Can developed economies combat dangerous anthropogenic climate change without near-term reductions from developing economies?

Waldhoff, Stephanie T.; Fawcett, Allen A.
August 2011
Climatic Change;Aug2011, Vol. 107 Issue 3/4, p635
Academic Journal
Developing economy greenhouse gas emissions are growing rapidly relative to developed economy emissions (Boden et al. ) and developing economies as a group have greater emissions than developed economies. These developments are expected to continue (U.S. Energy Information Administration ), which has led some to question the effectiveness of emissions mitigation in developed economies without a commitment to extensive mitigation action from developing economies. One often heard argument against proposed U.S. legislation to limit carbon emissions to mitigate climate change is that, without participation from large developing economies like China and India, stabilizing temperature at 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial (United Nations ), or even reducing global emissions levels, would be impossible (Driessen ; RPC Energy Facts ) or prohibitively expensive (Clarke et al. ). Here we show that significantly delayed action by rapidly developing countries is not a reason to forgo mitigation efforts in developed economies. This letter examines the effect of a scenario with no explicit international climate policy and two policy scenarios, full global action and a developing economy delay, on the probability of exceeding various global average temperature changes by 2100. This letter demonstrates that even when developing economies delay any mitigation efforts until 2050 the effect of action by developed economies will appreciably reduce the probability of more extreme levels of temperature change. This paper concludes that early carbon mitigation efforts by developed economies will considerably affect the distribution over future climate change, whether or not developing countries begin mitigation efforts in the near term.


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