Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Climate conditions in 2050 crucial to avoid harmful impacts in 2100

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research: While governments around the world continue to explore strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a new study suggests policymakers should focus on what needs to be achieved in the next 40 years in order to keep long-term options viable for avoiding dangerous levels of warming. The study is the first of its kind to use a detailed energy system model to analyze the relationship between mid-century targets and the likelihood of achieving long-term outcomes.

"Setting mid-century targets can help preserve long-term policy options while managing the risks and costs that come with long-term goals," says co-lead author Brian O'Neill, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

…The researchers used a computer simulation known as an integrated assessment model to represent interactions between the energy sector and the climate system. They began with "business as usual" scenarios, developed for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2000 report, that project future greenhouse gas emissions in the absence of climate policy. They then analyzed the implications of restricting emissions in 2050, using a range of levels.

The team focused on how emissions levels in 2050 would affect the feasibility of meeting end-of-century temperature targets of either 2 or 3 degrees Celsius (about 3.5 degrees or 5.5 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively) above the pre-industrial average. The study identifies critical mid-century thresholds that, if surpassed, would make particular long-term goals unachievable with current energy technologies.

…"Our simulations show that in some cases, even if we do everything possible to reduce emissions between now and 2050, we'd only have even odds of hitting the 2 degree target-and then only if we also did everything possible over the second half of the century too," says co-author and IIASA scientist Keywan Riahi.

…"Even if you agree on a long-term goal, without limiting emissions sufficiently over the next several decades, you may find you're unable to achieve it. There's a risk that potentially desirable options will no longer be technologically feasible, or will be prohibitively expensive to achieve," O'Neill says….

Viktor Vasnetsov's "A Knight at the Crossroads" (1878, Oil on canvas). A more exact translation of the Russian title would be "A Vityaz," or, "At a Fork in the road." The painting illustrates a grim theme in Russian folk fairy tales, when a hero comes to a fork in the road and sees a menhir with an inscription, kind of: "If you ride to the left, you will lose your horse, if you ride to the right, you will lose your head."

1 comment:

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