Global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has analyzed carbon emissions from 2000 to 2008 and concluded that the world’s “carbon emissions budget”, or ability to emit carbon dioxide while still maintaining a “fair chance” of limiting average global temperatures to no more than 2 ºC (3.6 ºF), is about 10% off track, and that one-fifth of the global carbon budget for the first half of this century has been spent in just eight years.
|Carbon intensity reductions, 2000-2050: (1) 2% reduction per annum from 2000; (2) actual rate of reduction, 2000, 2008; (3) decarbonization gap; (4) required rate of decarbonization, 2008-2020. Click to enlarge.|
A business-as usual emissions trajectory could exhaust the world’s 2000-2050 carbon budget as early as 2034.
The PwC Low Carbon Economy Index frames decarbonization performance in terms of carbon intensity reduction per unit of energy, and finds that the global rate of carbon intensity reduction this century so far is around 0.8% per year, or about one-fourth of the rate—3.5%—that may stabilize temperatures at or below 2 ºC. Were major emitters to have begun decarbonizing in 2000, they could have done so at approximately 2.0% per year.
|“Globally, we have been eating into the finite carbon emissions budget more quickly than we should, leaving us with a carbon debt. The world economy has to decarbonize between 2008 and 2020 at more than four times the actual rate of carbon intensity reduction achieved globally since 2000, to have a fair chance of limiting global warming to 2 ºC.”|
|—John Hawksworth and Leo Johnson, PwC|
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the level of global investment needed to decarbonize society at such a rate could reach $1.15 trillion above business-as-usual figures by 2030. “For the G20 economies”, the reports observes, “this also means keeping to their pledge on phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.” If policy and emissions reduction commitment gaps are closed, “businesses [will] have a short window to prepare” for a low-carbon economy.
Attitudes about climate change vary considerably among citizens of major emitter countries, with the percentage of respondents to a recent survey characterizing climate change as a serious problem ranging from 90% for Brazil and 67% for India, to 46% for Indonesia, 44% for Russia and the United States, and 30% for China. The survey was taken by the Pew Global Attitudes Project from 18 May to 16 June of this year.
A separate survey conducted from September 30 to October 4 of this year by the Pew Research Center For The People and the Press found that just 36% of Americans surveyed thought warming patterns could be attributed to human activity, down from 47% in April 2009.