How to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius

by CCAC secretariat - 14 November, 2016
A new report on Fast Action Policies to Protect People & the Planet from Extreme Climate Changes

We are running out of time to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius (2⁰C) a panel of World renowned scientists and policy experts said today at the annual United Nations Climate Negotiations (known as COP22) taking place in Marrakech, Morocco. But, they said, there is are cost effective technologies and activities that can be implemented immediately to prevent extreme climate changes.

The panel launched a report that outlined key actions and policies needed to keep global warming from breeching the 2⁰C limit and to hopefully keep as close to 1.5⁰ C as possible. They warned that warming was accelerating and that solutions needed to keep with pace.

The report Under 2 Degrees Celsius: Fast Action Policies to Protect People & the Planet from Extreme Climate Changes by the Committee to Prevent Extreme Climate Change highlights reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) as one of a number of important actions countries can take now.

In a statement, Nobel Laureate, and Chair of the Committee, Mario Molina said: “We know we are running out of time. This diverse group of experts provides the world with a specific plan for effectively addressing the climate change challenge in both the near- and long-term.”

It is still not too late to limit the warming. Staying below 2ºC requires social, financial, and technical actions by 2020 on a global scale
Veerabhadran Ramanathan

Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Chair of the Committee and Distinguished Professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, USA said there was a lot to learn from real world activities taking place in 53 living laboratories around the world.

“It is still not too late to limit the warming.  Staying below 2ºC requires social, financial, and technical actions by 2020 on a global scale,” he said.  “Transitioning to the energy of the future and cleaning the air of short lived pollutants are critical steps to the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable today and our future generations.”

Durwood Zaelke, Chair of the Committee and President of the Institute for Governance and International Development (IGSD) warned that climate change was accelerating as self-reinforcing feedbacks like sea ice loss are feeding off itself and creating more warming.

“We can’t solve a fast moving problem like climate change with slow moving solutions. Speed is our new metric—speed to cut SLCPs by 2030, to achieve clean energy and net zero emissions by 2050, and to remove a growing share of the carbon dioxide we've already emitted,” Mr Zaelke said.  “Cutting SLCPs can avoid 0.6 degrees of warming by mid-century and have a super role to play if we want to keep warming to 1.5 degrees.”

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Infographic: Showing the levers needed to keep warming below two degrees Celsius.

United Nations Environment’s Chief Scientist, Jacqueline McGlade, said that based on the analysis of the UN’s Emissions Gap Report that peak carbon dioxide needs to happen before 2020 if the world wants to stay close to 1.5⁰C .

“I really really urge us to engage all of society to do all we can. If not we will not reach 1.5 degrees, we will not make 2 degrees,” Ms McGlade said. “This is no time for prevarication, it is time for us to bring everybody into the tent and we have to make it count. We have to be able to measure our reductions, it has to be transparent and it has to be provable.”

Daniel Kammen, Distinguished Professor of Energy, University of California Berkeley, and Science Envoy for the US State Department said that dramatic decarbonization was not only possible in many places but also cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives.

“In study after study, we have seen that in a whole range of developed and developing economies that for realistic and cost-effective transitions rapid decarbonization is entirely possible, and is frequently less expensive than the fossil fuel alternatives on the table,” Mr Kammen said. “What needs to catch up are the regulatory and governess like carbon pricing. It therefore increasingly imprtnat to assist countries around the world, rich and poor, to take steps to decarbonize and reduce SLCPs the most seriously.”

Dr Maria Neira, Director of the World Health Organization’s Public Health and the Environment Department said that there is an additional reason why we should act now and not wait.

“According to our estimates we have 12.6 million premature deaths every year caused by environmental risk factors that could be reduced if take the actions being described,” she said. “In all of these activities we see an enormous opportunity for health and if we can quantify the health benefits that will be obtained by acting we will see the societal transformations we are looking for. We need to link these climate mitigation activities to the health of people.”

 Ken Alex, from the office of California Governor Jerry Brown, discussed the role sub-national governments can play to rapidly reduce warming.

“California is the fifth largest economy in the world, we are showing how highly industrialized economies can make substantial reductions. California’s SLCP reduction strategy aims to cut 40% of methane, 50% of black carbon and 40% of HFCs by 2030,” Mr Alex said.  “Sub-nationals are often more nimble and have the ability to take more immediate action and provide pilot programs and pathways for national and international efforts.”

The report was written by over thirty experts in climate science, economics, policy, and national security, from China, EU, India, UK and US takes a new approach to staying below 2ºC and thus avoid extreme and unmanageable climate changes. The report identifies 4 building blocks for climate policy success and 10 scalable solutions implemented through multi- dimensional and multi-sectoral methods to get the global economy and society to achieve rapid reductions in short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality and climate stability by 2050.

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COP22 Marrakech, Morocco. From left: Helena Molin Valdes, Jacqueline McGlade, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Daniel Kammen, Maria Neira, Durwood Zaelke