Kaitlin Alexander writes in her ClimateSight blog about just why the result that came out of the recent COP17 meeting in Durban was so depressing: What Happened At Durban?
At COP15 in Copenhagen, countries agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. The German Advisory Council on Global Change crunched the numbers and discovered that the sooner we start reducing emissions, the easier it will be to attain this goal. This graph shows that if emissions peak in 2011 we have a “bunny slope” to ride, whereas if emissions peak in 2020 we have a “triple black diamond” that’s almost impossible, economically. (Thanks to Richard Sommerville for this analogy).
The thing is, even the early-peak slope isn’t exactly the sort of thing you want to try to negotiate your first time on skis. A 3.7% annual reduction in global carbon output would be unprecedented and difficult. 9% per year just isn’t going to happen, as far as I can see.
That’s why the Durban outcome was so depressing: It represents an agreement to collectively close our eyes and repeat fervently, “I do believe in fairies. I do! I do!”
I do not believe in fairies. I do believe, however, that by pretending to enable collective action that can limit warming to 2C, Durban helped to ensure that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren inherit a world with 4C warming and beyond.