By Mark Lynas
June 17, 2008
Sometimes we need to think the unthinkable, particularly when dealing with a problem as dangerous as climate change – there is no room for dogma when considering the future habitability of our planet. It was in this spirit that I and a panel of other specialists in climate, economics and policy-making met under the aegis of the Stockholm Network thinktank to map out future scenarios for how international policy might evolve – and what the eventual impact might be on the earth’s climate. We came up with three alternative visions of the future, and asked experts at the Met Office Hadley Centre to run them through its climate models to give each a projected temperature rise. The results were both surprising, and profoundly disturbing.
We gave each scenario a name. The most pessimistic was labelled “agree and ignore” – a world where governments meet to make commitments on climate change, but then backtrack or fail to comply with them. Sound familiar? It should: this scenario most closely resembles the past 10 years, and it projects emissions on an upward trend until 2045. A more optimistic scenario was termed “Kyoto plus”: here governments make a strong agreement in Copenhagen in 2009, binding industrialised countries into a new round of Kyoto-style targets, with developing countries joining successively as they achieve “first world” status. This scenario represents the best outcome that can plausibly result from the current process – but ominously, it still sees emissions rising until 2030.