the year, at the closing session of the Congress six key messages were presented. In attendance was Mr Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Prime Minister of Denmark, who was given a printed copy of the following conclusions:1. Climate Trends: It's As Bad or Worse Than IPCC Projected

Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised. For many key parameters, the climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.

2. Social Disruption: Even Moderate Climate Change Will Disrupt Society
The research community is providing much more information to support discussions on "dangerous climate change". Recent observations show that societies are highly vulnerable to even modest levels of climate change, with poor nations and communities particularly at risk. Temperature rises above 2°C will be very difficult for contemporary societies to cope with, and will increase the level of climate disruption through the rest of the century.

3. Long-Term Strategy: Weak Targets Increase Risk of Crossing Tipping Points
Rapid, sustained, and effective mitigation based on coordinated global and regional action is required to avoid "dangerous climate change" regardless of how it is defined. Weaker targets for 2020 increase the risk of crossing tipping points and make the task of meeting 2050 targets more difficult. Delay in initiating effective mitigation actions increases significantly the long-term social and economic costs of both adaptation and mitigation.

4. Equity Dimensions: Poor Nations Need a Climate Safety Net
Climate change is having, and will have, strongly differential effects on people within and between countries and regions, on this generation and future generations, and on human societies and the natural world. An effective, well-funded adaptation safety net is required for those people least capable of coping with climate change impacts, and a common but differentiated mitigation strategy is needed to protect the poor and most vulnerable.

5. Inaction is Inexcusable: We Already Have the Tools to Fight Climate Change, Use Them
There is no excuse for inaction. We already have many tools and approaches — economic, technological, behavioural, management — to deal effectively with the climate change challenge. But they must be vigorously and widely implemented to achieve the societal transformation required to decarbonise economies. A wide range of benefits will flow from a concerted effort to alter our energy economy now, including sustainable energy job growth, reductions in the health and economic costs of climate change, and the restoration of ecosystems and revitalisation of ecosystem services.

6. Meeting the Challenge: We Must Seize Critical Opportunities
To achieve the societal transformation required to meet the climate change challenge, we must overcome a number of significant constraints and seize critical opportunities. These include reducing inertia in social and economic systems; building on a growing public desire for governments to act on climate change; removing implicit and explicit subsidies; reducing the influence of vested interests that increase emissions and reduce resilience; enabling the shifts from ineffective governance and weak institutions to innovative leadership in government, the private sector and civil society; and engaging society in the transition to norms and practices that foster sustainability.

More on these findings, as well as the back and forth between the Danish Prime Minister, Dan Kammen of UC Berkeley, Lord Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics, and Prof Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research later.

For now, suffice it to say, that while the Prime Minister was receptive in general (and clearly gets the significance of climate change), there were some points which he may not have heard clearly enough...Like the fact that a 2°C rise in temperature is really the upper limit of what we should allow, and that a 50% reduction in emissions by 2050 doesn't allow us any room for error to hold temperatures to that level.

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Tags: Economics | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects | Global Warming Science | Global Warming Solutions | Poverty

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