Monday, October 4, 2010

"Scientific Perspectives after Copenhagen" or "Why Action is Required Now!"

One of the first side events was a panel which presented a summary of a recently published report: “Scientific Perspectives after Copenhagen.”  The report addresses one question: If enacted, will the current pledges made under the Copenhagen Accord meet the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2oC? The short answer is no.  The scientists then look at dozens of scenarios to see what would be necessary to meet the 2 degree Centigrade threshold. They conclude that we would have to have peak emissions no later than 2015, followed by a reduction of emissions of 50-70% (from 1990 levels) by 2050. Essentially, for a ‘likely’ outcome, a 66% chance of meeting the goal, the global emissions would have to decrease globally by 3%/year.

One section of the report looks at the impacts of global temperature rise. At 2oC, studies predict a 20-30% of species at risk of extinction (with 40-70% of species threatened at 4oC). Water resources are already challenged, and at 1oC to 1.5oC, an additional .4 to 1.7 billion more people experiencing water stress. With 2-3oC, millions or tens of millions of people are at risk of flooding. When the floor was open for questions, the participants wanted to know if 1.5oC would be a better goal. The scientists, however, could not make the recommendation – there are few scientific studies that focus on the 1.5o limit, and they are scientists and their purpose is not to formulate policy. They noted, however, that the first ten years or so of working towards a 1.5oC goal looks much like the first ten years of a 2oC goal, and that the Copenhagen Accord specifically calls on a review of a potential 1.5oC limit in 2015.

To read this rather sobering report for yourself, go to, and download the attachment “document.” 

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