Emission Targets: please finish your sentences

by Juan

The 12th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC has shown the different ways in which numbers can be manipulated to comply with the Kyoto. Canada, for example, conveniently has spoken of achieving 60% reductions by 2050. The number alone will place Canada as a leader in meeting Kyoto-and-beyond targets, but they omitted the rest of the sentence. 60% reductions using a 2003 baseline, that is 13 years after the actual baselines followed by the rest of the world. At plenary, Canada sounds progressive, but this is an illusion created by twisted science and math. This, however, is only one example of the many ways in which reducing emissions can be interpreted. The past few weeks have been full of discussions on the different perspectives for post-2012 methods to stabilize the climate. Europe, for example, talks of following pathways to stabilize climate within the average 2 degrees Celsius change considered safe for living beings by the IPCC. This approach, however, has not echoed amongst other delegations. Not only an average temperature change would mean something different in every corner of the planet, but it also fails to recognize the variants affecting climate. Wind currents, natural temperature changes, and ocean currents, solar cycles, among other natural processes that we do not understand quite well, have an impact on climate. Thus, concentrating on 2 degrees variance makes sense in terms of impacts, but does not necessarily make things easier in terms of our impact on the climate. We know, however, that greenhouse gases have an impact, and we know we can control it. The natural factors mentioned before have affected the climate forever, thus the single factor we have influence over is the one that deserves our attention. Setting emission targets geared towards reducing GHG ppm (particles per million) allows us to set short, mid, and long reductions targets. When holding all natural factors equal, a number like 450ppm allows for modeling impacts on climate. Thus, targeting ppms can help us measure progress in controlling our contribution to the atmosphere. As the struggle to combat climate change continues, we need to base our work in what we know. Our concerns have been centered on one factor, our of many, of the total set of relationships that impact climate: greenhouse gases. Concentrating on the result of the equation can be useful to understand what would be required for adapting, but our mitigation efforts should be focused on controlling emissions and not degrees celsius

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