U.N. Report: Emissions Cutbacks Needed This Decade

Without more action before 2020, slowing climate change will become much more difficult and costly, says a U.N. report.
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Alex Brown
Nov. 5, 2013, 2:43 a.m.

Hu­mans are fast run­ning out of time to avoid cli­mate change’s worst con­sequences, says a new re­port from the United Na­tions En­vir­on­ment Pro­gram, and delayed ac­tion will be costly down the road.

The in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity has pledged to lim­it tem­per­at­ure rise this cen­tury to 2 de­grees Celsi­us, but even cur­rent emis­sions cut­backs don’t put Earth on pace to meet tar­get levels by 2020, the re­port says. Fail­ing to meet the 2020 goals “will mean much high­er rates of glob­al emis­sion re­duc­tions in the me­di­um term; great­er lock-in of car­bon-in­tens­ive in­fra­struc­ture; great­er de­pend­ence on of­ten un­proven tech­no­lo­gies in the me­di­um term; great­er costs of mit­ig­a­tion in the me­di­um and long term; and great­er risks of fail­ing to meet the 2° C tar­get.”

The U.N. says car­bon emis­sions will have to drop to 44 gigatons by 2020 to avoid ser­i­ous prob­lems. Emis­sions are cur­rently on pace to ex­ceed that by 8 to 12 gigatons. Still, the U.N. ex­pressed hope that the goal could still be met. “Even though the win­dow of op­por­tun­ity is nar­row­ing, it is still pos­sible to at­tain the 2020 goal … through firm and rap­id ac­tion,” said the re­port.


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