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May 29, 2009

Laureates Throw Down the Gauntlet

A group of Nobel Laureates wants to tell you something:
World carbon emissions must start to decline in only six years if humanity is to stand a chance of preventing dangerous global warming, a group of 20 Nobel prize-winning scientists, economists and writers declared today.

The United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen in December must agree to halve greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 to stop temperatures from increasing by more than 2C (3.6F), the St James's Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium concluded.
Got that? And mind you, 2C is nothing to sneeze at. We'll still be looking at a significant sea-level rise (and even more for us here on the northeast US coast thanks to Greenland's melting glaciers), the disappearance of many Pacific island nations, persistent drought, disruptions to agriculture worldwide and, if Kofi Annan's new foundation is right, up to 500,000 deaths caused directly by warming every year. And, apparently, we'll count ourselves lucky. Because if we get beyond 2C of warming, we'll face, say the laureates, "unmanageable climate risks." Given that the best case scenario looks pretty bad, I would say this group might be understating things when they use the term "unmanageable." To put this whole thing in perspective, they compare the threat we face now to the Cold War-era threat of nuclear armageddon. Not good.

I have two observations about this. First, someone explain to me how a no vote on the Waxman/Markey climate bill brings us closer to halving worldwide emissions by 2050. It's late enough in the game that the quibbling on all sides has to go out the window and everyone needs to sign on to cutting emissions. It's fair to say that we've reached the point where, if you can't support something as "modest" as Waxman/Markey, then you fundamentally don't believe climate change is an existential threat. Period. Note to journalists: can you get politicians on the record with a reaction to this letter? Do they agree with the St. James statement? An unqualified yes or no, please. Thanks.

And second, I would like to point out the interesting fact that, according to the St. James Symposium website, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu is a signatory of the letter (having attended the symposium). This is good. But if Chu and his boss can't even manage to get a bill as watered down as Waxman/Markey through Congress, all the symposia and statements in the world won't help us.

h/t Climate Progress

Photo by papadont used under a CC license

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Anonymous Blackpool Hotels said...

I hope that World carbon emissions do start to decline in six years, otherwise great post displaying all points on this issue.

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