Will climate change be dangerous

The climate summit starts next week in Warsaw. Once again, thousands of government negotiators, environmental activists and politicians meet to discuss a new agreement on climate protection. The heads of state should then sign it in Paris in 2015. So far, however, it does not look as if the politicians will be able to agree on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997.

A study by the management consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers with the descriptive title "Busting the Carbon Budget" (here as PDF) shows how urgent such an agreement would be. The sustainability experts Leo Johnson, Jonathan Grant and Lit Ping Low calculated in the paper how much CO2 the world can still blow into the atmosphere in order to keep climate change within tolerable limits.

The unsettling result: if mankind does not significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is theirs "CO2 budget" in 2034 exhausted. Then there would be so much CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that the temperature on earth is very likely to rise by two degrees Celsius by 2100.

Jonathan Grant, who heads the sustainability department at PwC, commented on the study: "The industrialized and emerging countries are still producing carbon dioxide as if there were no tomorrow." In order to still adhere to the two-degree limit, a large part of the oil, gas and coal reserves would have to remain in the ground.

CO2 emissions should decrease by six percent per year Although the economy can show progress towards more climate protection, they are currently still too small to make a difference. The carbon dioxide emissions per economic unit produced fell worldwide between 2007 and 2012 by 0.7 percent per year (This value is also referred to as the CO2 intensity of the economy).

In order to meet the CO2 budget, emissions would have to drop by six percent per year. Even with a reduction of 1.4 percent per year, i.e. a doubling of the current rate, the world would probably warm up by four degrees by 2100.

The PwC authors state that measures that some experts and politicians hoped for years ago to curb climate change have now proven to be ineffective: this is how both nuclear power and technologies for CO2 neutralization (keyword CCS) are too unpopular to really be able to slow down climate change. In contrast, successes promise more energy efficiency and renewable electricity generation in the future.

What is also exciting about the study, which is worth reading, is a study of the development of Co2 emissions in the individual countries. It shows: Germany, which likes to see itself as an eco-primus, is currently dirtier than South Africa or Mexico. The USA and Australia, on the other hand, reduced their CO2 intensity the most between 2011 and 2012.

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