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In an effort to curb global climate change, policy makers and scientists agreed in 2010 that the total levels of CO2 emissions should not exceed 350 parts per million. That magic number would still lead to an average planet-wide temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius, but it would at least stave off the worst effects from a warming planet. But with CO2 levels surpassing 400 parts per million for several days last month according to data collected at a Hawaiian monitoring station, politicians are being urged this week to draft a backup plan at their meeting in Bonn, Germany. The authors of a new study from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs are urging UN envoys to establish a new target that would be more realistic in light of recent discoveries.

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The report is scheduled to be released today in an effort to provide practical guidelines for those attending the two weeks of talks in Bonn.

“Since a target that is obviously unattainable cannot fulfill either a positive symbolic function or a productive governance function, the primary target of international climate policy will have to be modified,” said Oliver Geden, lead author of the paper.

It asserts that the original goals of keeping the world’s levels of CO2 under 350 ppm are unrealistic and have yet to create meaningful policies. Leader will have to accept the 2 degree increase as a benchmark to be surpassed and new legislation drafted in light of a sobering reality.

“If the EU wants to maintain its role as a global leader in climate policy, it will have to investigate all options for target modification as soon as possible — even those that seem politically unappealing,” Geden remarked in the study.

Temperatures have already risen 0.8 degrees since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The World Bank stated that the planet was headed towards a 4 degree increase, one that would bring about “cataclysmic changes” in the form of severe weather, food shortages, rising seas, and climate refugees. A report by the UN Environment Program in November asserted that current pledges to keep greenhouse gasses are not enough to keep nations from reaching and passing the 2 degree threshold.

Efforts to raise the 2 degree mark will undoubtedly be met with dissatisfaction from the 49 Least Developed Counties and 52 AOSIS group of island nations who have already seen the worst impacts of climate change befall their populations. As the talks progress, it remains to be seen whether the suggestion to allow for a new target is a pragmatic decision, or one that countries will again feel they can ignore.

+ German Institute for International and Security Affairs

Via Bloomberg

Image via US National Archive and Wikicommons user EdBrown05.