Wednesday, May 06, 2009

less than 1 trillion tons...

A quick news piece on a new report that I just saw on Van Ness Feldman's policy update (a great, free email update from a law firm in DC that specializes in climate law):

Scientists Set Fossil Fuel Budget for Planet. According to new research published this week in Nature, the world can burn only a quarter to a third of known fossil fuel reserves, and must limit anthropogenic emissions between 2000 and 2050 to about 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, in order to have good odds (>75%) of limiting global average temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius. Many climate scientists have concluded that temperature increases beyond 2 degrees will greatly increase the odds of catastrophic and potentially irreversible climate changes. According to one of the lead researchers, realistically, global emissions must peak around 2020 to meet this budget.

I think it's really helpful to get a sense of the concrete amounts of GHG we can emit to avoid the worst impacts of climate disruption, as opposed to continuing to talk in relative terms about % reductions from arbitrary baselines, which are based on forecasting what is perceived as feasible, vs. backcasting from what we know is necessary. I'm curious to check out the report in Nature to see if this limit of 1 trillion tons of CO2e is on par with what would give us a chance to stablize atmoshpheric concentrations (currently at 388.79 ppm) or actually lower them to what many believe to be a necessary level for safety of 350 ppm.... Stay going.