Beyond 'dangerous' climate change: Emission scenarios for a new world

TitleBeyond 'dangerous' climate change: Emission scenarios for a new world
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsAnderson, K, Larkin, A
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Start Page20
ISBN Number1364503X
Keywordsclimate policy, Cumulative emissions, Emission pathways, Emission scenarios

The Copenhagen Accord reiterates the international community's commitment to 'hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius'. Yet its preferred focus on global emission peak dates and longer-term reduction targets without recourse to cumulative emission budgets belies seriously the scale and scope of mitigation necessary to meet such a commitment. Moreover the pivotal importance of emissions from non- Annex 1 nations in shaping available space for Annex 1 emission pathways received and continues to receive little attention. Building on previous studies this paper uses a cumulative emissions framing broken down to Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 nations to understand the implications of rapid emission growth in nations such as China and India for mitigation rates elsewhere. The analysis suggests that despite high-level statements to the contrary there is now little to no chance of maintaining the global mean surface temperature at or below 2° C. Moreover the impacts associated with 2° C have been revised upwards sufficiently so that 2° C now more appropriately represents the threshold between 'dangerous' and 'extremely dangerous' climate change. Ultimately the science of climate change allied with the emission scenarios for Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 nations suggests a radically different framing of the mitigation and adaptation challenge from that accompanying many other analyses particularly those directly informing policy. © 2011 The Royal Society.