Aug 2008 Reframing climate change – Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions
The international community repeatedly relates its commitments around 2°C with endpoint 2050 reductions in emissions (e.g. 50% by 2050). While such endpoint targets dominate the policy agenda, they are without scientific merit and are leading to dangerously misguided policies. This paper argues that for policies to be scientifically credible they must be informed by an understanding of cumulative emissions and associated emission pathways. It proceeds to analyse international commitments around 2°C in relation to emissions already released since 2000, when emissions may peak and post-peak reduction rates. It concludes that despite the vociferous rhetoric around the prospects for 2°C, the current framing of climate change policies are much more aligned with 4°C futures. Significantly, it notes that “unless economic growth can be reconciled with unprecedented rates of decarbonisation, it is difficult to envisage anything other than a planned economic recession being compatible with stabilization at or below 650 ppmv CO2e” – that is around 4°C.