December 2, 2012
The British thinktank Carbon Tracker has pointed out, it's really just simple maths. Though Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 failed spectacularly it formally recognized "the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius" and agreed that deep cuts in global emissions are required... so as to hold the increase in global temperature below two degrees Celsius.
So far, we've raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.)
If the world is to limit global warming to 2C, it must keep greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to under 450 parts per million. We are currently at 392, and rising fast. To have a good (80%) chance of staying within the 2C limit, that means the world can emit only another 565 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. But global fossil fuel reserves are much bigger than that, equivalent to 2,795 gigatonnes, or five times the safe amount. In other words, we can only avoid devastating climate change if we keep most of the world's fossil fuels, including almost all of its coal, in the ground.
We'd have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to ensure the 2 degrees scenario. That means creating a decarbonised energy system; something opposed by the fossil fuel industries who are in favour of a high-carbon one and higher global warming. Putting a price on carbon would reduce the profitability of the fossil-fuel industry.
Those global fossil fuel reserves are their primary asset, the holding that gives their companies their value. If they couldn't pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. They say that populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological and technological adaptations
The goal of the Doha talks – to hold global temperature rise to 2 degrees – is probably out of reach, and we are on the way to an planet that is 4 to 6 degrees warmer by the end of this century. tThe fossil-fuel industry is systematically undermining the planet's physical systems.