Sunday, October 18, 2015

A “Fair And Ambitious” Pledge?  Not Quite

Study finds pledges by top greenhouse gas emitters leaves little room for others; urges greater R&D

Fossil Fuel Plant (Credit: MIT News Office) Click to Enlarge.
Over two weeks in December, delegates from virtually every country in the world will gather in Paris for the 21st annual United Nations Climate Change Conference.  Their ambitious goal:  to hammer out a binding international agreement on climate action.

In advance of the conference, organizers have requested that countries submit Intended Nationally Determined Contributions — pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by an amount that should be “fair and ambitious,” in order to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Now a new study by researchers at MIT and the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, Norway, has found that pledges by the three largest emitters — the United States, the European Union, and China — leave very little room for the rest of the world to emit.

Based on the pledges submitted, the U.S. plans to reduce emissions by 28 percent by 2025, and 83 percent by 2050, while the EU will work toward reductions of 40 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050.  China has not pledged a reduction, but has indicated that its emissions will peak by 2030; China also aims to improve its energy efficiency by 60 to 65 percent.

Despite these substantial commitments, the researchers found that the rest of the world’s nations would be forced to adopt per capita emissions 7 to 14 times lower than the EU, U.S., or China, by 2030, in order to keep global temperatures from rising higher than 2 C.

“The challenge of this problem is, we have about 7 billion people on the planet, and about 1 billion of us live pretty well,” says Susan Solomon, the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science at MIT.  “The other 6 billion are struggling to develop, and if they develop using carbon as we did, the planet is going to get quite hot.  And hot is, of course, just the beginning of the story in terms of what climate change actually means.”

Read more at A “Fair And Ambitious” Pledge?  Not Quite

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