Five Degrees of Ruination: Scientists Forecast Dramatic Temperature Increase

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/climate-change-scientists-forecast-dramatic-temperature-increase-a-870638.html

By Christoph Seidler in Doha, Qatar

The planet must not be allowed to warm beyond 2 degrees Celsius, according to the official targets at the Climate Change Conference in Doha. But a new study shows the goal is far from realistic. Current human activity is set to increase the temperature by some 5 degrees, and the consequences will be dire, scientists warn.

Normally, Christiana Figueres is thoroughly enthusiastic. The United Nations' top diplomat for climate changes issues uses her personal Twitter account to relay even the smallest advances in the fight against global warming with impressive euphoria. But recently, the Costa Rican hasn't been in the mood to celebrate. She has observed little interest or support for pushing governments to reach "ambitious and brave decisions," she complained after the first week of the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar.

Her pessimism is justified. Since 2010, the official goal of negotiations has been limiting the increase in the earth's temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), when compared to pre-industrial values, by the year 2100. Small island nations, who want to keep the increase even lower, have been pushing for a goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius. But scientists are certain that this can hardly be achieved any longer.

And now a new study has shown just how unrealistic the 2-degree goal is. "If we keep going on as we have been, it will be 5 degrees," says co-author Glen Peters, who works at Norway's Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO). And scientists agree that such a dramatic warming of the earth's temperature would have devastating consequences.

The Most Extreme Scenario

Together with Corinne Le Quéré of the UK's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change and colleagues from the Global Carbon Project, Peters calculated just how far apart international goals and reality are when it comes to climate change. Their conclusions, published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change on Sunday, were the following:

Between 1990 and 2011, global emissions of carbon dioxide have increased by 54 percent, and this is expected to jump to 58 percent based on projections for 2012. Humans will have released some 35.6 gigatons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in this year alone, with an average increase of 3.1 percent per year. That number was slightly lower in 2012, measuring 2.6 percent, though that was mainly due to the economic crisis, the paper says.

These emissions are in line with the most extreme scenario, dubbed "RCP 8.5," from the world climate report that will be presented in 2014. This means that realistically, it would take more than a decade for CO2 emissions to sink. But that would be too late to reach the two-degree target.

The biggest polluters are China, which produces 28 percent of global emissions, the United States with 16 percent, the European Union with 11 percent, and India with 7 percent, according to the study. Emissions levels went down in the last year in both Europe and the US, (1.8 and 2.8 percent respectively), but those improvements were cancelled out by an almost 10 percent increase in China -- an amount about equal to total emissions in Germany.

Climate change 01 Researchers from the Global Carbon Project warn that, given the current rate of CO2 emissions, the world is on course for a 5 degree Celsius temperature increase before the end of the century. Meanwhile a recent report from the World Bank, warns of massive food shortages and drought resulting from temperature increases.

Climate change 02 Germany isn't exactly an example for the would. The country has fallen back in Global Climate Risk Index 2013, published by the watchdog Germanwatch.

Climate change 03 The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar this week, there is much posturing and little else. Since 2010, the meetings have been aimed at stopping temperature increases around the world from surpassing 2 degrees Celsius -- with island nations having demanded an even lower threshold. The World Bank's study shows how dramatically far off track the world's industrialized nations are from achieving that goal.

Climate change 04 Environmental activists at a rally outside the US embassy in Manila this fall: Nobody is expecting a breakthrough at the summit in Doha.

Climate change 05 A worker at an Indian Steel factory in June: According to statistics from United Nations Environment Program, since 2000 alone CO2 emissions worldwide have risen 20 percent.

Climate change 06 Costa Rican Christiana Figueres, the UN's climate chief, in Qatar has been encouraging inviduals around the world to take greater responsibility for climate change, saying on Friday that she doesn't sense "much public interest, support, for governments to take on more ambitious and more courageous decisions."

Climate change 07 At this factory in Sailiya, electricity is created from oil. Qatar has the highest CO2 emissions per capita. Some critics question if the country can offer space to talk productively about climate change during the summit. Others hope that the host country will help draw concessions from the powerful oil interests in Saudi Arabia.

Climate change 08 Solar and wind energy infrastructure in Lower Franconia, Germany in 2010: As the use of renewable energy around the planet has increased, so have energy needs around the planet, and faster. One topic up for discussion at the UN summit is financial help for developing countries so they can begin installing more environmentally friendly energy technology.

Climate change 09 European Union Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard speaking with the press in Brussels in 2010: Europeans haven't been able to agree on ambitious climate regulations within their own ranks, so how are they supposed to play a leading role at the UN meeting in Qatar?

Hedegaard has warned repeatedly that not stopping global temperature increases at 2 degrees Celsius will have very expensive consequences for the entire world.

Climate change 10 Protests outside the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in 2009: Climate change has never been a top issue for American President Barack Obama. For years, he hasn't done much on the front and, following his re-election, he's continued to show little enthusiasm for the topic.

Climate change 11 Destruction from superstorm Sandy (New York City, November 2012): Sandy forced climate change into the American political discussion for what seems in hindsight like a split-second at the end of the presidential campaign. The damage wasn't enough to push the issue higher up on President Obama's agenda.

Climate change 12 Emerging markets like Brazil, India and China resent other countries that industrialized earlier, like the United States, attempting to impose emission regulations on them as they continue to grow.

Climate change 13 Solar Panels in China (November 2011): China has an enormous interest in cutting-edge green energy. The country remains, however, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the government in Peking is loathe to accept any regulations from the international community that would hamper the countries continued development.

Climate change 01 Researchers from the Global Carbon Project warn that, given the current rate of CO2 emissions, the world is on course for a 5 degree Celsius temperature increase before the end of the century. Meanwhile a recent report from the World Bank, warns of massive food shortages and drought resulting from temperature increases.

Climate change 02 Germany isn't exactly an example for the would. The country has fallen back in Global Climate Risk Index 2013, published by the watchdog Germanwatch.

Climate change 03 The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar this week, there is much posturing and little else. Since 2010, the meetings have been aimed at stopping temperature increases around the world from surpassing 2 degrees Celsius -- with island nations having demanded an even lower threshold. The World Bank's study shows how dramatically far off track the world's industrialized nations are from achieving that goal.

Climate change 04 Environmental activists at a rally outside the US embassy in Manila this fall: Nobody is expecting a breakthrough at the summit in Doha.

Climate change 05 A worker at an Indian Steel factory in June: According to statistics from United Nations Environment Program, since 2000 alone CO2 emissions worldwide have risen 20 percent.

Climate change 06 Costa Rican Christiana Figueres, the UN's climate chief, in Qatar has been encouraging inviduals around the world to take greater responsibility for climate change, saying on Friday that she doesn't sense "much public interest, support, for governments to take on more ambitious and more courageous decisions."

Climate change 07 At this factory in Sailiya, electricity is created from oil. Qatar has the highest CO2 emissions per capita. Some critics question if the country can offer space to talk productively about climate change during the summit. Others hope that the host country will help draw concessions from the powerful oil interests in Saudi Arabia.

Climate change 08 Solar and wind energy infrastructure in Lower Franconia, Germany in 2010: As the use of renewable energy around the planet has increased, so have energy needs around the planet, and faster. One topic up for discussion at the UN summit is financial help for developing countries so they can begin installing more environmentally friendly energy technology.

Climate change 09 European Union Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard speaking with the press in Brussels in 2010: Europeans haven't been able to agree on ambitious climate regulations within their own ranks, so how are they supposed to play a leading role at the UN meeting in Qatar?

Hedegaard has warned repeatedly that not stopping global temperature increases at 2 degrees Celsius will have very expensive consequences for the entire world.

Climate change 10 Protests outside the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in 2009: Climate change has never been a top issue for American President Barack Obama. For years, he hasn't done much on the front and, following his re-election, he's continued to show little enthusiasm for the topic.

Climate change 11 Destruction from superstorm Sandy (New York City, November 2012): Sandy forced climate change into the American political discussion for what seems in hindsight like a split-second at the end of the presidential campaign. The damage wasn't enough to push the issue higher up on President Obama's agenda.

Climate change 12 Emerging markets like Brazil, India and China resent other countries that industrialized earlier, like the United States, attempting to impose emission regulations on them as they continue to grow.

Climate change 13 Solar Panels in China (November 2011): China has an enormous interest in cutting-edge green energy. The country remains, however, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the government in Peking is loathe to accept any regulations from the international community that would hamper the countries continued development.