Climate change: Want to set global emissions policy? Here’s how …

Simulating the world
W
orld leaders gather today in Copenhagen, hoping to close a climate-change deal. Obama is expected to deliver a game-changing offer.
    The odds are against a deal, it seems, and the most likely outcome is unverifiable promises to cut emissions.
   

But let’s be optimistic and say they reach an agreement. Would it reduce greenhouse gases enough to prevent global temperatures from reaching the tipping point—the threshold at which climate catastrophe occurs?

Not likely, many experts say. Even the most ambitious targets considered at Copenhagen will not prevent catastrophe.

To see this, appoint yourself the czar of global emissions policy and use the Guardian’s interactive Climate Change Simulator to play out different scenarios.

As czar, you set two figures: when the rise in greenhouse gases peaks and how quickly emissions decline thereafter. Your goal: limit the rise in global temperature to 2C by 2100. Without any change in current trends, global temps will increase by 4C by 2100—and it’s sayonara to the world as we know it.

Only very ambitious targets will ensure that global temperatures do not rise more than 2C: global emissions peak in 2916 and decline by 5% a year thereafter.

This means that a climate change accord in Copenhagen won’t be enough. It will just be the first step in what will have to be big efforts to cut carbon emissions fast and hard.

2100 is a long ways off—only a small percentage of people alive today are likely to see it. Certainly our world leaders and other key decision makers will not.

Halting climate change, then, requires an unusual degree of foresight and concern for future generations. Yesterday I quoted the prince. In the same article, he said that what we really need is a change in “mindset.” (Scroll down to read earlier articles in this series.)

What do you think it will take for this mindset to change?

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