November 30, 2015 5:08 pm
Updated: November 30, 2015 8:23 pm

Climate change: Why world leaders want to stop Earth from warming 2 C

WATCH ABOVE: After the failures of past climate change conferences, there's an increasingly desperate hope that the climate talks in Paris will succeed. Chief Political Correspondent Tom Clark reports from Paris.


Leaders from across the globe are meeting this week in Paris for the United Nations 21st Conference of Parties (COP21). One of the main goals coming out of the conference is the reduction of greenhouse gases, widely attributed to the rapid rise in global temperatures over the past 50 years.

Another is to keep global temperatures from rising by 2 C by the end of the century.

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READ MORE: COP21: Stunning drone footage of melting ice sheet released

The goal of 2 C isn’t an arbitrary one: many feel that it’s essential in mitigating the effects of climbing temperatures. A warming planet means more droughts, floods, severe storms, water scarcity, and an increase in diseases.

“There is no precise ‘threshold’ for defining dangerous interference with our climate. In reality, it is a continuous scale, with more warming leading to greater damages and risk,” climatologist and author of The Hockey Stick, Michael Mann told Global News. “That having been said, 2C (3.6F) warming relative to pre-industrial conditions is probably as good a measure as any for defining when we really start to see damaging impacts on food, water, health, national security, the health of our ecosystems, etc.”



There’s still a month to go in 2015, but already the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting that 2015 will go down as the warmest on record, beating 2014 by about .20 C. Out of the top 10 hottest years around the globe, nine have occurred in the last century.

Moving ahead

Dimitrov said that —  at the current level of global commitment — the planet is likely to warm by 2.7 C by the end of the century. The key is to implement more policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, which then makes the goal within reach.

“Over the next five or 10 years, governments will need to increase their level of commitment,” he said. “But we have to start somewhere.”

Nationally, Canada lacks behind most nations, Dimitrov said.  “There are virtually no policies at the national level.”

However, while the federal government of the past failed to come up with policies, the provinces have taken up the torch, he noted. And with a new Liberal government in power, there is hope of an increased commitment on a national level. Though Trudeau didn’t say when asked Thursday when the federal government would release its timeline.

READ MORE: Timeline of key events in international effort to combat climate change

While the consensus is that we are facing a warming planet as we continue to pump more CO2 into our atmosphere, the goal of at least attempting to reduce the effects are hopeful. And the hope is that the Paris gathering — which takes place until Dec. 11 — will solidify efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

“We have only warmed the planet about 1C so far, and we are already locked into at least another 0.5C, so these impacts are now essentially ‘baked in,'” said Mann. “We will be dealing with them for centuries, and the more carbon we burn, the worse it will get. That is what makes it so critical that we keep warming below 2C.”

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