“Time running out” for deep CO2 cuts

The world will have to essentially end the emission of carbon dioxide by 2050 to avoid catastrophic disruption to the earth’s climate, the Worldwatch Institute warned on Tuesday. The drastic warning came as the Washington-based research organisation released its State of the World 2009 report, Into a Warming World.


While saying that emissions will have to be reduced more drastically than has been widely predicted, Worldwatch noted that opportunities abound for slowing and managing climate change. Such opportunities, according to the report’s authors, can be found in renewable energy and efficiency improvements, in agriculture and forestry, and in the resilience of human societies.


“Sealing the deal to save the global climate,” said Robert Engelman, a Worldwatch vice president, “will require mass public support and worldwide political will to shift to renewable energy, new ways of living and a human scale that matches the atmosphere’s limits.”


In one chapter of the report, climate scientist W L Hare of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research wrote that global greenhouse-gas emissions will need to peak before 2020 and drop 85% below 1990 levels by 2050, with further reductions to follow. If a catastrophic tipping point is to be avoided, in other words, more emissions must be absorbed than are emitted in the second half of this century.


Hare’s research indicates that an average global warming of 2 degrees Celsius risks significant loss of species, major reductions in food-production capacity in developing countries, severe water stress for hundreds of millions of people, and significant sea-level rise and coastal flooding.  


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