Report highlights the difficulty of regulating climate

Sept. 4, 2015
Another reminder has emerged about the difficulty of regulating climate.

Another reminder has emerged about the difficulty of regulating climate.

As countries prepare for a climate-change summit in Paris this December, an official scorekeeper reports efforts so far don’t nearly meet the postulated need.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change says globally averaged temperature shouldn’t climb more than 2°C. above assessed preindustrial levels.

And it uses computer modeling to estimate the total reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases needed to keep temperature within that limit.

On Aug. 28, the UN Environment Program reported progress indicated by “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs)—what individual countries say they’ll do to mitigate climate change.

Efforts by 38 of 59 INDC submissions assessed so far will contribute 4-8 gigatonnes of aggregated carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Countries covered in the report account for 60% of current emissions.

“Despite this positive contribution,” UNEP said, “the assessment shows that global emissions in 2030 will most likely be approximately 14 gigatonnes above the 2030 emission level that would be consistent with keeping the international community on track to meet the 2°C. target.”

The assessment arrives as resolve wavers. Countries are recoiling from the costs of using expensive energy to displace hydrocarbons.

At an ex-officio Arctic Council meeting on the climate in Anchorage at the end of August, for example, permanent observers China and India refused to sign a joint agreement “to take urgent action to slow the pace of warming in the Arctic.”

The shortfall against targeted emission cuts is no surprise. Even supporters of aggressive caution admit current initiatives, costly as they are, represent just first steps toward what they claim to be necessary.

They keep the admissions out of press notices, of course, because follow-on measures would be more difficult and costly than the inaugural steps now meeting economically motivated political resistance.

World leaders shouldn’t abandon the effort to moderate emissions because of this. They should, however, question an approach dependent on arbitrary targets, fabricated anxiety, and state-centered manipulation.

(From the subscription area of, posted Aug. 4, 2015; author’s e-mail: [email protected])

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