Global emissions conclusions 1 March 2010
The future of global emissions is still uncertain following the Copenhagen Summit and the Accord that came from it. The pledges that countries have made to reduce emissions don’t offer strong guarantees for the future: the rich countries are not offering very impressive cuts; and carbon-intensive economic-growth, of developing nations, could allow emissions to continue along the highest emission scenario line. Talks have just started at Cancun (Mexico), which will hopefully agree stronger targets. It looks like there is little hope of us restricting global mean temperature rise to 2ºC though.
Even if we manage to completely stop all emissions of greenhouse gases right now, we can’t undo the changes we have already made. We have increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 50% over the past 250 years. The way the atmosphere works means that its reactions are likely to be delayed so the changes are only starting to show themselves. We will need to adapt to a changing world, and this means us as individuals as well: are you ready for heat waves; thinking about adapting your house / garden; and do you need to worry about flooding?
We are all part of the global warming problem. We all make and impact: we all have a carbon footprint. We all need to start being part of the solution. This page aims to point you in the direction of some personal changes that you can make to help reduce the impact of climate change. It’s partly about what you do in your personal life, the choices you make, the things you do…and don’t do. It is also about electing the right leaders and making sure they build the sustainable infrastructure that we need to live in.
To reduce (i.e. mitigate) the more serious consequences of Climate Change, we must reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. The UK has an important role in influencing / leading the world by following our emissions reduction targets. This section aims to show what these targets are, where the challenges are and how well we are doing.
Global emissions progress
Between 2000-2008 our emissions of carbon dioxide [i] were worse than the worst case emission scenarios, which is obviously a worrying start. Since then the global recession is expected to have brought 2009 emissions down. How economic recovery will effect emissions is going to be very important for the future.
Beware climate change sceptics
There are still people out there in denial, for example those who argue that there is “…some doubt from some scientists that climate change is really happening…or that it is caused by human activities…”. This is wrong. It may have been a fair point 15 to 20+ years ago, but the science has moved on and the evidence is now indisputable. Unfortunately, parts of the media and other organisations keep this denial alive with spurious stories like the “climategate scandal”.
The Freezing Winter 2009-10 does not mean that Global Warming is not happening
During December 2009 and January 2010 we experienced some harsh winter weather across the UK, Northern Europe, China and central USA. However, this is not evidence that there is now some doubt in the global warming trend. It is important to notice that during this winter, other parts of the world were a lot warmer than normal (for example in Greece and Alaska).
Where to target our efforts
This section looks at the make-up of UK emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions from power stations and transport need to be targeted as they are particularly significant (at 48% of our greenhouse gas emissions in 2008). We will need to encourage reductions in other sectors as well though. And there is still some scope in reduce emissions of the other greenhouse gases. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme is introduced: whilst it is neither a strong nor sustainable option, the scheme is expected to be important to help us drive down emissions from power and heavy industry.
How UK might influence World targets
If we could persuade the rest of the World to converge with the UK emissions reductions, we might see an optimistic picture developing for the second quarter of the century. It is a big if though! We are going to test our powers of influence to do this. And we certainly wont have much hope of that if we don’t meet our own targets.
How UK targets might influence China
This section looks at the history of UK emissions compared to our population growth. Using this we can see how our emissions grew to a per capita level of nearly 12 tonnes CO2 per person per year. It is very important to consider this when thinking about the emissions targets that we would want China to set. Using the principals conceived in the GCI’s Contraction & Convergence model, we can develop emissions projections for China showing that they will grow for a few years before we can persuade them to be cut.