The Climate Interactive Scoreboard

Prior to the recent Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen a great many nations announced proposals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The proposals were varied and covered many different base and target years making for very difficult and complex analysis.

A simulator was created to effectively handle the analysis, add up the proposed greenhouse gas reduction goals for every nation, and calculate the temperature increase expected in 2100. It generates a value for expected temperature rise and a range depending on how strongly temperature responds to emissions. The simulator was built by Sustainability Institute, Ventana Systems, and MIT.

The following live graphic, the Climate Interactive Scoreboard, is a visual representation of the simulator’s results and updates interactively when proposals change.

 

What are the goals to limit temperature rise?

Although there are no binding commitments in the Copenhagen Accord, the Parties agreed to take action to meet the objective of holding the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius. This is the temperature rise above the pre-industrial level considered the threshold for ‘dangerous climate change’.

The Accord also references strengthening long-term goals “in relation to temperature rises of 1.5 degrees Celsius”, an acknowledgement of the concerns of small island states and other low-lying nations who have been calling for a 1.5°C limit to the rise in global average temperature.

How do the national proposals stack up against the goals?

An analysis of national proposals just prior to COP15 projected a temperature rise of 3.9°C by 2100 which is lower than “business as usual” and indicates progress is being made. But it also shows we have much further to go.

The Copenhagen Accord requires Annex 1 Parties (developed countries) to submit “quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020”, and developing country Parties to submit “nationally-appropriate mitigation actions” to the UNFCCC Secretariat by January 31, 2010.

This could result in significant changes to the Climate Interactive Scoreboard.

In short order, the simulator has become an important tool in both the negotiations and for countries setting targets.

The U.S. Department of State is using the simulator to understand the impacts of country proposals and to share their findings with other parties to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework on Climate Change). Jonathan Pershing, the senior U.S. climate negotiator, demonstrated its capabilities to the Parties meeting in Bonn earlier last year. It was also demonstrated at the U.S. Center at COP15 in Copenhagen.

Without action the global average temperature will rise above pre-industrial levels, and possibly at an accelerated rate. As a Climate Interactive Scoreboard video (click link in upper right corner of graphic) explains, “preventing temperature increase would mean safer coastal cities, more surviving species, increased food security, more access to freshwater, improved public health, and improved security for all.”

What will be the sum of national proposals on January 31st? Can we expect that they will be enough to bring the temperature in 2100 down from today’s projection of 3.9 degrees Celsius?

 

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere