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Current CO2 goals won’t prevent dangerous climate change

global-warmingCurrent targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 aren’t likely to prevent global warming from exceeding the 2 degree C threshold for catastrophic change … and the officials who set those goals know it, according to a researcher from The Australian National University (ANU).

Andrew Macintosh of ANU’s Centre for Climate Law and Policy reached that conclusion after modelling 45 CO2 scenarios to determine what countries would have to do after 2020 to meet the G8’s 2050 goal of an 80 per cent reduction (compared to 1990 levels) in carbon dioxide emissions.

“The study shows that post 2020, global CO2 emissions would probably have to be reduced by in excess of 5 per cent a year for the remainder of the century to keep global warming within the much publicised 2°C limit,” Macintosh said. “These figures show it’s unrealistic to believe developed countries can pursue moderate short- to medium-term abatement targets while aiming to keep the increase in the global average surface temperature to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. This needs to be acknowledged in policy development process and public debate.”

In an interview with the Australian Associated Press, Macintosh said governments that claim current emissions-reductions goals will prevent dangerous climate change are “playing both sides of the fence.” The stated targets appeal to the public’s concerns about global warming while they also protect the interests of industry, he said.

Macintosh said his research concluded that developed countries have two choices regarding emissions reductions:

He added that the results, and those from other studies, highlight that developed countries have two choices.

“The first choice is they can stay on the current negotiation track, reach an agreement that sets low to moderate abatement targets and accept that the 2°C limit will probably be exceeded,” he said. “Or the second choice is they can create a real chance of a sub-2°C outcome by shifting their negotiating position on targets and financing.”

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