Heat Over a Leaked U.N. Warming Analysis
By ANDREW C. REVKIN–A document leaked during climate negotiations reveals lots of heat ahead.
COPENHAGEN — Late today, environmentalists monitoring the climate talks alerted reporters to the existence of a six-page document, dated December 15th, that is a compilation by the United Nations office managing the talks of all the major countries’ plans for curbing their emissions, along with a calculation of where that would take the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases and eventual temperature of the planet. United Nations officials confirmed the document’s authenticity but declined to discuss it.
The analysis concluded that without much stronger action to cut emissions both before and after 2020, “global emissions will remain on an unsustainable pathway that could lead to concentrations equal or above 550 p.p.m. [parts per million of carbon dioxide in the air] with the related temperature” rising 3 degrees Celsius, or 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. That is far above the thresholds for dangerous warming being debated at the meeting and accepted in recent statements by the major economies of the world.
The conclusion that current plans for greenhouse gases would lead to substantial warming is not new and largely based on recent analysis by Sir Nicholas Stern, a British economist, and in step with findings of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and elsewhere.
But environmental campaigners said they were outraged that the document so clearly showed that countries involved in the negotiations are aware of the gap.
“This is truly a smoking gun and the smoke is from a heating planet,” said Bill McKibben, the environmental writer who now runs the climate campaign 350.org, and whose name appears to be scribbled on the document. (He said he had no idea why.)
“There’s a parade of world leaders standing up here today and speaking on and on and on about proposals that’ll keep us below 2 degrees and pretending that the stuff on the table has any hope of doing that,” he said. “And the U.N. itself knows that it’s going to go at least 50 percent hotter than they’re pretending.”