The Most Important Number in Copenhagen: .5 C

By Chris Mooney | December 16, 2009 4:05 pm

I’ve done a blog post for Science Progress about the competing goals at Copenhagen, as industrial powers say holding temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius will by 2100 will be enough, but developing nations and some scientists say we need to be much more precautionary, and shoot for more like 1.5 degrees C. It may sound like a small difference, but once you convert it into parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, you’re looking at a gap between 450 and 350–with the later being a threshold we’ve already crossed.

So the question is, can Copenhagen really succeed, where succeed means to avert any serious chance of climate disaster? My answer is that, barring some radical last minute deal, it may not be able to do so. And that’s scary.

Read the full analysis here.


Comments (7)

  1. Sorbet

    Excellent point Chris. As Gore pointed out so startlingly in his documentary, that difference of 0.5 can mean a few meters of snow over our head. The answer to your question is much more complicated though!

  2. JJ

    Why would you trust a politician to tell the truth without an ulterior motive? That’s your mistake right there.

  3. Typical Denier

    Boo government. Boo science. Numbers make my head hurt.

    Cosnpiracy. *grunt*

  4. Typical Denier Says:

    Boo government. Boo science. Numbers make my head hurt.

    I actually saw someone essentially say this in comment on a Fox Nation post a couple of days ago. Something like “God, how I hate science.” And she wasn’t talking about how she hates science class in school or anything like that. She was saying “I hate science” in the same way that I say “I hate brussels sprouts,” just with more venom.

  5. Dougetit

    The Science is in. We can all breath a sigh of relief!

    CRU has fooled us by manipulating global temperatures. Just Google Climategate.–29-Agree-Global-Warming-is-a-Scam

    Global temperatures have been in a cooling trend since January 1998.

    Global temperatures are well below historic rates

    Co2 is not driving global Temperatures

    Sea Ice and Glaciers are not in in historic decline

    There are 31,486 scientists, over 9,000 with PhDs, from many fields who have signed a petition saying that they don’t believe AGW to be true. These scientists include some of the obvious: climatologists, meteorologists, geologists, modelers, and oceanographers. Some less obvious include: biologists, marine biologists, zoologists, chemists, astrophysicists, economists, environmental politics researchers, and others

    No denying here, just scientific fact.

    You can now enjoy the holiday knowing that the earth is safe.

  6. bad Jim

    I ought to hesitate to opine on this topic, because Mooney owns it, but this is a pervasive and longstanding problem. An old quip was something like, “The problem is that we think knowledge of science is nice but not necessary, while knowledge of sex is necessary but not nice.” Wrong on both counts, but it’s actually worse than that; too many of us Americans don’t respect knowledge in general. “Book learning” is a put-down, after all.

    The message of the old song, “Don’t know much about biology … but I do know that I love you” is that one should trust the heart and not expect the head to work very well. (A surprising number of people still think the heart is literally an organ of emotion, and a heart transplant might lead to a personality change. “Stiff” by Mary Roach is entertaining in quite a number of ways.)

    If I’m going to put my foot in it, I’ll say it isn’t just journalism or education, it’s a very old part of our culture: self-reliance and the idea that no one is better than anyone else. It’s one of the roots of our extremely resilient religiosity. It’s also given us people like Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Henry.

    Maybe we just need more women in science. Could it be that simple?

  7. EyeRon

    When I was a kid I would take a few boards and nails and construct a “snow machine”. The thought being that by turning the boards a certain way I could predict snow and with snow there could be a snow day from school.

    Little did I know that the day would come when grownups would participate in the same type of superstition. Problem being that when I was a kid the wood and nails were free.

    But what I would really like to know is this. What if the benefits of a warming earth exceed the costs? That is the real issue, is it not?

    And the follow-up question is this. What if the earth begins a cooling trend? Will “climate” scientists call for global action to halt global cooling?


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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