The U.N.’s Paris climate conference, designed to reach a plan for curbing global warming, may instead become the graveyard for its defining goal: to stop temperatures rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Achieving the 2C (3.6 Fahrenheit) target has been the driving force for climate negotiators and scientists, who say it is the limit beyond which the world will suffer ever worsening floods, droughts, storms and rising seas.
But six months before world leaders convene in Paris, prospects are fading for a deal that would keep average temperatures below the ceiling. Greenhouse gas emissions have reached record highs in recent years.
And proposed cuts in carbon emissions from 2020 and promises to deepen them in subsequent reviews – offered by governments wary of the economic cost of shifting from fossil fuels – are unlikely to be enough for the 2C goal.
“Paris will be a funeral without a corpse,” said David Victor, a professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego, who predicts the 2C goal will slip away despite insistence by many governments that is still alive.
“It’s just not feasible,” said Oliver Geden, of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “Two degrees is a focal point for the climate debate but it doesn’t seem to be a focal point for political action.”
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