2°C warming target “out the window” says top UK scientist

By RTCC Staff 

Efforts to keep a global temperature rise limited to 2°C are “out of the window”, according to one of the UK Government’s senior scientific advisers.

Professor Robert Watson, current Chief Scientist for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said efforts to stop the sharp rise in temperatures were now unrealistic and the world could potentially see a rise as high as 5°C.

He told the BBC: “I have to look back (on successive climate change summits) Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban and say that I can’t be overly optimistic. To be quite candid the idea of a 2°C target is largely out of the window”.

Professor Robert Watson warns the world could be heading towards 5 degrees (Source: thewritingzone/Creative Commons)

“If we carry on the way we are there is a 50-50 chance that we will get to a 3°C rise,” he added.

“I wouldn’t rule out a 5°C world and that would be quite serious for the people of the world especially, the poorest. We need more political will than we currently have”.

During a visit to Canada earlier this month, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Maria van der Hoeven, said the 2°C target was still achievable but that it would take an urgent low-energy transition.

The IEA has previously warned that the gap is closing for action to limit temperature rises.

The latest comment from Professor Watson comes the week before countries meet in Bangkok for the final intersessional meeting ahead of the Doha climate conference at the end of the year.

The discussions in Thailand are likely to focus on the plan for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol – the current agreement by developed countries to limit their emissions – and a new legally binding global commitment to be in place by 2020.

Ahead of the talks, US chief negotiator Todd Stern called for countries to drop the 2°C agreement, saying continued discussions on this could hamper real action by countries to combat climate change.

The 2°C limit, which was adopted at the Copenhagen conference in 2009, was seen as major victory for developing countries, many of whom want the target strengthened to 1.5°C.

Professor Watson said he still believes the UK and Germany could and should lead the way on developing a new effective international treaty.

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