The world needs a concerted effort to subsidise innovative technologies, writes Prem Shankar Jha
Global action is required to counter Donald Trump’s backslide on climate change. (Image: Felix_Broennimann)
recently, the world had assumed that the US would lead the transition from an era of fossil fuel guzzling into a low carbon one. That belief died when the US withdrew from the Paris climate agreement on June 1. World leaders have done their best to minimise the impact this will have on the fight against climate change. But all their brave statements amount to no more than whistling in the dark.
Estimates made by the United Nations shortly after the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 gave a ballpark estimate of 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) as the maximum that the world could afford to add by year 2100 to the CO2 already in the atmosphere if it wanted the rise in temperature to stay below 2C. But since then, freshly committed investments in fossil fuels have virtually guaranteed that more than 720 gigatonnes of CO2 will be added to the atmosphere by 2030.
The Trump challenge
To stay within the 1,000 gigatonnes limit, therefore, the world will have to bring annual emissions down to zero in the next 14 years. Since such a steep reduction is manifestly impossible, there will be a substantial excess of concentration well before the middle of the century. Climatologists have therefore concluded that the only way of staying within the 1,000 gigatonnes/2C ceiling will be to start pulling large quantities of CO2 out of the atmosphere in the second half of this century. This is the challenge that US President Donald Trump may have made almost impossible to meet.