Earth to warm 3.8C as nations fail on climate goals: report

by Michael Szabo, Reuters Point Carbon
Wednesday, 12 June 2013 17:00 GMT

North and South Tarawa are seen from the air in the central Pacific Island nation of Kiribati. Kiribati consists of a chain of 33 atolls and islands that stand just metres above sea level, spread over a huge expanse of otherwise empty ocean. With surrounding sea levels rising, Kiribati President Anote Tong has predicted his country will likely become uninhabitable in 30-60 years because of inundation and contamination of its freshwater supplies. May 23, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray

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BONN, June 12 (Reuters Point Carbon) – The world’s biggest emitting nations are struggling to meet existing pledges to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by the end of the decade, researchers warned Wednesday, adding that global temperatures would likely rise by 3.8C this century as a result.

Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a coalition of European climate policy consultants, said governments are unlikely to deliver on legal and voluntary carbon reduction targets, goals which most scientists say are already too weak to stop the earth warming more than deemed safe levels of 2C.

“Assuming current emissions trends, implemented and presently planned policies there is a 40 percent chance of warming exceeding 4C by 2100 and a 10 percent chance of it exceeding 5C in the same period, with a likely warming projected at 3.8C by 2100,” the researchers said in a report published on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks in Germany.

“With these emission trends, a warming of 3-4 degrees warming at 2100 won’t stop there. Warming is likely to continue upwards well into the 22nd century,” added Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, one of the groups that contributed to the work.

Negotiators from over 100 nations are meeting in Bonn this week to try to draft a new global climate pact to be signed in 2015 and come into effect in 2020.

The talks are taking place amid warnings from scientists that the world’s population could suffer wide-spread drought and flooding as a result of rising emissions of greenhouse gases, which trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere.

In May, U.S. researchers said the amount of carbon dioxide in the air reached 400 parts per million for the first time, while on Monday the International Energy Agency estimated emissions hit a record last year, despite economic slowdown in most developed nations.

PARADOX

A key part of the U.N. talks are on how different nations can deepen existing goals to cut emissions by the end of the decade, although no major emitting nation has tabled fresh pledges in the past three years.

“It’s a great paradox that policy seems to be unwinding almost as fast as temperature projections are increasing,” Hare added.

Last week the world’s two biggest emitting nations - China and the United States - promised to accelerate a phase out of production and consumption of potent greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons, but the researchers said the move may only curb temperature rises by 0.1 to 0.5 degrees.

A shift from coal- to gas-based power in the U.S., thanks to the nation’s newly-tapped vast shale gas reserves, may also be undermining its current goal to cut emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels before 2020, said Niklas Hohne, a director at Ecofys, another contributor to the report.

According some estimates, the fugitive emissions from shale gas, for example methane released through its production, almost entirely offsets the climate benefits of switching fuels, he added.

“While shale gas may have a little positive impact on U.S. (emissions), it’s highly doubtful that it will have a positive impact on the climate in the long-term,” Hohne said.

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