The planet is heading for a 3°C rise in temperature by 2100 unless governments deliver more ambitious emission reduction pledges, according to a new report.
The latest Climate Action Tracker (CAT) publication says governments around the world have failed to deliver serious policies to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
And according to one of the report’s authors, Niklas Höhne, Director of Energy and Climate Change at Ecofys, the problem is not simply that states are not taking action, but that their current efforts are nowhere near what is required.
“Our analysis shows that it’s not the number of governments making pledges that will make the difference here, it’s the size of the pledges already on the table. We’re not facing a ‘participation gap’ – it’s an ambition gap,” he said.
The 2°C target, which all countries signed up to at the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, follows from the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change looking at the impacts of climate change that surpasses this limit.
The CAT report says a 2°C limit is still possible, but that current pledges under the UN climate process could lead the global mean temperature to increase by as much as 4.1°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.
Professor Robert Watson, one of the UK government’s senior scientific advisers, warned in the build up to the Bangkok talks that a 2°C limit is no longer possible.
The Climate Action Tracker also analyses the effect of action to curb the so-called “low hanging fruit” – such as black carbon and Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s). Pound for pound these other climate forcers have a greater direct impact on global warming than CO2, but over a far shorter time period.
The report said while these actions are important, they are “totally insufficient” on their own and limiting CO2 must take precedence.
What a 3°C world would look like
In the 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, it was predicted that a 3°C rise could see 550 million more people at risk of hunger. The review also said that 170 million people could suffer from the effects of coastal flooding.
A 3°C temperature rise could also mean an increase in sea levels, leaving small island states such as the Maldives submerged.
The Greenland Ice Sheet would be at risk of instability while the West Antarctic Ice Sheet would also be under threat. Glacier melt could leave much of Central Asia and South America with reduced water availability.
Scientists also predict that this temperature rise could leave large parts of the globe uninhabitable due to drought and excessive heat.