Politics – The Single Most Important Factor in Limiting Global Warming

January 5, 2013



A new analysis finds that swift action by politicians is the single most important factor in limiting global warming. The costs of delays outweigh any possible benefits of waiting for more scientific research into the mechanisms of climate change.

The scientists published their findings in two studies in the journal Nature ¹ ². This contradicts claims by governments stating that they should delay action on climate change until there is more scientific evidence. Speeding up action could also lead to significant cost savings.

Joeri Rogelj, a climate-policy analyst at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, and his colleagues, assessed the relative importance of the uncertainty in limiting the rise in global temperatures¹. The researchers compared emissions and costs in more than 500 different scenarios. They revealed that the timing of global action will have the greatest effect on whether the world meets given climate targets, like keeping the global temperature rise to less than 2˚C above pre-industrial levels.

The results render scientific uncertainties almost irrelevant to meet the 2˚C target, states Rogelj. In December 2011, 195 countries pledged that by 2015 they would set targets to reduce emissions starting in 2020. If this is what is going to happen, there is a 56% chance of keeping the temperature increase below 2˚C². Delaying any action until 2025 would decrease that chance to 34%. Starting in 2015 would improve the odds to 60%. This would also make any action cheaper.


  1. Rogelj, J., et al.Nature 493, 79–83 (2013).
  2. Hatfield-Dodds, S. Nature 493, 35–36 (2013).

[via Nature]


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3 Responses to “Politics – The Single Most Important Factor in Limiting Global Warming”

  1. jorgen Says:

    How about waiting until it is proven that 1) global warming happens and (more importantly) 2) that humans have caused such alleged global warming. At least one other report states that global warming stopped 16 years ago.


  2. icetrout Says:

    Stop 3rd worlders from breeding uncontrollably… that should be “THE” top priority for stopping human caused climatic changes… How much coal does China burn ?How many trees are burned to clear the Amazon?Why no pollution controls in India?…


  3. Angus Stone Says:

    First of all – thanks for giving the issue a platform on nature (twice!) and here! But nevertheless, what was found out is basically common knowledge, isn’t it? Starting a counteraction earlier for a process that has a memory is of course beneficial…


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