Chinese advisor: "2?C is just a vision"
21 Sep, 2009 02:38 pm
I feel like an idiot for not seeing this one coming from either China or India. It's so painfully obvious, in hindsight, that I have to wonder how anyone who follows energy and environmental issues closely could have failed to predict it. What am I babbling about? China is now saying that the endlessly discussed target of keeping global warming below 2?C is not such a big deal.
"Unrealistic" that global warming can be kept below two degrees Celsius - a target endorsed by the UN, the G-20 and many others - according to Dai Yande, a key energy scientist in China.
Given that China's emissions continue to rise - as all prognosis agree they will - it is simply not possible to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
"You should not target China to fulfill the two degree target. That is just a vision. Reality has deviated from that vision. We do not think that target provides room for developing countries," says Dai Yande, deputy chief of China's Energy Research Institute, according to the Guardian.
His comments follow the release this week of a report that states that even under the most optimistic scenarios - with huge domestic and foreign investments going into clean energy - China's greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow during the next decades. The study was conducted by a number of universities and other institutions, including the global conservation organization WWF. (...)
According to the Guardian, the comments from Dai Yande 'are not official government policy, but they are consistent with a hardening of positions ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit (the UN conference) in December.'
This is a comment from one "advisor", so it could be nothing more than an individual freelancing in a comment and then being taken far too seriously. (I'm sure that such things happen even in China, even if much less often than they do here in the US of "Gotta Be Me".) So none of us should get too worked up until we find out if this is a test balloon for a new policy from China, or merely someone "misspeaking".
For the moment, let me assume that this really is a shift in or "hardening of" China's policy. What does it mean?
First, our ongoing fixation with 2°C might finally end. It's becoming increasingly clear that the amount of human impact at that level of warming will be much greater than we expected. (Yet another Big Surprise on the climate front, to no one's genuine surprise.) Plus, we have more than ample evidence that we've already experience enough warming plus locked into a big enough increment on top of that to come close to 2°C already, if not blow right past it. (Remember, this is 2°C over pre-industrial levels, so it includes the warming our greenhouse gas emissions have triggered in the last 250 years.)
Second, if we're already doomed to blow past 2°C, then we should be all the more determined to reduce CO2 emissions. The goal isn't to keep atmospheric CO2 or the eventual warming below magic numbers, per se, but to minimize the human impact of what we're doing to the environment. The higher the temps go, the greater the impacts; they'll reach more population centers and cause greater pain for those affected at lesser temps. So the more warming that's "in the pipeline" already, the harder we should be working to prevent the situation from becoming even worse.
Finally, as I pointed out this morning (The three stooges of climate change), the US, China, and India can each cause the entire world a lot of pain by not constraining their CO2 emissions and exceeding our planet-wide CO2 budget. If China doesn't see any issue with exceeding 2°C, or India doesn't want to constrain their emissions, or the US decides to not do enough, this is a very big deal, and it could be the ultimate example of how humanity's narrow mindedness can have catastrophic consequences.
Originally published on The Cost of Energy