Early action and cooperation needed to reach 2 degree goal
While limiting the global mean warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius would lead to avoiding increasingly large climate change impacts, some impacts will still occur. The efforts to manage climate change need to focus on both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to lessen negative impacts.
Lund University professor Markku Rummukainen has worked a long time on climate change research. One of his current projects is research on advanced climate models. This collaboration between five universities and SMHI focuses on the role of vegetation and ecosystems in the climate system and how its response to climate change further changes the climate via feedback effects. Climate models are important research tools for calculating future scenarios. They are also useful for informing policy makers and others about the climate outlook under different socio-economic futures including the effect of policy options.
This year Markku will be attending COP21 in Paris with the Swedish climate negotiation delegation and the EU’s negotiation organisation as a science expert. One particular negotiation that he will attend focuses on research and systematic observation, and another focuses on reviewing the adequacy of 2 degrees temperature goal.
Markku anticipates that COP21 will lead to a new global climate agreement that supports emission reductions and provides means for implementation of measures, including adaptation. “We know what the important components of an agreement are, but it remains to be seen how strongly these will be worded. The agreement will not provide an ultimate solution, but it aims for a framework for continuing to work towards climate targets,” states Markku.
While the 2 degree goal is widely known and adopted under the UN, it does not guarantee that we will avoid all negative effects from climate change. “The lower the temperature increase, the smaller the effects will be. There is, however, ample research that shows that with a temperature increase above 2 degrees, impacts will increase more and more rapidly ,” says Markku. “Global emissions are still increasing, but research supports the notion that the world has a possibility to stay below 2 degrees temperature increase while at the same time reducing poverty and increasing equity and an overall positive development all around the world. What is required is decarbonisation of energy systems, as well as other sectors, so that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to zero before the end of the century,” concludes Markku.
Climate measures also come as a “package deal,” often linked and multifaceted. Markku adds, “The more we do early on, the more likely we will be able to meet the 2 degree goal. Early action and cooperation will make climate change mitigation and adaption easier, cheaper, and faster compared to if we wait or if the world continues business as usual.” Mitigation (emission reduction) and climate adaption efforts are global challenges, but unique in each country. In some cases, the main challenge is mitigation, in some adaptation. Yet in some other countries a challenge may be heavy reliance on fossil fuel exports. Overall efforts will also produce many benefits and co-benefits such as energy security, reduced air pollution, and improved human health. In addition, Markku adds that carbon capture and storage is also an option for reducing emissions while transitioning to improved energy systems.
New investments, technical solutions, and how and what we consume can be all be viewed as commitments to future emissions and opportunities to make reductions. “Cooperating internationally, creating effective policies, utilising new technology, and trying to implement energy transformations and behavioural changes will be necessary to reduce climate change impacts as much as possible,” summarises Markku.
Text: Jack Fraser