Climate Deal 2015

Scientists Welcome the Paris Agreement

On the final agreement:

Myles Allen, University of Oxford: “Achieving a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century will require net carbon dioxide emissions to be reduced, in effect, to zero. It seems governments understand this, even if they couldn’t quite bring themselves to say so. To have a good chance of staying below 2 degrees, we need to aim for 1.5 degrees anyway, and it is sensible to acknowledge that 2 degrees itself is hardly “safe”. So, all told, a great outcome. Chapeau to French diplomacy.”

Johan Rockström, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre: “This agreement is a turning point for a world transformation within a 1.5-2°C safe operating space on Earth. Paris is a global starting point. Now we need action consistent with science to reach decarbonization by 2050 and sustainable development.”

Steffen Kallbekken, Research Director, CICERO: “The greatest achievement of this process is that more than 180 countries have submitted national climate policy goals. Nevertheless, this is an historic agreement that sends a clear signal to policy makers, businesses and investors to start the transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society.”

Chris Field, Founding Director, Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology: “The world truly reached a turning point with the historic Paris agreement, but this is not a time for self-congratulations. This is our moment to unleash ambition with new levels of innovation, building the clean energy system of the 21st century, developing sustainably, and comprehensively protecting people and the planet.”

Joeri Rogelj, IIASA, UNEP Emissions Gap Report Lead Author: “The new Article 4 text is clearer in scientific terms than what we had before. Importantly, the benchmarks in terms of global peaking and global emissions reductions are consistent with the 1.5°C and 2°C temperature targets. Much remains to be done and it is encouraging to see that this agreement puts into place a process that could deliver this ambition.”

Diana Liverman, Director, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona: “The Paris agreement preamble recognizes obligations for countries to respect, promote and consider human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity. This recognition of rights and particular groups is a modest win for many concerned with climate justice, but will now have to be translated into action so that mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, finance and technology transfer explicitly consider how these policies affect, and hopefully benefit, human rights, women and other groups.”

John Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research: “If agreed and implemented, this means bringing down greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero within a few decades. It is in line with the scientific evidence we presented of what would have to be done to limit climate risks such as weather extremes and sea-level rise. To stabilize our climate, CO2 emissions have to peak well before 2030 and should be eliminated as soon as possible after 2050. Technologies such as bio-energy and carbon capture and storage as well as afforestation can play a role to compensate for residual emissions, but cutting CO2 is key. Governments can indeed write history today, so future generations will remember the Paris summit for centuries to come.”

On 1.5 degrees (quotes from last couple of days of COP21)

Prof. Joanna Haigh, Professor of Atmospheric Physics and Co-Director of Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment at Imperial College London: “The inclusion of a 1.5 degree option in the draft agreement is remarkable, as is the ambitious proposed mitigation pathway of 70-95% cuts by 2050 leading to zero carbon emissions by the latter half of the century. Showing the seriousness of this intention is the proposed request for the IPCC to produce a special report by 2018 on the potential climate impacts of a 1.5 degree world. Perhaps some of these more ambitious options will not reach the final document but the fact that these targets are being seriously discussed is hugely positive.”

Prof. Chris Rapley, Professor of Climate Science at University College London: “The inclusion in the draft text of options to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees, or even to below 1.5 degrees, reveals a fundamental shift in the tone and content of the negotiations. Now that nations have declared their voluntary emissions reductions commitments, the focus has turned to ramping up ambition. This is an historic change, and may at last herald the beginning of ‘the Greatest Collective Action in History’!”

Prof. Myles Allen, University of Oxford: “Even if they don’t feature in the final text, the fact that they have made it so far suggests many governments understand that 2 degrees already takes us into uncharted territory, and that the only way to stabilise temperatures, without resorting to the smoke and mirrors of geo-engineering, is to reduce CO2 emissions to zero.”

Prof. Simon Lewis, Chair in Global Change Science at University College London: “Any robust agreement from Paris starts with the goal. Whether it is limiting global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees, three key ingredients are needed. First, the emissions cuts in the agreement must be scientifically credible. For 2 degrees that means immediate rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to zero emissions by the middle of the century (and then negative emissions). Second, the current pledges by countries are well above the requirements of 2 degrees, so a mechanism to transparently review progress and increase commitments is needed. Third, substantial and predictable funding will be required so all countries, including the world’s poorest, can pay their part in reducing emissions to near zero over the coming decades.”

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science: “In 2012 I was a co-author on a paper published in the journal ‘Climatic Change’ which assessed pathways for global annual emissions of greenhouse gases that might limit the rise in global mean surface temperature to no more than 1.5DegC. It showed that it would be extremely difficult for the world to move to a pathway that would offer a 50 per cent chance of limiting global warming to no more than 1.5DegC. However, the paper concluded that, with strong emissions reductions, it might be possible to limit global warming so that it does not exceed a temperature that is more than 1.5DegC above pre-industrial levels for more than 50 years, and so potentially avoid some of the impacts that would cause the most damage. This prospect becomes stronger if technology, such as the use of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, becomes available later in the century which allows carbon dioxide effectively to be removed from the atmosphere, sometimes referred to as ‘negative emissions’. This research is consistent with the current draft of the Paris Agreement which includes an objective to “[h]old the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2DegC above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5DegC, recognizing that this would significantly reduce risks and impacts of climate change. There may be other researchers who are cynical about the prospects of countries meeting this objective but they need to distinguish clearly between their own personal views and the scientific evidence. Scientists can be a gloomy bunch but they must recognise that their pessimism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It would be ironic if the innate miserableness of some researchers put at risk attempts to reach a new international agreement to avoid dangerous climate change.”

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