Rationale for 9% pa Power Down
The UN Climate Change Convention obliges the EU and other nations to "stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system", allowing ecosystems to adapt to the rate of climate change and safeguarding food production.
The most recent evidence shows that global temperatures are now as high or higher than they have been in the last 12,000 years, and that another 1 degree C warming from the year 2000 will push the planet beyond the highest temperature in 1 million years ('Global Temperature Change', James Hansen et al, PNAS, 26.9.2006). We are already committed to around 0.6 degrees C further warming, leaving us with a 5-10 year window for drastic emission cuts. Beyond an additional degree C of warming we will, according to Hansen face 'basically a different planet', with the likely extinction of most species and the possibly very rapid disintegration of the ice sheets and thus fast sea level rises of eventually tens of metres. Several earth systems are already showing signs of positive feedback, reinforcing global warming, and those feedbacks are expected to get far worse if global warming exceeds 1 . 1.2 degrees C from the year 2000. Loss of albedo (reflectivity) from melting ice caps, forest die-back, soil dessication, accelerating methane hydrate release from melting permafrosts and possibly methane clathrate release from beneath ocean beds would then make it impossible to stabilise atmospheric green house gases.
In October 2006 the Tyndall Climate Centre published research showing how only 'drastic' emission cuts of 9% per annum in CO2e (equivalent emissions) will offer the chance of stabilising climate. Also In October 2006 George Monbiot in his book, Heat, using separate research arrives at the same figure. 9% per annum equates to a 60% reduction by 2016 and 90% by 2030. James Hansen also points out that we are unlikely to stay within the additional 1 degree C warming beyond the year 2000 without immediate large-scale cuts in ozone/NOx, methane and black soot emissions.
"The United Kingdom... intends to cut carbon emissions
by 60% by 2050. This is one of the world.s most ambitious
objectives. It is also... next to useless... None of [the major
environmental groups] has yet stepped forward to say that we need a
cut of the magnitude the science demands".
George Monbiot, HEAT 2006.
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