03 August 2010

What Comes After the Two Degree Target?

In the coming years, many promises made for emissions reductions in the short-term (e.g., for 2020) are going to have to be walked back, because countries simply are not going to meet these targets. A similar backtracking is also going to be necessary with respect to the so-called "two degree target" which has been embraced most visibly in Europe.

In a provocative essay just published in English, Oliver Geden, of the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (German Institute for International and Security Affairs), has taken on the challenge of proposing how the EU might step back from the 2 degree target, while maintaining a commitment to decarbonization and sustaining public support. Here is the abstract:
In the climate policy community, there is broad consensus regarding the target of limiting global warming levels to a maximum of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Still, barring a breakthrough in UN negotiations in the near future and a reversal in current emissions trends, compliance with the two-degree target will be impossible. If this target is abandoned over the medium-term, the EU would have to make a fundamental strategic decision regarding the structure and stringency levels of a new climate goal. The approach, which has thus far proven dominant, of translating a global temperature cap into precise national emission budgets is hardly feasible from a political viewpoint. Looking ahead, the EU should therefore advocate dynamic formulas for setting targets, which are gauged against benchmarks oriented towards "climate neutrality".
You can read Geden's entire essay here in PDF.


  1. It seems to me the climate is a rollercoaster going in cycles, some of them very long. We only ride it. For the last century, we saw two warming periods of almost equal magnitude, allegedly one of these was anthroprogenic, the other was mostly natural...according to some experts. For some reason all this looks like to me is a bunch of blind-folded experts, that have selected amnesia, riding a roller coaster and making linear projections for the direction base on whatever direction they happen to be going at the moment.

  2. Hello Roger,

    Out of simple curiosity, are there actual climate, atmospheric, ocean and/or meteorology scientists who actually believe man can control global temperatures?

    If so, is it a high percentage of these scientists who believe?

    If so, what science theory or observation/evidence do they base this belief on?

  3. Define the target as to be meaningful to incorporate SST and atmospheric averaging and "guessing" a hypothetical global temperature, and actually be something that humankind is capable of controlling and producing the desired objective.

    Seems this is where selective data and guesses, policy, and politics are blended in the Bass-O-Matic to make a scary drink. I think it's a little fishy. ;)

    Perhaps all we are really able to control is what we put into the blender and how we label the result.

  4. So the gist of the essay is that the EU should decarbonize for the sake of doing so even if it will no impact on warming and imposes costs. A real political winner, that. Although, politicians may like the notion of "dynamic" because it promises more ad hoc interventions.

    I was amused by the paragraph that says if an alternative energy-based economy is in fact less costly and more profitable, governments should do studies to demonstrate that as if no one would possibly notice such things unless and until government-sponsored academics say so.

    A few blogs that effectively tracked energy-related entrepreneurs and inventors would probably be more valuable in advancing a greener future than the sum of climate change reports funded by the EU.

  5. "two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels"

    And no one can even establish what that number is.

    Hubris. On steroids. These people wouldn't recognize wisdom, if they were spoon fed with it. For policy decisions, given a choice between three experienced people from the neighborhood with some common sense and a university full of "experts", why would anyone pick the experts? Without wisdom, you have nothing.

  6. "Still, barring a breakthrough in UN negotiations in the near future and a reversal in current emissions trends, compliance with the two-degree target will be impossible."

    In 2005 the EIA projected that the price of central Appalachian steam coal would remain stable at $30/ton thru at least 2030. The 2007 IPCC report projected a virtually unlimited quantity of inexpensively extractable coal.

    But we are faced with the reality that the price of central appalacian coal has more then doubled and China was exporting coal at $27/ton in 2002 and is currently importing coal at $116 ton.

    It would appear that someone has done a study to try and explain why the price of the 'unlimited supply of coal' is going up.


    The paper provides a physical model of historical and future production of coal worldwide. The model demonstrates that despite enormous coal deposits globally, coal production rates will decline because the deposits show increasing inaccessibility and decreasing coal seam thickness, according to the research.

    Other findings of the study include:

    * The estimated CO2 emissions from global coal production will decrease by 50% by the year 2050.
    * Between the years 2011 and 2050, the average rate of decline of CO2 emissions from the peak is 2% per year, and this decline increases to 4% per year thereafter."

  7. According to McKitrick's new paper http://rossmckitrick.weebly.com/uploads/4/8/0/8/4808045/surfacetempreview.pdf , Global Mean Surface Temperature is highly dependent on the magnitude of human adjustments made to GHCN. So who gets to decide what adjustments are made and which stations are included?

  8. The two degree target is only impossible if you accept the ridiculously high values for the climate sensitivity being touted by the more alarming end of the climate science community, with no obvious basis in fact.

    With more realistic values (less than 2C per doubling) the target becomes tractable. If Roy Spencer is right, and the true sensitivity is below 1C per doubling, then it becomes easy.

    Of course politicians don't actually mean a 2C target, they man a CO2 target, because they are much more interested in regulating CO2 than in temperature.

  9. How will Europe track back? Blame America. It always seems to work - why change now?