OECD warns of irreversible, catastrophic climate change

Change in annual temperature 1990-2050: Baseline scenario, OECD
 
By David Singh

GENEVA, 25 November 2011 - Despite the goal set at the Cancun climate talks last year to stabilize the global average temperature increase at 2°C, a forthcoming report of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 'Environmental Outlook to 2050' warns that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue to increase.

“The world is heading for irreversible and potential catastrophic climate change”, the International Energy Agency (IEA) cautioned this month in light of evidence that global carbon emissions hit record levels last year.

The OECD supports that evidence with hard data stating that in 2010 global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reached an all time high of 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt) despite the recent economic crisis. “We must act now”, its states or face the consequences.

According to the OECD, the scenario is grim. Without more ambitious policies than those in force today, GHG emissions will increase by another 50 percent by 2050, primarily driven by a projected 70 percent growth in CO2 emissions from energy use.

This will be primarily due to a projected 80 percent increase in global energy demand from both OECD countries and emerging economies. The Cancun goal for a global average temperature increase will be exceeded by 2050, and by the turn of the century temperatures will have risen 3 to 6°C higher than pre-industrial levels.

The OECD warns that such a high temperature increase will continue to alter precipitation patterns, melt glaciers, cause sea level rise and intensify extreme weather events to unprecedented levels. It may also exceed some critical “tipping points”, causing dramatic natural changes that could have catastrophic or irreversible outcomes for natural systems and society.

The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) will be among the delegations gathering in Durban led by its Chief Margareta Wahlström who is of the opinion that the link between disasters and climate change is no longer based on circumstantial evidence. “I believe the rise in weather related catastrophic events we are seeing all over the world is enough to link climate change and increasing weather hazards conclusively together. Even the most passionate naysayers should be able to see this by now. The OECD report quite clearly tells us what we are to expect and more importantly what we have to do”.

This coming Monday in Durban, climate negotiators from close to 200 countries will gather for the seventh year in a row to once more seek agreement on a global deal for climate change. And when the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the UN Framework Convention renews its negotiations, the ‘OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050’, due for release in March next year, will no doubt provide Durban with much food for thought.
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