13 October 2010

Closing ‘gigatonne gap’ can stop global warming

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We need to be honest here. Even if the world meets its current 2020 targets for cutting greenhouse gases, that won’t be enough to stop global warming or avoid dangerous climate change

But it’s not too late, or too difficult, to aim a bit higher. That’s the upbeat conclusion of our new report, ‘Plugging the Gap: An easy guide to a safe climate future’, released at this week’s UN climate talks in Tianjin, China.

Heard of the gigatonne gap? You will. It’s the difference between the greenhouse gas ‘budget’ that the world needs to stick to by 2020 (according to the climate science) and the actual emissions we’re on course to produce.

The world is set to overshoot the carbon budget by about a third – and that’s if we all achieve our current CO2 reduction targets.

In gigatonne terms – a gigatonne, the measurement of choice for carbon scientists, is a billion tonnes – the world is on-course to emit as much as 53 gigatonnes of CO2 (or the equivalent in other greenhouse gases) per year by 2020. The scientists’ recommended upper limit is 40 gigatonnes per year. The plan is this will peak and then gradually drop till we hit the agreed 2050 target, 80% below 1990 levels.

Hitting the 2020 carbon budget is vital to set us on the right track. And as we explain in our encouraging new ‘Plugging The Gap’ report, there are some obvious and pretty easy things we can do to make it happen.

As a simple example, take ‘black carbon’ – otherwise known as soot. Soot has been shown to have a disproportionately severe melting effect when it settles on Himalayan glaciers or Arctic ice caps, because it makes surfaces absorb more heat.

But there are quick and easy fixes to the soot problem. Particularly cleaning up diesel fuels – on the way to phasing out fossil fuel-burning altogether – and supporting the use of more energy-efficient stoves in developing countries.
 

(WWF)

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