Scientists: We May Be Shooting Past 2 Degrees
September 30, 2016
This news item tells us what we already knew: The Paris agreement of last year is a good start, but inadequate by itself to solve the larger climate problem.
What is different now is that, in the interim, global temperatures have taken a breathtaking jump that is greater even than the large spike we might have expected with the El Nino of last winter. We are closer to the edge than we thought.
To be real – the idea that there is a 2 degree threshold below which we are “safe” is nonsense – the number is arbitrary. We are already in territory that will melt catastrophic portions of the polar ice sheets, and create havoc with weather extremes, agriculture, and infrastructure around the world in coming decades.
Here, in the wake of the first presidential debate, the media skewered Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for denying his prior Twitter claim that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese” — even as Trump’s surrogates continued to bluntly advance positions contrary to modern scientific understanding on the subject. His campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, for instance, asserted on CNN that Trump believes the current climate swing is “naturally occurring,” contradicting the view of mainstream climate researchers that it is mainly human-caused.
On Thursday, a group of seven distinguished climate scientists led by Robert Watson, a former chairman of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, asserted that the chance of holding warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels “has almost certainly already been missed.” And we could very soon be on an irrevocable path to 2 degrees of warming, they continue, unless countries dramatically up their pledges to cut emissions under the Paris climate agreement — an agreement Trump has said he would “cancel.”
“When you read the Paris agreement, it is absolutely inadequate, with the current pledges, to get on a pathway to 2 degrees Celsius, let alone a pathway to 1.5,” said Watson in an interview with the Post. To be clear: The researchers are happy with the agreement itself, but not with the steps that countries are currently committing to take under it.
Watson said that as of now, on our current emissions trajectory, the world could be at 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels in 2030 — less than 15 years — and at 2 degrees by 2050. But because of time lags in the climate system, the actual emissions that would result in those outcomes, and that would have to be averted in order to avoid them, would occur sooner than that.