Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Nature Climate Change: Action by 2020 key for limiting climate change

17.12.2012
Limiting climate change to target levels will become much more difficult to achieve, and more expensive, if action is not taken soon, according to a new analysis from IIASA, ETH Zurich, and NCAR

This is a joint press release from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria, ETH Zurich in Switzerland, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.

Limiting climate change to target levels will become much more difficult to achieve, and more expensive, if action is not taken soon, according to a new analysis from IIASA, ETH Zurich, and NCAR.

The new paper, published today in Nature Climate Change, explores technological, policy, and social changes that would need to take place in the near term in order to keep global average temperature from rising above 2°C, a target supported by more than 190 countries as a global limit to avoid dangerous climate change. This study for the first time comprehensively quantifies the costs and risks of greenhouse gas emissions surpassing critical thresholds by 2020. The findings of the study are particularly important given the failure of the recent climate negotiations in Doha to decide to increase mitigation action before 2020.

The authors show that the 2°C target could still be reached even if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced before 2020, but only at very high cost, with higher climate risks, and under exceedingly optimistic assumptions about future technologies. The more emissions are reduced in the near term, the more options will be available in the long run and, by extension, the cheaper it will be to reach international climate targets.

"We wanted to know what needs to be done by 2020 in order to be able to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius for the entire twenty-first century," says Joeri Rogelj, lead author of the paper and researcher at ETH Zurich. The team of researchers analyzed a large array of potential scenarios for limiting global temperature rise to 2 °C above preindustrial levels, a target set by international climate agreements.

Projections based on current national emissions pledges suggest that global carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions will reach 55 gigatons (billion metric tons, Gt) or more per year in 2020, up from approximately 50 Gt today. At such levels, it would still be possible to reach the 2°C target in the long term, though it would be more difficult and expensive than if near-term emissions were lower.

For instance, nuclear power would need to remain on the table as a mitigation option, or people would need to quickly adopt advanced technology strategies, including electric vehicles and highly efficient energy end-use technologies such as appliances, buildings, and transportation. Meanwhile, coal-fired power plants would need to be rapidly shut down and replaced with other energy sources. IIASA Energy Program Leader Keywan Riahi, who also worked on the study, says, "You would need to shut down a coal power plant each week for ten years if you still wanted to reach the two-degree Celsius target."

"If we want to keep as many options open as possible, we should aim to reduce global emissions to 41 to 47 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2020", says Rogelj. According to the study, the only way to meet the long-term temperature target without carbon capture and storage is to ensure that emissions fall within this near-term range.

"What we do over the next eight years really determines the feasibility and choices that we have in the long term," says Riahi. "Some of these options for policies and technological change are still choices, such as phasing out nuclear power. We lose these choices if we overshoot certain thresholds."

The study goes beyond previous analyses by directly assessing how high emissions in 2020 can go before the long-term target of 2 °C is no longer attainable. "Under some conditions, the two-degree target is feasible even if we don't reduce emissions at all by 2020," says co-author Brian O'Neill, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. "But if we allow for the possibility that some technologies may not pan out, or are overly costly or have undesirable consequences, then emissions reductions have to start this decade."

"Our analysis shows that we are very dependent on key technologies like carbon capture and storage and on land-consuming measures like afforestation and the cultivation of crops for biofuel production," says Rogelj. "If we want to become less dependent on massive implementation of these technologies to make it below two degrees Celsius, we need to reduce emissions by 2020 and use energy more efficiently."

The study highlights the importance of reducing energy demand and improving efficiency as perhaps the most effective way to mitigate climate change this decade, echoing previous work from IIASA and others (Global Energy Assessment, 2012). In scenarios with lower energy demand growth, the researchers find a much greater chance that global temperatures would not rise more than 2 °C, with much more flexibility in the methods and technologies required to reduce greenhouse gases.

"Fundamentally, it's a question of how much society is willing to risk," says IIASA energy researcher David McCollum, another study co-author. "It's certainly easier for us to push the climate problem off for a little while longer, but if we do that, then we risk that certain mitigation options may not ultimately be available in the long run. What's more, from the perspective of the global climate system, continuing to pump high levels of emissions into the atmosphere over the next decade only increases the risk that we will overshoot the two-degree target."

Reference
Rogelj, J., D.L. McCollum, B.C. O'Neill, and K. Riahi. 2012. 2020 emissions levels required to limit warming to below 2 _C. Nature Climate Change. doi:10.1038/NCLIMATE1758

Embargo Information
Journalists should seek to credit the relevant Nature publication as the source of stories covered. For more information on Nature's embargo policy, please see the Nature Web site: http://www.nature.com/authors/policies/embargo.html.

Contacts:

ETH Zurich:

Joeri Rogelj, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science
Phone +41 44 632 82 79
Email: joeri.rogelj@env.ethz.ch
Claudia Naegeli, Media Relations
Phone :+41 44 632 41 41
Email : mediarelations@hk.ethz.ch
IIASA:
Keywan Riahi, IIASA Energy Program Leader
Phone: +43(0) 2236 807 491
Email: riahi@iiasa.ac.at
David McCollum, Research Scholar, Energy Program
Phone +43(0) 2236 807 586
Email mccollum@iiasa.ac.at
Katherine Leitzell, IIASA Communications:
Phone: +43(0) 2236 807 316 or
Email: leitzell@iiasa.ac.at
NCAR:
Brian O'Neill, Leader, NCAR Integrated Assessment Modeling Group
Phone: +1 303.497.8118
Email: boneill@ucar.edu
About IIASA:
IIASA is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania and Europe. www.iiasa.ac.at

About ETH Zurich:

ETH Zurich has come to symbolise excellent education, groundbreaking basic research and applied results that are beneficial for society as a whole. Founded in 1855, ETH Zurich has more than 17,000 students from approximately 80 countries, 3,700 of whom are doctoral candidates. Today, it offers researchers an inspiring environment and students a comprehensive education as one of the world's leading universities for technology and the natural sciences. 21 Nobel Laureates have studied, taught or conducted research at ETH Zurich, underscoring the excellent reputation of the institute.

About NCAR:

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is a US federally funded research and development center devoted to service, research and education in the atmospheric and related sciences. The National Science Foundation is NCAR's primary sponsor, with significant additional support provided by other U.S. government agencies, other national governments and the private sector.

Katherine Leitzell | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iiasa.ac.at

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past
28.04.2017 | National Science Foundation

nachricht Citizen science campaign to aid disaster response
28.04.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>