Adopting the AOSIS position would mean stabilising global CO2 concentrations at 350 parts per million (ppm). We are currently at 387 ppm. The AOSIS position is based on the groundbreaking work of leading climate change scientist Professor James Hansen and his highly influential paper “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?” published in 2008. Professor Hansen helped to bring climate change to the attention of the world with his testimony to US congress in 1988. He is highly critical of the climate models that have been used to produce the latest IPCC report published in 2007 and in particular the IPCC’s failure to provide an estimate for slow feedback processes, including ice-sheet melt rates (that will lead to sea-level rise).
According to Professor Hansen it will be very challenging to meet this 350 ppm/1.5 degrees C target, but it is still doable. The AOSIS position would require changes to existing agriculture and forestry practices and, perhaps most importantly of all, all coal power stations must capture and store all of their CO2 emissions by 2030. These changes will be expensive but the good news is that they are now technically possible. A far more expensive and terrifying future awaits us all if we don’t act, or simply put in place a feeble and ineffective international agreement based on 2 degrees C.
Earlier this year, Lord Stern published a new book titled “A Blueprint for a Safer Planet”, stating that he had been persuaded by the “strong and serious” arguments of Professor James Hansen and that the influential Stern review, published in 2006, had underestimated the dangers of climate change. Before the talks at Copenhagen began the UK government and Ed Miliband acknowledged that Lord Stern had revised the estimates in the Stern review and claimed that the UK role’s at Copenhagen would be to be a persuader for an agreement that was consistent with the science.
Unfortunately on the eve of Copenhagen Lord Stern has stated that: “Recent work on the latest science and economics of 2 degrees C shows that global emissions should be around 44Gt carbon dioxide equivalents in 2020 to be consistent with a 50-50 chance of keeping temperature increase below 2 degrees C. This is in line with the earlier work that underpins the IPCC conclusions.” Why are Lord Stern and Ed Miliband not openly supporting, promoting and defending the Tuvalu proposal at Copenhagen? A global agreement that only has a fifty-fifty chance of keeping temperature increases below 2 degrees C cannot be considered to be either safe or consistent with the latest science on climate change.
Professor Hansen was right in 1988. We think he is right now. We cannot afford to compromise on climate. Not at Copenhagen.