Climate Change: Looking Back, Looking Forward

April 24th

So what were the results produced by the climate change talks in Copenhagen?

When we last left off our story, the 71 nations who made pledges in Copenhagen were committed to try and limit the increases in temperature to 2 degrees.

The various controversies of the meeting have made it clear that the global meetings (Rio, Kyoto, Copenhagen) are not likely to be the basis for actions that will equal the scope of the problem.  But there was still hope that the voluntary actions by well meaning, committed nations could offer some hope.  Now it turns out, maybe not so much.

Researchers from the Potsdam institute for Climate Impact Research writing in Nature however have now reviewed the results and they write that “its amazing how unambitious these pledges are”.  The researchers estimate that the increases in temperature will most likely exceed 3 degrees.

We are now beginning ot see the implications of past deals.  It turns out that when the agreements were being made that some of the limits applied to selected countries were lax.  So some were able to do better than their easy targets.  And you could bank these extra achievements.  So the banked extra savings have to be deducted from the promises.  This, the Potsdam researcher explain, is one of the most important reasons that there is a growing gap between rhetoric and reality.

But analysis and explanations aside, 3 degrees rather than 2 degrees is a big deal and leaves us no closer to global solutions.  As the 5 day celebration of Earth Day concludes and the Senate of the U.S. begins the next round of discussion of Cap and Trade legislation we have reached the place where it is time for someone to become ambitious.

The analysis is a collaboration of researchers at PIK, Ecofys ( and Climate Analytics (

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