As far as international climate politics go, it has been five minutes to midnight for about 20 years now. Even though global emissions of greenhouse gasses have continuously risen since the first United Nations climate summit, the core message has remained the same: Time is running out, but we can still manage things if we act immediately.
This might still be understandable as a political message. European advocates of stiff measures against climate change do not want to admit their enduring inability to get things moving, or to lend support to the fatalism that still threatens. But in a political field so strongly marked by science, it is surprising that – to stay with the same image – the hands of the clock have not moved further ahead.
How is that possible? The fact is that a few years ago, climate research established an emissions budget with which it is possible to determine with some precision how much more greenhouse gasses humanity can emit and still keep global warming at 2 degrees Celsius.