Turning Paris into reality

The outcome of the Paris climate conference must give everyone cause great confidence. Finally, the leaders of the world’s nations are admitting in public that global and concerted action on climate change is necessary.

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The challenge now having the actions that meet the rhetoric. There has been a significant agreement on the extent to which emissions will be monitored and targets adjusted. This is part of the optimism generated from a conference.

Yet it is worth sounding a note of caution. The conference has decided to aim to limit global warming to 2°, if possible to 1.5°. No one is talking about what kind of reduction in emissions this will require, much less about the planet we will live on if we only get a reduction of 2%.

The climate model is essentially exceptionally simple.

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Carbon is emitted into the atmosphere by human activity and it is absorbed by the oceans and the forests. At present, the level of emissions is running well above the level of absorption, which means that the problem is getting worse and getting worse very quickly.

If we are to stabilise global warming at the current 1.5°, then this is what it’s going to look like.

We will need to get the level of emission very close to and preferably below the level of absorption. This graph shows everything happening this year.

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To reduce emissions to a level that will stabilise climate change at 1.5° will require an 80% reduction in carbon emissions. In the real world, this is not going to happen in 2015, but over some period of time in the future.

However, the longer it takes to achieve an 80% reduction, the worse the problem will get. During all the years that the red line is above the green line, the situation continues to deteriorate and deteriorate at an increasing rate.

The reductions in carbon emissions will have no effect until emissions are lower than absorption.  The rate of reduction in emissions is a relevant.

It’s the gap between the two lines that is the problem

 

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