On not cutting emissions immediately

Extratropical_formation_areasOr, as we say around the schoolyard, a 2° Celsius rise in global temperatures. Or maybe not:

“At some point, scientists will have to declare that it’s game over for the 2°C target,” says Oliver Geden, a climate policy analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “But they haven’t yet. Because nobody knows what will happen if they call this thing off.” The 2°C target was one of the few things that everyone at global climate talks could agree on. If the goal turns out to be impossible, people might just stop trying altogether.

Recently, then, some scientists and policymakers have been taking a fresh look at whether the 2°C limit is still the best way to think about climate change. Is this simple goal actually making it harder to prepare for the warming that lies ahead? Is it time to consider other approaches to climate policy? And if 2°C really is so dangerous, what do we do when it’s out of reach?

The best way to think about climate change – that is quite the challenge. What we can tolerate, what the remaining flora and fauna can tolerate, what does tolerate mean? how hot is too hot? These are but the tip of the iceberg of stupid questions, because if we’re asking them, we are looking for ways to put off doing anything about the reasons the temperatures are going up. In the meantime, evidence is mounting that cutting carbon emissions makes economic sense, smashing the most constant rationale for just sitting there (in traffic). Start by decarbonizing some part of your life today and begin to work out from there. Think of it as freeing yourself from something, if you have to. Take some individual steps, and don’t worry about what China or India isn’t doing. As the article points out, if our body temperature goes up 2°C, we have a significant fever.

Image: extratropical cyclone formation areas, between approximately 30° and 60° N/S latitude, via wikimedia commons.