The Paris agreement

I haven’t written anything about the Paris climate change agreement yet but have been wanting to put my thoughts down on my blog so here goes.

On the one hand it’s quite ambitious. They agreed a 1.5°C target which is very ambitious and an improvement on the 2°C which is what is usually bandied about. But on the other hand it’s not legally binding and our actions are currently insufficient to reach this target. So while we have set a fantastic target, we don’t appear to have any plans to reach it. It’s a bit like making a New Year’s resolution to lose 10kg but then continuing to pig-out out on cake and biscuits.

Our current actions have us on a course which is more likely to see us reach 3.5°C or greater by the end of the century and of course it will continue to climb after that. The 1.5°C requires large and immediate reductions in our emissions leading eventually to none at all. Indeed our net global emissions need to eventually be zero regardless of whether our target is 1.5 or 3.5. The target just decides how quickly we need to reach zero.

According to Myles Allen in his article Can we hold global temperatures to 1.5°C?:

To stabilise at 1.5C, they need to fall, on average, by 20% per tenth of a degree of future warming. Right now, the world is warming by a tenth of a degree every 5-10 years, but of course that would slow as emissions fall.

What does this mean? We’re currently warming by about a tenth of a degree every 5-10 years which means our emissions need to start falling now by about 20% every 5-10 years. Or put simply, for every tenth of degree the temperature rises, we need to cut our emissions by 20%. Can we do that? Yes, we can. But it will require effort and a systemic change to our energy supply, our transport systems, and our way of life.

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