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What the G8 target means

The G8 meeting last week – the last get-together of the leaders of the world’s major industrialized nations before the United Nations climate summit in December – was loaded with expectations as to what Obama & Co might give climate negotiators to take with them to Copenhagen.

The answer, in a nutshell, is two degrees.

Is that enough? The Nature news story here has the context and offers two opposite expert views.

“The G8 announcement is depressing,” says economist Gwyn Prins, a co-author of the pointed anti-Kyoto polemic ‘How to get climate policy back on course’ (pdf file), whom I interviewed last week for the article.

“Politicians are mistaking making statements for actually doing something. We really need to try something different,” he says. He believes the prospect is “vanishingly small” for developed and developing nations to agree on a meaningful deal in Copenhagen.

Others are not so pessimistic. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the German PIK and something of an elder statesman of science-led global change diplomacy, is actually quite enthusiastic about the G8’s two degrees target, which he believes will breathe new life into international climate politics.

“Now we can calculate precisely how much greenhouse gas we can still afford to emit if we don’t want to exceed a given probability of getting into dangerous territory,” he says.

There are news reports and blog posts sans end out there about the meaningfulness of the G8 climate declaration.

Some are more and some are less critical about what’s been said and promised in L’Aquila, but the general feeling is that the G8 climate pledge fails to convince.

In the Guardian, George Monbiot pours scorn over the “nonsensical” G8 (and British) climate strategy, arguing that the very math of proposed emission cuts doesn’t work.

Granted, that’s a lot of ambiguity to digest. Nature’s brief editorial (subscription required) hopefully provides some guidance.

Quirin Schiermeier


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