A new study show that by 2050, the United States must cut its emissions by at least 80% below those created in the year 2000 if the world is to avoid potentially dangerous impacts of human-induced climate change.

To avoid the most severe effects of climate change, the world must stabilize the concentration of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere at no more than 450 parts per million. This 450-parts-per-million limit aims to avoid a temperature increase exceeding 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit in a global average temperature above pre-industrial levels?a benchmark which geoscientist Katharine Hayhoe thinks could wreak increasing havoc on the environment as it is exceeded.

Hayhoe says that the new study “assumes both developing and industrialized countries would have to converge to equitable per-capita emissions to stabilize the world’s climate. However, even with other countries taking aggressive action, since the United States is responsible for nearly one-quarter of global emissions, it must act now to achieve the deep cuts in its energy consumption that will be required to meet this target.”

While an 80% reduction sounds daunting now, Hayhoe reminds us that the sooner we start, the greater our chances of successfully meeting that target. Her associate Michael D. Mastrandrea says, “If we wait until 2020 to start emission reductions, we’ll have to cut twice as fast than if we start in 2010 to meet the same target.”

“We’ve got 40 years to radically increase the efficiency of the way we use energy,? Hayhoe says. “It’s also time to start considering more extensive ways to harness renewable energy sources through solar panel arrays and wind farms, for example. It’s worth it to put in the effort now to reduce our emissions. If we don’t, there will be a lot more work to do just to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the future.”

“This report makes clear that the United States must make meaningful cuts in global warming pollution, and soon, to reduce the risk of severe climate impacts,” says Alden Meyer, director of Strategy and Policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “President Bush should drop his opposition to mandatory emissions limits, and put forward a specific proposal to aggressively reduce U.S. emissions.”

Can we do it with the government we have or are likely to have in the future? Can we get the cooperation of major new polluters like China and Russia? Only time will tell, but we don’t have much time left!

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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