How Politicians’ inaction is ramping up the risk of dangerous climate change

December 16th, 2010 by Friends of the Earth

A Friends of the Earth report, “Reckless Gamblers – How politicians’ inaction is ramping up the risk of dangerous climate change,”  published on 15 December 2010 warned that countries across the globe will need to make much bigger cuts in emissions than previously thought, because of a lack of progress in international efforts to tackle climate change.

The new analysis, which was peer-reviewed by the Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research Professor Kevin Anderson, reveals that in order to give the world a 70 percent chance of avoiding a two degree centigrade rise in global temperatures, and a 25 percent chance of avoiding a 1.5 degree rise, emissions will need to fall by 16 per cent by 2030 worldwide (based on 1990 levels).

The total amount of global emissions between the years 2000 and 2010 was 400 GtCO₂.  The budget to avoid the two degree centigrade rise in global temperatures is only 1100 GtCO₂ between now and 2050.

Dry soil (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Two degrees is the point that scientists consider to be the threshold for catastrophic climate change which, once passed, will leave millions exposed to drought, hunger and flooding.

Friends of the Earth says that if the maximum amount of global emissions the world could allow (the remaining carbon budget) were shared out equally on the basis of average populations between now and 2050, the US would need to slash its emissions by as much as 95 per cent by 2030, the EU by 83 per cent, and the UK by 80 per cent. China would need to peak its emissions by 2013 and then reduce them by five per cent per year.

A scientific review published by the Committee on Climate Change in early December 2010 recommended the UK cuts its emissions by 60 per cent by 2030 and the EU by 55 per cent. These recommendations were made on the basis of the UK, EU and G8 accepting a 50:50 chance of avoiding a two degree rise in global temperatures.

The green campaigning charity is calling for urgent research to identify whether these cuts are possible using existing technologies and policy levers or whether as yet unproven and potentially expensive technologies such as ‘artificial trees’ – which capture and store carbon from the air – need to be rapidly developed.

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said “these staggering findings are deeply worrying – we’re hurtling towards the abyss much faster than we thought and we must change direction before it’s too late.  The failure to curb emissions over the last 20 years means that millions of people around the world face an increased risk of drought, flooding and hunger.  This is a global emergency that requires immediate global action – wealthy nations must show leadership by rapidly slashing their emissions and provide poorer countries with sufficient finance and technology to do the same.”

He added “it’s astonishing that the UK, EU and G8 have adopted policies based on a 50:50 chance of avoiding a two degree rise in global temperatures – this is a reckless gamble with the lives and livelihoods of millions of people on the planet.  With the alarm bells ringing, we need bigger cuts and urgent research on the effectiveness of carbon capture technologies.”

Professor Kevin Anderson, the Director of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research said “this report is uncomfortable but essential reading for all policy makers. It demonstrates the remaining global carbon budget for even a two degrees temperature rise is small and diminishing fast and that unprecedented reductions in emissions are now required across the globe.  It is a refreshing wake-up call for all those with a stake in our global future.”

  1. No Comments

Have your say