National government pledges to reduce greenhouse (GHG) emissions will not keep global warming under the agreed world target of 2 degrees, an international group of scientists has reported. The group analysed pledges from the recent Paris agreement and found that a median warming of 2.6-3.1°C will occur by 2100, even if nations meet their promises. Importantly, at Paris a 2°C warming limit was agreed to by nations, as anything above that is considered to increase climate change risks significantly.
Published in the highly respected Nature journal, the report ‘Paris Agreement climate proposals need a boost to keep warming well below 2 °C’ bases its findings on analysis of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) that countries submitted following the Paris climate agreement in 2015. A nation’s INDCs outline what its post-2020 climate plan will be. To calculate this, the authors assumed that emission reduction efforts would be continued at the same level after 2030.
Even though the projections are grim, the authors provided reasons for optimism. The first being that it is becoming increasingly obvious to decision-makers that measures to reduce GHG emission have multiple socio-economic benefits. The second is that businesses, citizens, religious organizations and other non-state entities are increasingly engaging in the issue. These two factors are crucial to maintaining momentum so that countries ensure that the 2 °C warming threshold is not crossed. It should be noted that the Paris Agreement framework contemplates that countries will increase their emission reduction ambitions each time an INDC is submitted, although this is not mandatory.
Australia is a nation often criticised for its attitude to climate change. Indeed, as recently as June 2015 the then Prime Minister Tony Abbott said of wind turbines “…they’re ugly, they’re noisy and they may have all sorts of impacts”. The recent federal election campaign was notable for a lack of policies to address challenges and opportunities that dealing with climate change presents, even though both major parties agree that climate change must be acted upon.
This latest research is a timely reminder for state and non-state actors of the dangers of complacency in dealing with climate change, especially when the time-scales are beyond the current generation.
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