With less than 200 days to go until the Copenhagen Climate talks, progress is said to be “steadily and slowly” being made.
“There is a constructive atmosphere in the negotiations and I’m very encouraged,” Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change said last week.
But the “slow and steady” political progress is not enough, compared to the “rapid and massive action” needed according to new scientific research.
This new research blows previous estimates of the severity of climate change out of the water. It predicts that global temperatures could rise by more than 7C this century killing hundreds of millions of people and leaving the world on the brink of total collapse.
Let’s not forget that climate camapigners have been warning of the dangers of a 2 degrees rise in temperature, let alone a six degree one.
Mark Lynas argues that beyond two degrees: “First millions, then billions, of people will face an increasingly tough battle to survive”. In Lynas’ book Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, he outlines how a six degree rise will end life on this planet as we know it. And the new research is talking about a seven degree rise.
The study, carried out in unprecedented detail, projected that without “rapid and massive action” temperatures worldwide will increase by as much as 7.4C (13.3F) by 2100, from levels seen in 2000. Previous estimates have concluded that the likely increase this century would probably be 2.4C (4.3F).
However the new study by scientists at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology included projected economic growth in developing countries and new information on the affect increased carbon emissions will have on biological processes, such as the capacity of the ocean to absorb greenhouse gases.
Study co-author Ronald Prinn, Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and director of MIT’s Centre for Global Climate Change, said all the results resulted in an increase in temperatures.
The projections average out at a likely Earth temperature increase of 5.2C (9.4F) this century, and conclude there is a 90 per cent chance the temperature change will be between 3.5C and 7.4C (6.3F and 13.3F).
“Overall they stacked up so they caused more projected global warming. There is significantly more risk than we previously expected,” he said. “This increases the urgency for significant policy action. There is no way the world can and should take these risks.”
Significantly more risk needs significantly more action. Climate campaigners have said at the moment it looks like there will be a deal in December but that it will have all the political meaning and momentum of a warty and unpleasant toad.
It will not be a radical agreement that somehow means we can stop runaway climate change.
It will be as much use as a dead toad.