Monday, 8 February 2010

Empty Vessels

The January 31st deadline for the Copenhagen Accord has passed with some announcements by politicians, declaring the pledges to cut emissions of their respective states as follows:-
EU 20% against 1990 levels
US 17% of 2005 levels (dependent on domestic legislation).
UK 40% against 1990 levels and 80% by 2050
India 20-25% emissions reduction by 2020
and China has pledged to de-carbonise it's economy by 40-45% relative to 2005 levels.

Unfortunately, these targets do not go nearly far enough, nor are there any mid-term targets; they are not legally binding (with the exception of the UK's targets under the Climate Change Act); they are not easily enforcible and, as several recent reports have highlighted, they may not actually be achievable.

In an attempt to show the collective failure at Copenhagen as some sort of "success" to domestic audiences, our politicians may be misguiding us (not necessarily deliberately).
The current debate centres around prevention of a 2 degree centigrade rise in global mean temperature, but while the error by the IPPC in their 2007 report regarding the demise of the Himalayan glaciers is seized upon by the sceptics, I believe that we are on course for a much greater challenge and that without full commitment and awareness at an individual and societal level we will fail to meet that challenge.

It is time to own up to our failures and admit the reality and scale of the challenge facing us. All available resources must be focused on adapting to this and there must be truth and openness with regard both to the margin of scientific error and to the realistic prospects (however grim) facing us.

Only then will we be able to do what is needed, both as individuals and collectively as the human race.

1 comment:

  1. I think people need to be aware that the science is not precise, but that is not a reason to doubt what is known. Sadly sceptics will exploit the 'margin of error' you speak of to their own advantage. People are happy to accept that things might not be so bad, but because the margin works both ways, it could be way, way worse than anyone conceived of.