Global Carbon Neutrality Should Be Reached By Mid-To-Late Century

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Building on the findings published in the ‘Fifth Assessment Report’ by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UNEPEmissions carbon neutralitythe UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a report showing clearly that in order to limit global temperature rise to 2°C and the subsequent environmental impacts, global carbon neutrality must be attained by mid-to-late century.

According to UNEP, global carbon neutrality “would also keep in check the maximum amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted into the atmosphere while staying within safe temperature limits beyond 2020.”

Furthermore, exceeding approximately 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide would increase the risk of severe, pervasive, and irreversible climate change impacts.

“An increase in global temperature is proportional to the build-up of long-lasting greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially CO2,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP. “Taking more action now reduces the need for more extreme action later to stay within safe emission limits.”

“In a business-as-usual scenario, where little progress is made in the development and implementation of global climate policies, global greenhouse gas emissions could rise to up to 87 Gt CO2 by 2050, way beyond safe limits.”

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The report, Emissions Gap Report 2014, was released on Wednesday, days ahead of the UN Conference on Climate Change set to be held in Lima, Peru, and is the fifth in a series of reports examining carbon pledges by countries.

Writing in the Foreword to the report (PDF), Achim Steiner summed up the very basics of the current dilemma:

Failure to curb climate change does not only undermine prosperity for millions of people, most acutely in the developing world: it threatens to roll back decades of development and to hamper the capacity of countries to achieve key societal goals, such as poverty reduction or economic growth.

Act Now

Over the year, we have seen numerous countries make progress (with the possible major exception of Australia) towards building up renewable energy industries and stepping back from fossil fuel–reliant energy systems. However, more work is needed, and soon.

The report highlighted the need to act now, rather than postponing action until after 2020. While it might mitigate near-term costs, the long-term impact will force much higher costs in terms of:

  • Higher rates of global emission reductions in the medium-term;
  • Lock-in of carbon-intensive infrastructure;
  • Dependence on using all available mitigation technologies in the medium-term;
  • Greater costs of mitigation in the medium- and long-term, and greater risks of economic disruption;
  • Reliance on negative emissions; and
  • Greater risks of failing to meet the 2°C target, which would lead to substantially higher adaptation challenges and costs

The costs of not acting now are clear, but so many countries are caught up in mindless debate between those who want to act now, and those who refuse to admit the impact our current way of living is having on the environment, and on future generations.


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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

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