June 6, 2014

The Two Degree Target Is Close To Impossible

My title today is a quote from John Barrett, who is Professor of Sustainability Research at the University of Leeds. You can listen to him saying those words near the end of this extract from the Paul Hudson Weather Show originally broadcast by BBC Regional Radio across the North of England on May 25th 2014, shortly after John gave a presentation at the Transformational Climate Science conference at the University of Exeter:

Many thanks to Paul Hudson and his producer, Jack Meegan, for their permission to reproduce this extract from the broadcast.

In the final section, starting at 22:00, Paul Hudson asks each of the scientists their views on the two degrees Celsius "global warming limit". When asked by Paul:

Is it a hopeless cause, or can we do it? Personally!

John had this to say:

Personally, the two degree target is close to impossible, but I don't want to just let it go because I still want to feel that we have something decent to aim for. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't still try and achieve as much rapid reduction as quickly as possible.

Paul then asked Mat Collins, Joint Met Office Chair in Climate Change at the University of Exeter:

In the IPCC meetings, is there a sense of despair?

Mat told Paul:

I don't think there's a sense of despair. There's still a sense that we can adapt to some aspects of climate change, and for that we need more detailed science about how the world is going to look at a regional level. I think we will still see a role for the IPCC, and the science that we do, informing the debate.

In conclusion Paul asked Peter Cox, Professor of Climate System Dynamics at the University of Exeter:

Two [degrees] Celsius. Can we stop it?

Peter replied:

I don't think so through conventional mitigation, through reducing our emissions. In fact the IPCC includes in its scenarios so called "negative emissions technology" which is a fancy way of saying "sucking CO2 out of the air". That's not impossible, but if we're going to assume that to avoid two degrees then we have to invest in that technology because it doesn't yet exist.

at which point Paul interjected:

And that's expensive?

Peter replied:

It could be. It's probably cheaper than some of the other alternatives though!

I thoroughly recommend that you listen to the whole conversation and not just the concluding remarks. Should you wish to gain further insight into why those three climate scientists told Paul Hudson what they did, here's a video of Prof. John Barrett's presentation at the Transformational Climate Science conference:

and here is Prof. Mat Collins' presentation:

A video of Prof. Peter Cox's presentation at the Transformational Climate Science conference can be viewed near the end of our recent article about "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change".

In conclusion here's the transcript of what John Barrett had to say at 20:35 into the recording:

[There's] the need for both global and national leadership. We need politicians to actually stand up, to be able to understand the science and to portray the message to individuals that "I'm really sorry but this is extremely serious and we're going to have to make some really tough decisions about this". We need someone to stand up and not carry on questioning the science, not questioning the economics which is getting quite firm on how much this costs and what we need to do, and start taking some real action. Without that we can't expect individuals to be trying to push for a more low carbon lifestyle without the leadership from above.

Quod erat demonstrandum?

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