Is avoiding 2C of global warming possible?

Models that suggest the world can rapidly cut CO2 emissions are optimistic, says CICERO’s Glen Peters

By Ed King

“I’m going to take you on a journey. Five degrees is what we are heading for with limited climate policies,” says Glenn Peters, a scientist at the Oslo-based CICERO institute.

That’s bad news. 2C is the temperature increase above pre-industrial levels that most countries have agreed they need to avoid.

“There will be climate impacts at 2C, but we feel we can manage those impacts,” says Peters, in a presentation you can watch above.

The upcoming UN climate summit in Paris is meant to be the moment where governments thrash out a plan to limit warming.

But they will need to rapidly cut emissions not just in the future but also account for those released in the past, he says, in the form of negative emissions.

READ MORE: 2C or not 2C?

Other policies needed will be a global carbon price, a fast phase-out of fossil fuels – first coal, then oil, then gas – and the development of large-scale carbon capture and storage.

Many experts – including the incoming head of the International Energy Agency Fatih Birol – think it’s possible and can be done without costing billions.

But based on current policies, technologies and political realities, Peters disagrees, and thinks it’s time to prepare for a worst-case warming scenario.

“We have essentially emitted too much and to tackle that we have to take carbon out of the atmosphere – and this is a big assumption,” he says.

“We need to head to zero emissions by the end of the century, so anything that goes into the atmosphere needs to be taken back out.”

Without negative emissions, fossil fuels would have to be ruled out after 2050 he says, with an energy mix comprised of nuclear, bioenergy, solar and wind.

“Is 2C feasible…? It’s a question many don’t like to answer but I’m happy to give you an answer. Yes, but only in a model. In reality? No.”

Read more on: 2C | Research |