It may be nine months before the main event, but leading climate scientists are meeting in Copenhagen to discuss the latest scientific research and developments. The findings will be used to inform the politicians when they meet at the crucial meeting in December.
But on the eve of this month’s conference, two leading British climate scientists have broken ranks with their peers to declare that they believe that hopes of getting a meaningful deal on halting climate change are “already lost.”
Professor Kevin Anderson, director of the prestigious Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, and Professor Trevor Davies, one of the centre’s founders, have told The Times newspaper that it was time to start looking for alternatives to an international deal.
“We all hope that Copenhagen will succeed but I think it will fail. We won’t come up with a global agreement,” Professor Anderson said. “I think we will negotiate, there will be a few fudges and there will be a very weak daughter of Kyoto. I doubt it will be significantly based on the science of climate change.”
Professor Anderson believes that the severity of the likely impacts of climate change has been publicly underplayed by both politicians and scientists. Moreover Anderson believes that, rather than recognise the scale and urgency of the problem, negotiators will place a heavy reliance on technological solutions that have yet to be invented or proven. “The consequences of the numbers we come up with are politically unacceptable. It’s difficult for people to stand up. ”
But scientists are standing up and sounding warnings on a nearly daily basis – warnings that are going unheeded by politicians. The latest research, from other leading climate scientists in Britain, argues that there is a 50-50 chance of temperature rises reaching dangerous levels over the next century.
Even with heavy cuts in greenhouse gas emissions of 3 per cent a year from 2015, scientists from the Hadley Centre in Exeter, believe the chance of preventing the temperature rise from exceeding 2C by 2050 is no more than half. And every decade’s delay in reducing emissions will cause temperatures to go up by half a degree.
Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Hadley Centre, said that a 2C rise could be delayed but it was extremely unlikely that it could be avoided. “We are pretty much going to head towards 2C whatever we do. There are some impacts that are already happening and we are going to be living in a very different world.”