So my semi-serious post on how I think we’re screwed when it comes to climate change may not be so wide of the mark after all. The latest information coming out of the Poznan Conference, reported by both The Guardian and Nature, makes the point that the latest IPCC report is based on scientific information from 2005 at the latest, and that all the published papers since 2005 have shown that climate change is proceeding much faster than the IPCC report suggests.
The cream of the UK climate science community sat in stunned silence as [Kevin] Anderson [an expert at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University] pointed out that carbon emissions since 2000 have risen much faster than anyone thought possible, driven mainly by the coal-fuelled economic boom in the developing world. So much extra pollution is being pumped out, he said, that most of the climate targets debated by politicians and campaigners are fanciful at best, and “dangerously misguided” at worst.
In the jargon used to count the steady accumulation of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s thin layer of atmosphere, he said it was “improbable” that levels could now be restricted to 650 parts per million (ppm).
All our current efforts are based on trying to stabilise at 450ppm and even that’s proving “too hard”. Now it seems that we’ve almost no chance of staying under 650ppm, virtually guaranteeing a 4C rise in global temperatures.
What’s worse is that calculations seem to indicate that for every decade we delay CO2 reductions result in higher temperatures:
Each decade that the global peak [of CO2emissions] is delayed, the temperature increase goes up by .4 to .5 degrees. According to this model, an eighty percent reduction by mid-century delivers 1.4 degree of warming with a peak in 2015; 1.8 degrees if the peak is in 2025; and 2.4 degrees with a peak in 2035. In other words, there is a penalty for delayed action.