The initial round of national commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions falls short of what will be needed to keep average global warming below 2ºC, according to non-government organizations watching the process leading up to the UN climate conference in Paris at the end of this year.
Based on commitments now in hand from countries representing nearly 60% of the world’s energy-related emissions, “global emissions would rise to a level that would see temperatures soar by at least 3.5ºC, according to some analyses,” The Guardian reports. That total is “way beyond the 2ºC of warming that is widely regarded by scientists as the limit of safety, beyond which the effects of climate change are likely to become catastrophic and irreversible.”
Comments came in from several NGOs as the United States affirmed its commitment to reduce emissions 26-28% from 2005 levels by 2025.
“That’s a big deal,” wrote White House senior climate advisor Brian Deese in a blog post. “The United States’ target is ambitious and achievable, and we have the tools we need to reach it.” He told reporters the 2025 target set the U.S. on a course for an 80% reduction by 2050.
Officials said the U.S. commitments would be “locked in” by the time President Barack Obama leaves office in 2016. “The kind of regulation we are putting in place does not get easily undone,” said U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern.
The World Wildlife Fund welcomed the announcement and called on the U.S. to back it up this summer with a strong final rule implementing its Clean Power Plan. But Oxfam observed that, “while this contribution does move us closer to the 2ºC pathway, it does not represent the level of ambition needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.”
Birgit van Munster of the Homo Sapiens Foundation said the results to date signalled a deep failure among the countries that have submitted their pledges. “If all humanity follows the example, we will be more than 700% over the likely emissions [cap] to limit global warming to less than 2ºC,” she said. “If this trend continues, humanity will proceed to go beyond 5ºC, the end of human life on earth as we know it.”