«In relation to the first two issues, the Copenhagen Accord and many other highlevel policy statements are unequivocal in both their recognition of 2ºC as the appropriate delineator between acceptable and dangerous climate change and the need to remain at or below 2ºC. Despite such clarity, those providing policy advice frequently take a much less categorical position, although the implications of their more nuanced analyses are rarely communicated adequately to policy makers.
Moreover, given that it is a ‘political’ interpretation of the severity of impacts that informs where the threshold between acceptable and dangerous climate change resides, the recent reassessment of these impacts upwards suggests current analyses of mitigation significantly underestimate what is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. Nevertheless, and despite the evident logic for revising the 2ºC threshold, there is little political appetite and limited academic support for such a revision. In stark contrast, many academics and wider policy advisers undertake their analyses of mitigation with relatively high probabilities of exceeding 2ºC and consequently risk entering a prolonged period of what can now reasonably be described as extremely dangerous climate change.
Put bluntly, while the rhetoric of policy is to reduce emissions in line with avoiding dangerous climate change, most policy advice is to accept a high probability of extremely dangerous climate change rather than propose radical and immediate emission reductions.
[...] However, given the CCC acknowledge ‘it is not now possible to ensure with high likelihood that a temperature rise of more than 2ºC is avoided’ and given the view that reductions in emissions in excess of 3–4% per year are not compatible with economic growth, the CCC are, in effect, conceding that avoiding dangerous (and even extremely dangerous) climate change is no longer compatible with economic prosperity. [...]
By contrast, the logic of such studies suggests (extremely) dangerous climate change can only be avoided if economic growth is exchanged, at least temporarily, for a period of planned austerity within Annex 1 nations and a rapid transition away from fossil-fuelled development within non-Annex 1 nations.
However, this paper is not intended as a message of futility, but rather a bare and perhaps brutal assessment of where our ‘rose-tinted’ and well intentioned (though ultimately ineffective) approach to climate change has brought us.
Real hope and opportunity, if it is to arise at all, will do so from a raw and dispassionate assessment of the scale of the challenge faced by the global community. This paper is intended as a small contribution to such a vision and future of hope.