Paper: Are We Avoiding a 2 Celsius Warming Yet?

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” …;  society can no longer await the decadal
timeframes necessary for a transition
to low-carbon energy supply. If the 2 °C
threshold is to maintain any meaningful
currency, industrialised nations have little
option but to radically and urgently
curtail their demand for energy.”
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Energy Policy
36 (2008) 3714-3722

From long-term targets to cumulative emission pathways
Kevin Anderson, Alice Bows, Sarah Mander: The
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, MACE,
University of Manchester, Manchester M601QD, UK

Received 14 March 2008;
accepted 5 July 2008.
Available online 8 August 2008.

Abstract

In March 2007, the EU reaffirmed its commitment
to making its fair contribution to global mean
surface temperatures not exceeding 2 °C above
pre-industrial levels. In line with this, the UK
Government has laid legal foundations for an
emissions cut of 60% by 2050. Whilst 2050
reductions dominate the target-setting agenda,
long-term targets do not have a scientific basis
and are leading to dangerously misguided
policies. If a policy is to be scientifically
credible, it must be informed by an understanding
of cumulative emissions and associated emissions
pathways. This analysis of current UK climate
policy illustrates how following the “correlation
trail” from global temperature thresholds to
national emissions pathways fundamentally
reframes the UK’s targets. Considering cumulative
emissions, carbon cycle feedbacks and the
omission of emissions from international
transport dramatically increases both the scale
and immediacy with which emissions need to be
reduced; for example, within the UK, 6-9% p.a.
reductions beginning as early as 2012. The
implications of this are stark; society can no
longer await the decadal timeframes necessary for
a transition to low-carbon energy supply. If the
2 °C threshold is to maintain any meaningful
currency, industrialised nations have little
option but to radically and urgently curtail
their demand for energy.

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