We have years, not decades to avoid a catastrophic 2C temperature rise.

We have years, not decades to reach zero emissions

The latest science tells us that we have to peak our emissions now and bring them back down to zero as quickly as possible. Leading climatologists including Holdren, Hansen, and Schellnhuber are telling us we have ten years to get to zero in order to avoid the worst tipping points and GHG emissions that will commit us to 4C – 6C or more before the end of the century. Less than 2 years ago, no one dared imagine humanity pushing the climate beyond an additional unsafe two degrees C of heating, but rising carbon emissions and inability to agree on cuts has meant science must now consider the previously unthinkable. “Two degrees C is already gone as a target,” said Chris West of the University of Oxford’s UK Climate Impacts Programme. “Four degrees C is definitely possible…This is the biggest challenge in our history.”

Recently, Schellnhuber told the 4 degrees and beyond conference in Oxford: “Political reality must be grounded in physical reality or it’s completely useless.” Schellnhuber recently briefed U.S. officials from the Barack Obama administration – he states that they chided him that his findings were “not grounded in political reality” and that “the [U.S.] Senate will never agree to this”. Schellnhuber told them that the U.S. must reduce its emissions from its current 20 tonnes of carbon per person average to zero tonnes per person by 2020 to have an even chance of stabilizing the climate around two degrees C.

“Policymakers who agreed to a two-degree C goal at the G20 summit easily fool themselves about what emission cuts are needed,” Schellnhuber said. Even with a two-degree rise, most of the world’s coral reefs will be lost, large portions of the ocean will become dead zones, mountain glaciers will largely vanish and many other ecosystems will be at risk, Schellnhuber warned. And there is the risk of reaching a tipping point where the warming rapidly accelerates.

It’s past time to get real. We need to state the truth by simply telling it. What many activists and NGOs continue to push for; 20-25% emissions reductions from 1990 levels on behalf of industrialized nations as sufficient targets to save civilization is nothing more than a fairy tale. Once certain thresholds are past, they are past. There is no going back.

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Creative commons photo courtesy of Zoriah via Flickr.

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