Climate change – will Paris rescue the 2°C climate target?
Dialogue forum on 24 February 2015
The UN Climate Conference in Paris in December 2015 is to be a milestone. Policymakers aim to limit global warming by the end of the century to two degrees Celsius. Time is running out: if too much time passes, it will become increasingly difficult to observe this limit. What are the odds on binding targets? Are there any alternatives? Green politician Annalena Baerbock, Christoph Bals of Germanwatch and Prof. Mojib Latif from the Kiel Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research came together to discuss these issues.
"The climate problem is a symptom of the fact that the human race does not treat Planet Earth with enough care," explained Latif. If we do not manage to secure our prosperity with significantly fewer resources, we face the threat of catastrophic conditions and food shortages. Climate change is caused by the high CO2 emissions that inevitably result from burning oil, coal and gas and that accumulate over the years in the atmosphere. "Today we have a CO2 content that mankind has never seen before and are in the midst of an experiment with an uncertain outcome," commented the climate expert.
Risk of over-acidified oceans
As regards the climate negotiations in Paris, the climate expert appeared sceptical: a possible agreement will first come into force in 2020. "This is all far too slow for me. I don't think we have this amount of time to avoid exceeding the two degree limit. Each year that we lose makes the reduction more difficult."
The taboo issue of coal-fired power plants
Christoph Bals made clear how much depends on the two-degree limit: "It was only the largely stable climate of the past 10,000 years that provided the basis for human coexistence on our planet. If we now catapult ourselves from this stable equilibrium, we must expect severe consequences." Like Baerbock, he also advised against expecting too much of Paris. "The goals of the climate conferences are huge undertakings because the global prosperity model is based on fossil fuels. Rebuilding it requires a marathon and not a sprint. "We should not indulge in the illusion that one climate summit can turn the tide. It is more realistic to organise a minimum consensus. "I hope that with Paris we are moving towards a path that at least comes closer to the two-degree target," said the political CEO of Germanwatch. What makes him optimistic is that renewable energies can now compete with fossil fuels. This opens up completely new opportunities. "Last year, 70% of global spending for energy development was invested in renewables, only 30% in fossil fuels," explained the political expert.
Rejection of geo-engineering approaches
For Baerbock, the climate conferences resemble the disarmament conferences. "There too, progress only advances in tiny steps. However, no one would suggest ending the talks as a consequence." Even the climate negotiations make continuous progress. And we must not forget that the industrialised countries have pledged to increase their payments into the different climate funds to 100 billion dollars annually by 2020. This will allow the least developed countries to adapt better to the impacts of climate change. If the climate negotiations were to be shelved, then such commitments would become redundant and technology transfer would come to a standstill.
Bals pins her hopes on the formation of pioneer alliances at the most diverse levels and the development of strategies to curb climate change. Such as Germany's energy policy. "If we as an industrial nation can assert the energy turnaround as a successful model, this will have a huge impact on others." The turnaround in Germany can achieve historic dimensions.
The key to sustainable, climate-friendly energy production lies in the renewable energy sources. And even if the Paris summit does not bring about a turning point in the climate negotiations, it will hopefully create the conditions to save the Earth from a heat collapse.
The next dialogue forum on 3 March will address the question of "Floods, drought, storms - are we prepared?".
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