Recent reports show that there may be no way to prevent the planet’s temperature from rising, given the current level of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere and the projected rate of emissions expected to continue before any new deal is carried out.
That fact is driving the urgency of the Lima talks, which are expected to produce a draft document, to be made final over the next year and signed by world leaders in Paris in December 2015.
While a breach of the 3.6 degree threshold appears inevitable, scientists say that United Nations negotiators should not give up on their efforts to cut emissions. At stake now, they say, is the difference between a newly unpleasant world and an uninhabitable one.
I don't think our grandchildren will forgive us on this one. When they look back at the last 25 years, when the United States in particular failed on Kyoto because of the Republican party and those beholden to Big Oil, I think we're going to be looking at a generation that will absolutely call us cowards and idiots. I have a new nephew these days, and when he grows up he's going to ask my brother why we didn't do anything about climate change when we could have.
And we won't have an excuse.
“I was encouraged by the U.S.-China agreement,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University and a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a global body of scientists that produces regular reports on the state of climate science. But he expressed doubts that the threshold rise in global temperature could be prevented.
“What’s already baked in are substantial changes to ecosystems, large-scale transformations,” Mr. Oppenheimer said. He cited losses of coral reef systems and ice sheets, and lowering crop yields.
Still, absent a deal, “Things could get a lot worse,” Mr. Oppenheimer added. Beyond the 3.6 degree threshold, he said, the aggregate cost “to the global economy — rich countries as well as poor countries — rises rapidly.”
If we fail to do anything in 2015, then the clock will have basically run out. We'll burn for it, and future generations will find a way to adapt and survive, but they will consider anyone born before the Millennium as a criminal, and rightfully so. It's no longer a question of if millions will die to climate change in the future, but a question of how bad we're going to allow it to get.