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2 degrees. Too tough to handle?

The Guardian today features an article with results of an unsettling survey that it ran, asking attendees of the recent Copenhagen climate talks whether they believed it was possible to contain to contain the impacts of climate change to a 2 degree rise in temperature.

86% said no. "An average rise of 4-5C by the end of this century is more likely, they say, given soaring carbon emissions and political constraints. Such a change would disrupt food and water supplies, exterminate thousands of species of plants and animals and trigger massive sea level rises that would swamp the homes of hundreds of millions of people."

There will be much in the way of challenging philosophical and psychological fallout from this. The majority of civil servants, and many of their political leaders, have failed to grasp the implications and need for speed associated with our current targets, and are poorly equipped to deal with shifting goals, let alone ones as tough as the those in front of us.

Now is not the time to give up hope, for many reasons. The top one on my list is that scientists and climate experts though they may be, it is not science that will save us, but the effective communication that gives a billion or so people the confidence to lead their lives in the direction of sustainability.

The acid test will be whether those attending the COP 15 talks in December will have the courage to stick to the 2 degree target and properly commit to the actions that are needed, or accept that we really should have named ourselves homo idioticus. There's enough reason to be optimistic to work on transformation of business and government; we've got to learn pretty fast to do this, and that's part of the fun.


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