Climate Scoreboard for the world: FAIL?

Greetings from Copenhagen! There are huge gulfs between the delegations here, and the level of distrust seems high; a factor that only got worse after a version the supposed “Danish text” was leaked to reporters at the Guardian. More on that below. But what is even more striking is the gulf between even the supposed “serious” proposals and the science of climate change.

The Sustainability Institute’s Climate Interactive team has launched a new tool called the Climate Scorecard. Every day they are re-running the current proposals through their C-ROADS climate model (which is also being used by the US State Department) and comparing that result with a 1.5 degree to 2-degree goal. The results are not pretty:

If you are reading this today, you are reading that right. 3.8 degrees above pre-industrial levels. 2 degrees is generally being considered the maximum allowable level to preserve a climate anything like what we know. Word is AOSIS has gotten over 100 countries to sign on to its even more ambitious 1.5-degree target. We clearly have a long way to go if we want to get there.

Negotiators from the major emitters seem in denial. On Monday, Jonathan Pershing, the deputy United States negotiator, declared with a straight face that the US commitment to 17% below 2005 levels represents a commitment “in line with the science.” It’s a neat negotiating trick. But as Bill McKibben has said, the planet doesn’t negotiate. It demands.

The Climate Interactive group will be updating their model every day. So bookmark this page, or bookmark this blog post; the widget will update here too. Here’s hoping that we can come together around a shared vision that actually is worth something. We have our work cut out for us, and the problems start with the fog of language.

In international diplomacy, there is a concept, beloved by Henry Kissinger, called constructive ambiguity. Two parties sign onto a text, even if they both interpret it differently and they both know that. It may have helped get treaties signed in the cold war, when the goal was to get the treaty signed. But in the climate negotiations, it just hurts us all.

As for the Danish text, much of the controversy is about the numbers the Guardian article quotes, supposing that developed world will get twice as many per capita emissions as the developing world. But those numbers aren’t in the actual text. They are from some delegate’s analysis. Which is fine and all, but let’s keep things in perspective. The not-so-secret-anymore text calls for a long-term convergence on equal per capita emissions, and 2.67 tonnes for the North and 1.44 tonnes for the South is a grave disparity, but much less so than today, and sounds to me like a step along the way to convergence. But perhaps I am being overly optimistic. The real question is whether there is enough atmospheric space left for the South in the first place. And the answer to that appears to be no.

Jonathan Pershing apparently played down the significance of the Danish text, saying: “There is no single Danish text. There are many Danish texts…They are working on a series of texts, because that is their role in the presidency…If there was no Danish text, I would be appalled … Their job is to bring something to the table.” [Hat tip: Kate Sheppard] That’s right. US would be appalled if the Danes didn’t have a text, and the Developing world is appalled that they do. Fun. I am merely appalled that I am still awake. Night all.