April 29, 2009

Studies Call For More Ambitious Climate Change Measures

Two new studies have found a need for even greater cuts in carbon dioxide emissions than proposed by world leaders.

Many governments have set the goal of limiting temperature rise to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

But researchers from Oxford University and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research, found that the world would have to emit less than 1.1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide during the next 40 years.

In Thursday's edition of the journal Nature, researchers said the first nine years of this century have seen one-third of that amount. At the current rate, global emissions could reach the trillion-ton mark in just 20 years.

Malte Meinshausen, of Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told the Associated Press that even if the world were to lower its emissions to less than the limit, there is still a 25 percent chance that temperatures would rise above the dangerous level.

Bill Hare, study co-author at the Potsdam Institute, said President Barack Obama's plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent is a "good start, but not enough to limit warming."

"If the US does 80 percent, that equates to about 60 percent globally, and that offers only a modest chance of meeting the target," said Meinshausen.

Hare said the US would have to reduce its entire pollution levels by 90 to 95 percent in order to keep the world from going over the 1.1 trillion ton limit.

Authors also noted that the necessary cut in emissions would call for about three quarters of all fossil fuels to be left unused.

"Not much at all of coal reserves can be burnt and still keep below" the 3.6 degrees of warming, Hare said.

Researchers used computer models to determine the total amount of carbon emissions over many decades to arrive at a tipping point of 1.1 trillion tons.

"To avoid dangerous climate change, we will have to limit the total amount of carbon we inject into the atmosphere, not just the emission rate in any given year," said Myles Allen from the physics department at Oxford University.

"Climate policy needs an exit strategy; as well as reducing carbon emissions now, we need a plan for phasing out net emissions entirely."


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