TWO DEGREES WARMING A PRESCRIPTION FOR DISASTER: HANSEN

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8 may 2011

Time to open our eyes: "Latest scientific results on climate change impacts are shocking"

Can-Europe, 06 May 2011

While the EU institution seem to be asleep at the helm, new scientific research seems to suggest that the current EU and international agreed climate and temperature targets are in fact not safe to avoid dangerous climate change.

A recent assessment by Hansen and Sato looked at what the climate on the earth was like ten thousands years ago at a time when greenhouse gas concentrations were at the level, esteemed to be safe by the EU and the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), of 450 parts per million CO2. The scientists' conclusions are chilling: "...goals of limiting human-made warming to 2°C and CO2 to 450 ppm are prescriptions for disaster." The report contains a strong warning for European politicians: "If we are correct in that conclusion, the EU 2°C scenario [ed. the EU's goal and emission scenario to keep global warming below +2˚C] implies a sea level rise of many meters. It is difficult to predict a time scale for the sea level rise, but it would be dangerous and foolish to take such a global warming scenario as a goal."

Only a few days ago, a new study presented by the International Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program has found that feedback loops are already accelerating warming in the far North, which will rapidly increase the rate of ice melt. As a result, the panel now estimates that sea levels could rise by as much as 1.6 meters by the end of the century. This research supersedes the more moderate assumptions in the older 2007 IPCC report , which did not take fully into account glacial melting. Again, such sea level rise on a relatively short time-scale would require very costly adaptation measures for many European Member States. It might even be possible that protective adaptation will be impossible and that part of European land will have to be given up to the sea in the next decades.

On 5 May the much respected Science magazine published a research article which links climate and temperature impacts with food production and prices. Worldwide, yields of corn and wheat declined by 3.8% and 5.5%, respectively, compared with what they would have been without global warming. Seeing how crop harvest failures in Russia following this year's summer heatwave and economic speculation on food have raised food prices significantly in the past year, this report is another warning for what might be in store for the future.

While this is only a grasp of recent research, much more peer reviewed material has been pointing in the same direction for decades. This is why Climate Action Network Europe (CAN-E) calls for an EU 2020 emissions reduction target of at least 40% compared to 1990 levels. CAN-E is shocked to see Europe's political climate ambition level being systemically downgraded. Not upgrading Europe's current meagre 20% 2020 target by both the Barroso II commission and the EU Council can, when looking at the latest scientific evidence, be seen as an act of criminal negligence. A fundamentally immoral situation which must be corrected as soon as possible.


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