CPDN and the Paris agreement

The negotiations in Paris finished with an unexpectedly strong agreement  to aim to limit warming to “well below” 2C, and even “to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C”.

In two articles in The Conversation and Carbon Brief, CPDN PI Myles Allen explores the implications of a 1.5C goal. Whether a 2C or a 1.5C goal, limiting global warming is only achievable if global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions reach zero within this century. To reach a more ambitious goal in global mean temperature stabilisation zero emissions need to be reached sooner than for 2C. So far the simple part of the story.

Not all greenhouse gas emissions are CO2, although it is the most important and longest lived greenhouse gas, and ideas to reduce those are only beginning to be explored. Furthermore, all emission reduction scenarios even for a 2C world include negative emissions in the form of Carbon Capture and Storage. These technologies exist in principle but have not been implemented, to reach a 1.5C stabilisation scenario these technologies would need to be available sooner and on a larger scale argues Allen. In summary, limiting global warming to 1.5C is definitely possible but requires commitment and fast action in developing appropriate political instruments and the necessary technologies.

Most directly relevant for the day to day work of the CPDN team is the fact that in the Paris agreement, Loss and Damage is treated separately from Adaptation. As argued in a paper published earlier this year by Allen Thompson and CPDN’s Fredi Otto, this is particularly important from a climate justice point of view. Not in terms of compensating for losses which is explicitly excluded from the new agreement but in terms of recognition of the fact that there are impacts of climate change we cannot adapt against and these impacts are particularly damaging in the most vulnerable parts of the world.

Currently however, there is no definition of Loss and Damage and concrete ways of dealing with Loss and Damage are to be evaluated at the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties in 2016. Whether and to what extend the science of event attribution is relevant in this context is amongst others being discussed at this weeks fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Watch Fredi Otto discuss some of the major challenges in defining Loss and Damage and Dann Mitchell giving an example of how event attribution can be done for variables beyond meteorology in the AGU on demand session.

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