Tuesday, November 12, 2013

UNFCCC Once Again

World leaders are now gathering in Warsaw, Poland on Nov. 11-22 for the 19th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP19. At COP17 two years ago in Durban, South Africa, countries agreed to establish an international climate action agreement by 2015 that would be applicable to all countries, with the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5-2°C above pre-industrial levels. This year’s convening is another step towards that agreement, set for COP21 in Paris.

The devastation just wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan in the Phillippines has cast a pall over U.N. climate talks Monday as the envoy from the Philippines broke down in tears and announced he would fast until a "meaningful outcome is in sight."

The UN conference aims to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere “at a level that will limit dangerous interference with the climate system.” The meeting takes place from now through next Friday at Warsaw’s National Stadium. International delegates are working toward a universal UN-backed treaty to be in force by 2015 and take effect by 2020. To achieve this goal, participating countries must agree on standard limits to future greenhouse gas emissions.

A key negotiating point will be the degree to which emissions must be curtailed, and the necessary timeframe for doing this. The IPCC report issued last month defines four timeline scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathways or RCPs) plotting amounts of carbon burned and resulting global average temperatures, depending on when global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) peak and then decline.

The official schedule and information feed from this session is here.

Update, Nov. 19 from Guardian Environment:

The current goal of the negotiations is to forge an agreement, to be signed in Paris in 2015 and to come into force by 2020, that would involve substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from all the major economies, as well as commitments from poorer countries.

Sizing up Warsaw in Week 2, from Kennedy Graham:

BAU will incur 4.5°C.  Warming to date (since 1750) is 0.8°.  What we see occurring around the world today is caused by 0.8.  We are on track to something between 2.6 and 4.5.

And finally, from Motherboard, a video that covers the IPCC scenarios:

As the video fast-forwards us through time, it illustrates the possible future of our little blue marble as it spins in space: warming temperatures, shrinking sea ice, increasing sea levels, amplifying ocean acidity. It’s as grim as it is beautiful, but all is not necessarily lost yet.
Whether you see it as a disheartening or hopeful proposition, the final takeaway is this: “The scale of change depends on decisions made now… It is up to societies now to decide the future we want.”