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Anthropocene: The closing doors of climate targets

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Published on Dec 6, 2013

The Grantham Institute for Climate Change Annual Lecture 2013, given by Professor Thomas Stocker, University of Bern, Switzerland and Co-chair of IPCC WGI

CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are now unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years, and they rise more than 100 times faster than during the past 20,000 years. This is caused by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases by burning fossil fuels and land use change with consequent changes in the entire Earth System. The newest comprehensive assessment Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change documents a rapidly and profoundly changing Earth System and provides the latest understanding of changes ahead of us. There is no doubt that warming and many of the consequent changes are caused by human activity which makes this new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. How climate scientists many centuries and millennia hence will characterize the Anthropocene depends on us, on our decisions today. The implementation of international agreements to "prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system" requires limiting CO2 emissions substantially and sustainably. Specific climate targets to limit the warming to 2°C, or even 1.5°C, are already now ambitious. But both further delay and insufficient emissions reductions close the door on limiting global mean warming, and consequent impacts, permanently.

For more information please visit http://www.imperial.ac.uk/climatechange

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