Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Climate negotiations relying on “dangerous” thresholds to avoid catastrophe will not succeed

The identified critical threshold for dangerous climate change saying that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius seems not to have helped the climate negotiations so far.
New research from the University of Gothenburg and Columbia University shows that negotiations based on such a threshold fail because its value is determined by Nature and is inherently uncertain. Climate negotiators should therefore focus on other collective strategies.

Presenting their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Astrid Dannenberg, Postdoc researcher at the Environmental Economics Unit, University of Gothenburg and Columbia University, and Professor Scott Barrett, Columbia University, explain the paradox of why countries would agree to a collective goal, aimed at reducing the risk of climate catastrophe, but act as if they were blind to this risk.

If the critical threshold for climate catastrophe could be identified with scientific certainty, their research suggests that countries very likely would propose a collective target certain to avoid catastrophe, would pledge to contribute their fair share to the global effort, and would act so as to fulfill their promises.

However, if there is scientific uncertainty about the climate threshold, countries are very likely to do less collectively than is needed to avert catastrophe. Dannenberg and Barrett, who provide experimental evidence, grounded in a new analytical framework, show that failure of negotiations is practically certain, because the climate threshold is determined by Nature, and uncertainty about its value is substantially irreducible.

“Climate negotiations are more complex that the game played by the participants in our experiment. The basic incentive problem, however, is the same and our research shows that scientific uncertainty about the dangerous threshold changes behavior dramatically,” Dannenberg says.

Their research may explain why the UN climate negotiations have been framed around meeting the 2 degrees Celsius threshold and why negotiators wanted the threshold to be determined by science rather than by politics because only the former would be credible. Yet, the emission reductions countries have pledged in Copenhagen in 2009 virtually guarantee that this target will be missed.

”We will not know until 2020 if the Copenhagen Accord pledges will be met, but if our results are a reliable guide, countries may end up emitting even more than they pledged – with potentially profound and possibly irreversible consequences. Our research suggests that negotiators should focus their attention on alternative strategies for collective action, such as trade restrictions or technology standards,” Barrett says.

For more information please contact Astrid Dannenberg (, or Scott Barrett,, Phone number +1-646-300-1437.
Article in PNAS:

This work was supported by the Swedish Research Council for the Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning through the program Human Cooperation to Manage Natural Resources, The program is led by Professor Thomas Sterner

Karin Backteman | idw
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Modular safety concept increases flexibility in plant conversion

22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>