Climate Chimera
President Obama Joins Climate Hedging Chorus

Add President Barack Obama to the list of world leaders expecting this December’s climate summit to fall short of the hype. In an interview he gave to Rolling Stone during his trip to Alaska earlier this month, the President downplayed the importance of specific target setting, because whatever’s decided will, as he put it, “fall far short” of what’s needed. Rolling Stone has more:

I’m less concerned about the precise number, because let’s stipulate right now, whatever various country targets are, it’s still going to fall short of what the science requires. So a percent here or a percent there coming from various countries is not going to be a deal-breaker.

Those closest to the Paris talks seem convinced that whatever the conference produces will be insufficient in limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius as compared to pre-industrial levels, a target long ago set by scientists past which, we’re promised, we’ll start to see the effects of climate change in a big way. But UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has essentially told the world to forget about the 2C target. She arrived at that conclusion after reviewing the commitments made to date by UN member states for limiting warming at the national level. So far only 62 countries have submitted these pledges, called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), and those countries collectively account for some 70 percent of global emissions. Figueres warned that those pledges “do not add up to 2 degrees,” and she “guesstimated” that we’re far likelier to end up somewhere in the 3 degrees Celsius range.

The President doesn’t seem all that concerned about the specifics, and even Figueres has tried to put a brave face on the grim reality negotiators will be facing at the end of this year. The worst-case scenario—a repeat of 2009’s Copenhagen summit, a meeting Obama called a “disorganized mess” in his Rolling Stone interview—is still very much in the cards.

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