Although three of the planetary boundaries have already been overstepped and

Although three of the planetary boundaries have

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Although three of the planetary boundaries have already been overstepped and they all pose a threat to human existence, the most immediate danger, i.e., of climate change, has become one of the most pressing issues of our time. There is now almost universal agreement that the global mean tempera- ture is rising due to the human-induced increase in carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 3 In 2013, for the first time in 4.5 million years, the atmospheric level of CO 2 ex- ceeded 400 parts per million (EIA, 2013). Since the mid-1900s we have rapidly been moving be-yond the planetary boundary for atmospheric car-bon dioxide concentration, which Rockstrom et al. (2009) calculated at 350 ppm (see fig. 1). As a result, the climate on earth is changing – on average getting warmer – with rising sea levels and ‘climate chaoses’ characterised by more fre-quent and stronger weather phenomena such as droughts, floods, storms, and heat waves. Accord- ing to the EIA, the goal of limiting the global long- term average temperature rise to 2 °C above prein- dustrial levels ‘remains technically feasible, though extremely challenging’ (EIA, 2013, p. 9). Without action, rises are more likely to be between 3.6 °C and 5.3 °C, with the bulk of the changes occurring before 2100. Keeping within the 2°C threshold is possible only with very rapid ‘decarbonisation’, i.e., a reduc-tion of carbon emissions in the energy sector and in the whole economy (Schmitz & Becker, 2013). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested in its Fourth Assessment Report that, by 2050, carbon emissions needed to be reduced 50 percent from 1990 levels, starting in 2015 (IPCC, 2007). To have a realistic chance of limiting the probability of a global temperature increase to less than 2°C during this century, GHG emissions 20 GLOBELICS THEMATIC REVIEW
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Fig. 1. Accumulation of atmospheric CO 2 concentration
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Source: NOAA/ESRL (2013). Parts per million (yearly averages) measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. must be reduced by approximately 80 percent be-fore 2050. There is widespread agreement, however, that this schedule for reducing carbon emissions will not be met: ‘The world is not on track to meet the target agreed by governments to limit the long- term rise in the average global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius’ (OECD/IEA, 2013, p. 9). A new climate change agreement within the United Na- tions Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) should be in place by 2020, but ma-jor changes are required to maintain any chance of reaching the 2 °C target. As emphasised below, the necessary changes are massive and it seems unre- LOW-CARBON INNOVATION AND DEVELOPMENT 21
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alistic that major changes would be implemented in the short run. However, problems are growing as we approach an environmental tipping point; at that point, the costs of tackling climate change will rise and the urgency of changing from finite resources will increase: The question is thus not whether the global economy will adopt resource- efficient (and particularly low- carbon) production or not: it will have to. The question is whether this transition will be
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