August 23 News: Former IPCC Chair Watson Says ‘2C Target Is Largely Out Of The Window’

One of the Government’s most senior scientific advisors [and former IPCC chair] has said that efforts to stop a sharp rise in global temperatures were now unrealistic. [BBC News]

Professor Sir Robert Watson said that the hope of restricting the average temperature rise to 2C was “out the window.”

He said that the rise could be as high as 5C — with dire consequences.

Professor Watson added the Chancellor, George Osborne, should back efforts to cut the UK’s CO2 emissions.

He said: “I have to look back (on the outcome of successive climate change summits) Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban and say that I can’t be overly optimistic.

“To be quite candid the idea of a 2C target is largely out of the window.”

A judge in Lamar County, Texas, ruled Wednesday night that TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline has the right of eminent domain, rejecting a plea by farm manager Julia Trigg Crawford and dealing a blow to landowners and environmentalists who have been trying to block construction of the pipeline. [Washington Post]

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will lay out policies on Thursday aimed at achieving North American energy independence by 2020 by pursuing a sharp increase in production of oil and natural gas on federal lands and off the U.S. coast. [Reuters]

A new report in Nature released Wednesday says that on the Antarctic Peninsula, at least, human-generated greenhouse gases have almost certainly been by far the most important driver of warming over the past half-century. [Climate Central]

Colorado’s senators on Wednesday blamed congressional inaction on a tax credit benefiting wind power producers for a recent round of layoffs in their state. [The Hill]

The nation is heading toward the worst outbreak of West Nile disease in the 13 years that the virus has been on this continent, federal health authorities said Wednesday. [New York Times]

Industrial companies in China are being warned they can expect tougher environmental penalties, part of the government’s plans to cut pollutant emissions. [China Daily]

The fate of billions of dollars of promised funding from rich countries to help the developing world adapt to climate change will be discussed on Thursday in Geneva, at the first meeting of the UN’s Green Climate Fund. [Guardian]


15 Responses to August 23 News: Former IPCC Chair Watson Says ‘2C Target Is Largely Out Of The Window’

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Many of us agree with Watson, but I wish he’d come up with a better suggestion than reducing Great Britain’s emissions.

    The Democratic National Committee needs to run with the Republican Congressmen’s sabotage of the wind industry. Obama is failing to lead here, and costing himself Congressional seats through this failure. Wind is very popular everywhere.

  2. Leif says:

    I have said it before but Joe’s book encourages repetition. So:
    We all pay fees to dump garbage, waste water and more. Corpro/People dump tons for free and accumulate mega-bucks. Even get tax subsidies. The GOP don’t fund abortion. Fine. A precedent! Why must my tax dollars fund the ecocide of the PLANET via fossil subsidies?!!! We’re talking “MORALS” here. Try throwing 19 pounds of paper cups out the car window for each gallon of gas you burn. Who is making money here and who is losing? Toxins verses paper cups? (I bet you could be real creative about increasing your trash stream if it were paper cups.) Even absorb a “slap on the wrist” fine once in awhile. Surely a good lawyer on retainer. Once established perhaps even a congressman or two.
    I pay $150/ton to dump my household garbage. $50/T to recycle yard waste. Waste water fees, of course. I even have a rain water run of fee of $5/m. (guide lines here?) Yet Corpro/people piss all over themselves at the thought of $25/ton for TOXINS! Sweet Jesus… They are making billions, I get ~$30/day to stay alive and must fund health insurance. Go Figure!
    In brief:
    Stop profits from the pollution of the commons.
    Go Green, Resistance is FATAL!

  3. Tami Kennedy says:

    So true on Wind (other green power), Obama, Democrats. Need to cut U.S. waste and power excess. Lead the world. If Romney given the reins oil, coal, tar sands and natural gas are unleashed. To them environment is just a big word beyond their understanding of the definition.

  4. Jack Burton says:

    It is a bit of a joke to even talk about halting temperature rise at 2 degrees! Nobody, not even my cat, believes we are going to halt at 2 degrees!
    In fact, the reality is, we have not put any STOP mechanism in place. Look at CO2 concentrations and the rise of feed back loops.Without stating the obvious, this track we are on is up, all up.
    I can only guess, but the scientific community is actually downplaying where we are at and where we are heading.
    I believe a simple look at the rise of CO2 and the rate of increase is our doom. The feedbacks of Methane plums in the arctic, the melting of the arctic sea ice and the faster melting of Greenland put in place giant feedback effects.
    2 degrees? No way! 4? 6? Our kids and grand kids are facing something we have left them. Our names will be cursed by the future people’s of our planet.

  5. Paul Klinkman says:

    As an inventor I say that a 2 degrees Celsius target is not yet out the window. Unfortunately, our government is out the window.

    “Heckuva job, Brownie” — George W. Bush, after Katrina. We’re going to find out if the entire Republican Party in fact can do something to save themselves in the face of a hurricane. Somewhere in Hollywood a script writer is putting 10,000 climate change deniers into the Louisiana Superdome as a class 5 hurricane bears down on New Orleans. They’re all chanting and celebrating and suddenly the roof starts to rip off and the storm surge hits.

  6. Carol says:

    I think it is worth looking back and reading James Hansen’s 2008 pre-election piece (article #1 below) which contains reflections/reiterations of his speech to Congress in 1988. Obviously his alarm calls in 2008/1988 were not heeded by this administration or Congress and we are now faced with the “recipe for global disaster” which he has for decades repeated with clarity and repetition.

    It is worth revisiting what Hansen had to say because clearly politicians are not going to save us, in fact the political system plays a major role in the hastening of the collapse of ecosystems which could lead to our demise (talking about YOU and many, many others—too many to list). We need to take this beyond politics as Hansen states:

    “If politicians remain at loggerheads, citizens must lead.”

    Another message that has been repeated loud and clear—– by Hansen and others—- for many years, if not decades, to no avail:

    “The safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is no more than 350 ppm (parts per million), and it may be less. Carbon dioxide amount is already 385 ppm and rising about 2 ppm per year. Shocking corollary: the oft-stated goal to keep global warming less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is a recipe for global disaster, not salvation.”

    And now . . today, not surprisingly, we are talking about a good chance of a 5 C temperature rise?
    After reading: “Professor Sir Robert Watson said that the hope of restricting the average temperature rise to 2C was “out the window.” He said that the rise could be as high as 5C — with dire consequences.”
    I was curious ( morbid curiosity) to read more specifics of what a 5 degree celsius temperature increase means and came upon article #2 below outlining warming scenarios.

    If the 2-5C warming scenario outlined below is now a reality and this doesn’t leave one feeling like Kirsten Dunst’s character in the movie Melancholia, I don’t know what will!
    For those who have not seen this movie I will simply say that it is one of the many dystopian films of recent years ——- one that I feel is an excellent metaphorical depiction of human’s reaction to worst case scenario (which we are now facing?) climate change.

    And finally, an interesting piece (#3) on global warming written in 1993 by an epidemiologist—- Dr. Last—— whose voice came several years after Hansen but was nonetheless prescient on many levels:




  7. David Lewis says:

    Kevin Anderson, former Director of the Tyndall Centre in the U.K. has been saying since before Copenhagen what Watson is saying now.

    For a sample of Anderson’s thought, listen to “Are climate scientists the most dangerous climate skeptics?” Anderson says he sat down with the U.K.’s principal climate negotiator just before he left for Copenhagen and told him that achieving the 2 degrees target was “challenging”, to say the least. What he conveyed was it is “impossible”. He says he was told this fact could not be put on the table in front of the Cabinet or the Prime Minister.

    His case is that “all” top level studies have used fudged data, impossible assumptions, etc. to produce scenarios that people at all levels have been buying into, i.e. from principal negotiators for countries, to the lowest, i.e. hangers on at climate blogsites, etc. We’d all rather buy BS than take a clear eyed look at the truth.

    He criticizes his fellow scientists for their role in allowing this to happen. On one hand, as scientists revised how dangerous they believe allowing the planet to warm 2 degrees C is, Anderson says, they did not speak out as negotiators and almost everyone else kept on talking about 2 degrees as if it were somehow “safe”. And on the other hand, the ability of civilization to transition to low carbon and low GHG operations has been drastically exaggerated.

    “We have a magicians view of time…. We can wreck things, pull the bull out of the china shop, then repair the china shop. It doesn’t work that way. We also have a linear view of problems, that somehow 4 degrees C is just 2 times 2 degrees C…. Its [going to be] nothing like that.”

    He says silence gives consent. “We have sat quietly by while this litany of nonsense has gone before us, in terms of the scenarios that have been generated, and we’ve said nothing…. We are culpable as a research community in terms of a conspiracy of silence…. We don’t agree with what’s been going on, but we don’t want to bite the hand that feeds us”.

    Jim Hansen stands out for describing what negotiators have been aiming for as “a recipe for disaster”.

  8. The only way we’re going to do this is to directly take on the oil, gas, and coal industry. They’re wrecking the climate and paying for media lies and politicians to cover their tracks. It has risen to the level of an ongoing international crisis and yet the fossil fuel interests hold the reigns of the political system. We have to remove that hand if we are to see any real progress on the issue of climate change.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You’ll never get the Obamatons to admit the truth about their little God. It’s just too embarrassing, not to mention demoralising, as intended.

  10. Spike says:

    Feng and Ramanathan warned of the likely breech of 2 degrees in 2008.

    “The observed increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) since the preindustrial era has most likely committed the world to a warming of 2.4°C (1.4°C to 4.3°C) above the preindustrial surface temperatures. The committed warming is inferred from the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates of the greenhouse forcing and climate sensitivity. The estimated warming of 2.4°C is the equilibrium warming above preindustrial temperatures that the world will observe even if GHG concentrations are held fixed at their 2005 concentration levels but without any other anthropogenic forcing such as the cooling effect of aerosols. The range of 1.4°C to 4.3°C in the committed warming overlaps and surpasses the currently perceived threshold range of 1°C to 3°C for dangerous anthropogenic interference with many of the climate-tipping elements such as the summer arctic sea ice, Himalayan–Tibetan glaciers, and the Greenland Ice Sheet. IPCC models suggest that ≈25% (0.6°C) of the committed warming has been realized as of now. About 90% or more of the rest of the committed warming of 1.6°C will unfold during the 21st century, determined by the rate of the unmasking of the aerosol cooling effect by air pollution abatement laws and by the rate of release of the GHGs-forcing stored in the oceans. The accompanying sea-level rise can continue for more than several centuries. Lastly, even the most aggressive CO2 mitigation steps as envisioned now can only limit further additions to the committed warming, but not reduce the already committed GHGs warming of 2.4°C.”

    We see today a near catastrophe with harvests in many parts of the globe with the 0.6C of warming since the 1970s. A further 1-1.5C in the next decades will likely produce severe adverse impacts on agriculture worldwide, vying with weather extremes as the most visible manifestation of the Pandora’s box we have opened.

  11. Carol says:

    Agreed. It comes down to what you succinctly said.
    But how do we do this?
    It appears —given the information on this thread alone—-that we are well on our way to collapse (a la Jared Diamond). Can a massive movement coalesce, in spite of the pathological political system (not to mention the existence of deluded deniers and their ilk) before chaos ensues?

  12. Gingerbaker says:

    “The only way we’re going to do this is to directly take on the oil, gas, and coal industry…

    Agreed. It comes down to what you succinctly said.

    But how do we do this?

    I have a way to this. But it means a different approach.

    We don’t need to take on the carbon industry. What we need to do is take them out of the picture entirely. We need to demand that this crisis – a 5 degree world and its consequences – be given the priority it requires. And that is as a matter of national security, which requires Executive Branch action.

    And the action that is required is to eliminate carbon emissions to zero as soon as possible and to do that while keeping our economy and energy sectors intact.

    And the only way I can see to do that is not to keep obsessing on the need for a market-based solution. It has not worked, it will not work, and we are doomed if we keep keep expecting it to work. We need an immediate National Electrification Response..

    We need to build an enormous PV project in the Mojave. Cover it with PV panels a/or solar concentration installations. We should be able to generate enough electricity through such an installation to provide 100% of our energy/power/transportation/heating, cooling needs forever.

    It will cost as much as what we have squandered on war the past decade. But, once that infrastructure is in place, we would never have to pay a dime for our country’s energy needs again. We could and should simply remove the electric meters from our homes and businesses. We won’t need them any more. We can inductively electrify our highways so that even the lousy battery technology we have today will allow us to completely switch over to electric vehicles immediately. The government will pay for or subsidize for the installation of electric heat for dwellings. This could work.

    -> We need to stop arguing with, stop accepting the industry paradigm the oil and coal industries want to promulgate – that we must do business as usual and find “market solutions” to this catastrophe unfolding in slow motion. Since these industries and their disinformation tactics are the problem, they can not be part of the solution.

    This is a national/international crisis that REQUIRES a centralized response. We could have the carbon problem licked in 5 years with this approach. We can save civilization as we know it.

    Ask yourself – why is no one even talking about such an approach?

  13. fj says:

    We’re heading for a rough ride well to the end of this century and likely way beyond if we can’t get it together impossibly fast.

  14. fj says:

    Been doing this for some time. Including netzeroNYC2020 and netzeroMobility but the advocacy is clueless; especially net zero mobility solutions; including James Hansen, Joseph Romm, Amory Lovins — my heroes — but clueless just the same.

    Lester Brown of Earth Policy Institute really seems to get it but has yet to take the idea of net zero mobility to its logical extreme; in any case the first tier advocacy remain laggards.