From Carbon Insolvency to Climate Dividends

Limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels is absolutely crucial, says the G-8 and most of the world’s best climatologists. If this is to be more than lip service, the consequences will be radical, entailing a fundamental change of international relations.

BERLIN – Limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels is absolutely crucial, says the G-8 and most of the world’s best climatologists. If this is to be more than lip service, the consequences will be radical.

For starters, until 2050, only a total of around 700 gigatons of carbon dioxide can be emitted into the atmosphere. At the current rate of emissions, this “budget” will be exhausted in 20 years; if emissions increase as expected, the world will become carbon “insolvent” even sooner. So reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions must begin as quickly as possible. Wasting any more time will cause costs to skyrocket and render the 2° limit obsolete.

The rich North cannot continue as before, emerging industrial countries must leave the old industrial-based path to prosperity, and the rest of the world may not even embark upon it. Yet the negotiations on emissions limits with each of the 192 signatory countries in the run-up to the Copenhagen Summit in December 2009 have so far given no indication of so radical a change.

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