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Melting Markets, Melting Ice Caps

Are the current targets for cutting carbon emissions realistic or setting us up for a fall? Dr Thomas R. Schneider, member of the IEEE, a professional association for the advancement of technology, investigates.


Carbon targets

While the European Commission has been working to allocate member countries with their own specific targets by 2012, the UK, for example, has committed to cutting its carbon emissions by 12.5% below 1990 levels under the Kyoto Protocol, a legally binding international agreement. For the longer term and as a result of the recent G8 meeting, the UK has also agreed to a target of 50% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The purpose of climate scientists proposing target CO2 atmosphere concentrations is to limit global warming and to help ‘stabilise’ the planet’s climate. Depending on the scenario, the required reductions in carbon emissions are suggested at being between 60% to 80% of the 1990 emission levels, or greater, by 2050.

 Historically, carbon dioxide emissions did fall at the same time that coal consumption was reduced and that generation shifted to oil and gas. However, coal consumption has increased and carbon emissions, while still lower than previously, are again on the rise.


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