Risk modelling shows crunch time for climate change action is at hand

Thursday, 12 November, 2009

New modelling shows that a better than even chance of avoiding 2 degree warming is still possible, but only if agreement is reached and implemented within the next 12 months, researchers from Victoria University (VU) have warned.

In the first of a series of briefings on climate policy in October, Professor Peter Sheehan and Professor Roger Jones from VU’s Centre for Strategic Economic Studies said their modelling reveals that if the world acts now, it may be possible to have global emissions peaking at about 2060 and temperatures beginning to decline by century’s end.

“New science is suggesting that dangerous climate change may not even be avoided by staying within the limit of 2 °C, so it is important that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are allowed to peak and decline as soon as possible,” Professor Jones said.

“This can be achieved by advanced economies reducing their emissions by 80% between now and 2050, with the developing countries coming on board between 2015 and 2030,” he said.

“However, the window is closing rapidly and a concerted international effort must begin this year so that the rising trend in global emissions can be reversed by 2015,” Professor Jones said.

“Achieving this result will mean the virtual elimination of all greenhouse gas emissions from developed countries within 50 years and from developing countries in a slightly longer timeframe.

“This will generate a new industrial revolution with huge investment in new technologies, industries and communities. This unprecedented scale of investment will fuel new forms of global growth, with the greatest returns going to those countries that lead rather than resist change.”

Professors Sheehan and Jones’ modelling assumes declining emissions from the OECD from 2010; from former communist Europe, Latin America and the Middle East from 2015-202; from China from 2026; and from India and the rest of developing world from 2031.

The suggestion from Australia that national schedules be adopted across the globe may be a solution to implementing the rapid economic and industrial changes necessary to meet the tight timeframe, Professor Sheehan said. “The science dictates we act now; the economics indicates there are significant opportunities for those who do,” he said.

For further details on the Melbourne Climate Policy Forum briefings, see: www.vu.edu.au/mcpforum.

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