Views and debates on climate change policy
Home | Panelists | Staff Blog | RSS

Post Carbon

Copenhagen's 2 Degree Target

By Juliet Eilperin

Over the next couple of weeks, you'll hear a lot about the "two-degree target," which refers to the goal of keeping the global mean temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. (That's equivalent to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.) Back in the mid-1990s, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected this would give the world a decent shot at avoiding dangerous climate impacts.

Most leaders have signed off on this goal, including members of the G-20. However some scientists, environmentalists and leaders from vulnerable island nations--including the IPCC's chair, Rajendra K. Pachauri--now say it's too modest. Any new climate deal should identify 1.5 degrees Celsius--or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit--as the upper limit of a global temperature increase, according to this camp. There's even a billboard on Copenhagen's streets featuring a polar bear and the slogan, "2 Degrees is Too Much."

No matter which number you pick, the current climate plans the nations of the world have set out fall short of this goal. A consortium of U.S.-based scientists has been tracking all the proposals and plugging them into a climate model called C-ROADS to create a Climate Scoreboard. The analysis behind the Scoreboard is here.

According to their calculations, we're headed for an increase of 3.8 degrees Celsius, or 6.8 degrees Fahrenheit, if every nation fulfilled its current climate pledge.

Elizabeth Sawin of the Sustainability Institute, one of the lead scientists on the project, said the most obvious place to make deeper reductions is in the U.S. and developing countries such as China, India and Brazil. But making cuts in major emerging nations, she cautioned, is going to require giving money and other incentives "needed by developing countries to pursue emissions reductions while continuing to develop."


Juliet Eilperin

 |  December 8, 2009; 7:33 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Red-eye to Copenhagen | Next: Does Greece need to be in the black before it can be green?


Please report offensive comments below.

Will Disney get exclusive rights to create a Climate Simulator ride next year? You know, to help out the cause and donate money to developing countries so it won't be such a burden to taxpayers--i.e., visitors to the park. If the giving is "fun," it won't seem quite as painful.

Posted by: walk2write | December 8, 2009 1:16 PM
Report Offensive Comment

I am a Post reader and cannot imagine why we have to go farther than George F. Will for information about global change.

Posted by: drstrong | December 8, 2009 9:54 AM
Report Offensive Comment

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company