Yesterday, a draft agreement was released at COP21 by the UNFCCC as negotiations between almost 200 nations draw close to a resolution – a result which is expect sometime today.
The new draft includes a demand tabled by over 100 countries that warming should be limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, with the ambitious target proposed as a means of preventing low-lying countries becoming inundated by rising sea levels.
The previous target was set at 2°C, yet even this aspiration has been met with scepticism from some climate scientists.
Professor Tim Foresman, SIBA Chair in Spatial Information at the Institute for Future Environments at Queensland University of Technology, pointed out that “even if all fossil fuels were immediately outlawed”, we would still have excessively high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – a situation that could take hundreds of years to remedy.
“All nations must come to adult and scientific awareness that we are on a likely trajectory of greater than 2°C. We had better learn to cooperate through all means available to help cope with the global changes and do our best to help those people, regions, and countries who are the most vulnerable,” he said.
Mountaineer Tim Jarvis has spent the period of the COP climbing mountains that evidence the ongoing effects of climate change, documenting these changes and raising awareness via social media as part of a project dubbed ‘25Zero‘.
The retreat of glaciers and other ice formations is one of the more obvious and permanent impacts of climate change, as highlighted by Adjunct Professor Ian Allison, who is a glaciologist at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, Hobart.
“Many glaciers, such as those of the northern Andes, have already reached a threshold of no return; and most of the ice in other vulnerable mountain regions, such as Scandinavia, western North America and New Zealand, will melt over the next few hundred years even if the 2°C target is met.”
However, Councillor for the Climate Council and Emeritus Professor at ANU Will Steffen has taken a more optimistic stance, as he said that “the Paris COP meeting can already be considered a success” as evidence of global pro-activity on the issue.
“National pledges have never been as ambitious, and civil society has never been as vocal and well organised to drive the transformation we need.”
Certainly, the COP meeting has drawn a large amount of attention and debate to the topic of climate change, which has previously been dogged by misinformation and vested interests, but we are yet to see just how deep each nation’s pledges will go to addressing the issue.