Nature: Strict Limits On Carbon Pollution Could Reduce Some Climate Change Damage By Two-Thirds

Emissions would need to peak in 2016 and drop 5%/year through 2050

University of Reading news release

Tough limits on global emissions of greenhouse gases could avoid 20% to 65% of the damaging effects of climate change by 2100, according to new research led by the University of Reading’s Walker Institute and published today in Nature Climate Change.

The most stringent emissions scenario in the study keeps global temperature rise below 2 degrees C and has global greenhouse gas emissions which peak in 2016 and then reduce at 5% per year to 2050. The 2 degree target is the focus of international climate negotiations, the latest round of which took place in Doha in December 2012. However, relatively little research has been done to quantify the worldwide benefits, in terms of avoided or reduced impacts, of the 2 degree target.

Of the impacts studied, crop productivity, flooding and energy for cooling are the areas that see the greatest benefit from emission reductions: global impacts in these areas are reduced by 40% to 65% by 2100 if warming can be limited to 2 degrees. In contrast, the adverse impacts of climate change on water availability are only reduced by around 20% when emission limitations are imposed. This is because even a small amount of warming can alter rainfall patterns sufficiently to reduce water availability.

Limiting emissions also has the effect of delaying climate change impacts by many decades. One example from the new research shows global productivity of spring wheat could drop by 20% by the 2050s, but such a drop in yields is delayed until 2100 with stringent emission limits. Similar delays are seen in increased exposure to flood risk and rising energy demand for cooling.

Professor Nigel Arnell, Walker Institute Director, University of Reading, said:

“Our research clearly identifies the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions — less severe impacts on flooding and crops are two areas of particular benefit. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions won’t avoid the impacts of climate change altogether of course, but our research shows it will buy time to make things like buildings, transport systems and agriculture more resilient to climate change.”

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey, said: “We can avoid many of the worst impacts of climate change if we work hard together to keep global emissions down. This research helps us quantify the benefits of limiting temperature rise to 2°C and underlines why it’s vital we stick with the UN climate change negotiations and secure a global legally binding deal by 2015.”

The new research provides the first comprehensive assessment of the benefits of limiting global greenhouse gas emissions. A range of impact indicators are considered including: flooding, water availability, crop productivity and energy for heating and cooling.

Related Posts:

8 Responses to Nature: Strict Limits On Carbon Pollution Could Reduce Some Climate Change Damage By Two-Thirds

  1. Bill Walker says:

    “The most stringent emissions scenario in the study keeps global temperature rise below 2 degrees C and has global greenhouse gas emissions which peak in 2016 and then reduce at 5% per year to 2050.”

    Sadly, in the current political/economic climate, the chances of that happening are approximately zip, plus or minus bupkis.

  2. Ken Barrows says:

    I am glad to see the University of Reading has recommended what I sugggested in the comments a few days back. But why 2016? How about yesterday?

    And, of course, 5% may be too little, too late.

  3. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Linear projections of a decrease will cause as many surprises as those of the increase, if and when it happens. What were the effects of the 3% drop in emissions during the GFC? ME

  4. pete best says:

    I doubt its feasible now as 1200 coal fired power plants are scheduled to be built and come online as we have all read here and in many other places. Coal would be the one that we can reduce quickly as the technology exists to replace it and in a realistic time frame. Will be – doubt it, can we – I reckon so

  5. mary says:

    Rose Colored Glasses approach again. I understand the need to find optimism, but then the urgency of the task at hand disappears. I fully expect 2016 to arrive with the world still fiddling around. I would be happy to be proved wrong.

  6. Gillian says:

    Pete, fortunately the WRI estimate of 1200 new coal power plants is complete rubbish. They just added up every hypothetical project that had been dreamed up at some time. For example, the report expects nine new coal power plants in Australia, whereas in actual fact coal generators are closing and the proportion of electricity generated from coal is falling every year. There is only one project that is even remotely possible, and that is a coal/solar hybrid where the coal will be used to backup the solar. And even that is just a distant proposal. There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.

    WRI did themselves a real disservice with this much reported load of rubbish.

    Emissions aren’t likely to peak in 2016, and coal is part of the story, but it’s not as dire as the WRI report indicates.

  7. fj says:

    Well thought-out whole systems approaches should provide the most disruptively positive emissions reduction strategies while reducing costs and increasing quality of life.

  8. Guest says:

    Is it just me or has that Nature Climate Change paper seriously down played the impacts of warming above 2C?

    e.g. “Global average sea level rise could be reduced to 30cm (12 inches) by 2100, compared to 47-55cm (18-22 inches) if no action to cut emissions is taken, it said.”

    I thought no acton meant we’d see 1m+ of sea level rise by 2100?

    Intuitively, at least, it seems to me that stabilising at 2C would reduce impacts by way more then 65% compared to a buisness as usual scenario leading to 4-6C, especially if you accpet that we are more likley to trigger tipping points.

    Am I missing something, I can’t access the paper to read it – bloody pay wall!