“False Optimism” Compromising Fight Against Climate Change

Writing in Nature Reports Climate Change this week, researchers have called for a move away from the ‘curious optimism’ which they believe has characterised Governments’ actions to date to tackle global warming.

Martin Parry, Jean Palutikof, Clair Hanson & Jason Lowe, members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) state that there is a “false optimism…obscuring reality” at major international climate change summits, hampering progress towards mitigation of the impacts of dangerous climate change.

Referencing the 2007 IPCC report, the authors state that a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% of 1990 levels by 2050 will be insufficient to prevent a 2 degree C rise in temperature by 2100. Due to inertia in the climate system, a warming trend will continue to 2100. They call for an 80% cut in emissions by 2050 as the only way to avoid dangerous climatic change. Under an 80% cut, the IPCC report indicates that there will be almost no chance of exceeding the 2 degree rise in 2050, and only a very small likelihood of reaching the 2 degree rise by 2100.

The article also stresses the vital importance of investing in measures to adapt to climate change immediately. “The sooner we recognize this delusion, confront the challenge and implement both stringent emissions cuts and major adaptation efforts, the less will be the damage that we and our children will have to live with.”