UN temperature target is a poor guide - study

2014-10-02 12:28

(File) (Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Oslo - A temperature goal set by almost 200 governments as the limit for global warming is a poor guide to the planet's health and should be ditched, a study said on Wednesday.

The world's environment ministers agreed in 2010 to cap a rise in average surface temperatures at 2°C above pre-industrial times as the yardstick to avoid more floods, heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels.

"Politically and scientifically, the 2°C goal is wrong-headed", David Victor and Charles Kennel, both professors at the University of California in San Diego, wrote in the Nature article entitled "Ditch the 2°C Warming Goal".

Among objections, they said the goal was "effectively unachievable" because of rising greenhouse gas emissions, led in recent years by China's strong economic growth.

And they said the target was out of line with recent trends. Temperatures have risen about 0.85°C since about 1900 but have been virtually flat since about 1998 despite higher emissions from factories, power plants and cars.

They said that blood pressure, heart rate or body mass were all vital signs of health for a person, not just temperature. "A similar strategy is now needed for the planet", they wrote.

The study urged a shift to other yardsticks to gauge the planet's health, such as concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or changes in the heat content of the oceans.

Some other scientists said the 2°C target was still the best goal to guide UN talks on a deal to limit climate change, due to be agreed by governments in late 2015 at a summit in Paris.

Hot 1998

"Their arguments don't hold water", said Stefan Rahmstorf, a scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

He said that a shift to tracking carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, for instance, would not help because no one knows exactly how far rising carbon concentrations affect temperatures.

And he said that 1998 was an exceptionally hot year, warmed by a powerful El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean. The period since then was not typical of long-term trends.

A German group of experts, climate analytics, also defended the 2°C goal. "Whilst no one is in doubt about the difficulty of limiting warming below 2°C, it is incorrect to claim that achieving this goal is infeasible", they wrote.

The UN's panel of climate experts said in March that it was still possible to keep temperatures below 2°C at a moderate annual cost of about 0.06 percent of economic output.

The panel says it is at least 95% probable that man-made greenhouse gas emissions, rather than natural swings in the climate system, are the main cause of global warming since 1950.

Read more on:    un  |  china  |  climate change

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.