The Heat Is Online

IPCCIII: Climate Protection Is Still Affordable

"The report shows -- and this is encouraging -- that ambitious climate protection is economically manageable." -- German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm.

 

Warming road map issued by nations

Emission curbs won't cripple economies, report states, though U.S. wary

 MSNBC staff and news service reports, May 4, 2007

 

BANGKOK, Thailand - Described as a road map for curbing global warming, a report was approved Friday by delegates from 120 countries that lays out what they said was an affordable arsenal of tools that must be rushed into place to avert a disastrous spike in temperatures.

 

 

But a

U.S. official raised concern about the economic costs.


The report, a summary of a study by a U.N. network of 2,000 scientists, said the world has to make significant cuts in emissions through increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and vehicles, shifting from fossil fuels to renewable fuels, and reforming both the forestry and farming sectors.

 

 

The document made clear that nations have the technology and money to decisively act in time to avoid a sharp rise in temperatures that scientists say would wipe out species, raise ocean levels, wreak economic havoc and trigger droughts in some places and flooding in others.

 

 

Under the most stringent scenario, the report said the world must stabilize the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2015  eight years from now  at 445 parts per million to keep global temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees over pre-industrial levels.

 

 

For the past year, many prominent scientists have warned that allowing greenhouse gases to surpass 450 parts per million would make dangerous climate change more likely, particularly the melting of

Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets.

 

 

'Playing with fire here'

 

 

 

There are many who feel 450 parts per million is a threshold that we dont want to go across and that we want to stabilize CO2 concentrations at that level, said Michael Mann, director of the

Earth System Science Center at Penn State University. Were playing with fire here.


Going beyond 450 ppm means theres a good chance that we would be committed to the melt of the Greenland ice sheets. While it might take centuries, that would give us five to six (yards) of sea level rise, Mann said, adding that would mean island nations would be lost and much of the U.S. East Coast, one-third of Florida and all of New Orleans would be submerged.


Delegates said the approval of the report should conclusively debunk arguments by skeptics that combating global warming was too costly, that it would stifle development in poorer countries, or that the temperature rise had gone too far to change.


"If we continue doing what we are doing now, we are in deep trouble," said Ogunlade Davidson, the co-chair of group responsible for finalizing the report this week.


Delegates hailed the policy statement as a key advance toward battling global warming and setting the stage for an even stronger international agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse emissions when it expires in 2012.


"It's stunning in its brilliance and relevance," Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the group responsible for the report, the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said of the study. "It's a remarkable step forward."


"Clearly, the signs that the IPCC assess will have a direct and profound influence on the discussion that take place and the direction toward (a post-Kyoto) agreement," he said.


Bush administration view


The United States was pleased that the report "highlights the importance of a portfolio of clean energy technologies consistent with our approach," said the head of the U.S. delegation, Harlan Watson.


But James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, raised concerns about reaching the lowest emission targets proposed in the report, saying "it would cause a global recession."


"Our goal is reducing emissions and growing the economy," he said.

 

Coming out of the meeting, delegates said science appeared to have trumped politics  especially opposition from booming China, which wanted language inserted allowing for a greater buildup of greenhouse gases in the environment before action would be taken.


Beijing, the second-largest emitter after the United States, and its supporters had argued that moves to make deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions risked stifling its spectacular economic growth, delegates said. But the final report included mention of a stringent emission target from an earlier draft.


Zhou Dadi, a Chinese author in the report and a researcher at the country's top planning agency, denied China had "opposed" the key findings and was only working to improve the text.


"The Chinese government was constructive and was contributing to making the report reflect the science," Zhou said. "We are not threatened by the report."


In Europe, several countries and the European Union welcomed the report.


"The report shows -- and this is encouraging --that ambitious climate protection is economically manageable," German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said.


At a briefing in Berlin, the U.N.'s top climate change official, Yvo de Boer, said the report "clearly rebuts fears that economic development and wealth conflict with active protection of the climate."


Delegates had wrestled over how to share the burden of cutting emissions, how much such measures would cost, and how much weight to give certain policy measures, such as advanced nuclear power, an option supported by the United States.


For many delegates, the strongest message was that reaching the lowest targets could be done at less than 3 percent of the global gross domestic product by 2030 -- or 0.12 annually.


That compares favorably to global economic growth that every year has averaged almost 3 percent since 2000. The damage from unabated climate change, meanwhile, might eventually cost the global economy between 5 percent and 20 percent of GDP every year, according to a British government report last year.


"I would say it (the GDP estimates) looks like a reasonable risk to take, compared to the impact of projected climate change," said Jayant Sathaye, a scientist at the federal Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.


The report itself states that "depending on the existing tax system and spending of the revenues, modeling studies indicate that costs may be substantially lower under the assumption that revenues from carbon taxes or auctioned permits under an emission trading system are used to promote low-carbon technologies or reform of existing taxes."


Building, industrial sectors


While reducing emissions in the transportation sector might be undermined by projected growth in automobile use, the report says that buildings can easily be made to emit less carbon. "Energy efficiency options for new and existing buildings could considerably reduce CO2 emissions with net economic benefits," it states.

"The economic potential in the industrial sector is predominantly located in energy intensive industries," the report adds. "Full use of available mitigation options is not being made in either industrialized or developing nations."


Climate activists say many companies can even make money by reducing emissions. According to The Climate Group, an organization that profiled 84 companies, DuPont achieved a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gases and $3 billion in cost savings through energy efficiency improvements.


"All of the companies profiled accrued cost savings, and over twenty achieved emissions reduction of 25 percent or higher," the group stated.


Still, there are pro-business groups, mostly in the U.S. and Australia, that insist many of the computer models on warming are unpredictable and the world has plenty of time to come up with a solution to slow greenhouse gas emissions.


This is at a point where the science is very imperfect and there is a lot more that needs to be known, said Alan Oxley, chairman of the Australia APEC Study Center, a free-trade think tank.


There is not scientific certainty about this. Its very long term, he said. The claims of imminent disaster are not supportable. The focus is wrong. The focus should be on creating a global consensus on reducing global emissions rather than erecting impractical and uncertain targets.


Earlier reports


The IPCC report, which was really a "summary for policymakers" that will be followed by a longer, more technical study, follows two studies by the IPCC earlier this year warning that unabated greenhouse gas emissions could drive global temperatures up as much as 11 degrees by 2100, triggering a surge in ocean levels, destruction of vast numbers of species, economic devastation in tropical zones and mass human migrations.


Even the most stringent efforts outlined in the report, however, would not prevent suffering. An increase in temperatures to 3.6 degrees could still subject up to 2 billion people to water shortages by 2050 and threaten extinction for 20 percent to 30 percent of the world's species, the IPCC said.


Environmental groups said the report demonstrates the world can afford to battle global warming and must do so immediately.


"This is a roadmap that the IPCC is delivering," said Hans Verolme of WWF International. "It's time for the politicians to do more than just pay lip service to the issue of global warming, and to stop climate change before it's too late."


© 2007 MSNBC Interactive. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Climate Panel Reaches Consensus on the Need to Reduce Harmful Emissions

The New York Times,  May 4, 2007

The world needs to divert substantially from todays main energy sources within a few decades to limit centuries of rising temperatures and seas driven by the buildup of heat-trapping emissions in the air, the top body studying climate change has concluded.

In an all-night session capping four days of talks in Bangkok, economists, scientists and government officials from more than 100 countries agreed early today on the last sections of a report outlining ways to limit such emissions, led by carbon dioxide, an unavoidable byproduct of burning coal and oil.

The final report, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said prompt slowing of emissions could set the stage later in the century for stabilization of the concentration of carbon dioxide, which, at 380 parts per million now, has risen more than a third since the start of the industrial revolution and could easily double from the preindustrial level within decades.

The report, which awaits only formal adoption this afternoon, concluded that significant progress toward that goal could be made in the next 25 years with known technologies and policy shifts, but would still need to be followed by a century-long transition to new energy sources that come with no climate impacts.

Several authors, while declining to discuss specific results before the report was formally adopted, said its message was clear.

We can no longer make the excuse that we need to wait for more science, or the excuse that we need to wait for more technologies and policy knowledge, said Adil Najam, an author of one chapter and an associate professor of international negotiation at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. To me the big message is that we now have both and we do not need to wait any longer.

The report also made clear the risks of delay, noting that emissions of greenhouse gases have risen 70 percent since 1970 and could rise an additional 90 percent by 2030 if nothing is done.

Carbon dioxide is particularly important not only because so much is produced each year -- about 25 billion tons -- but because much of it persists in the atmosphere, building like unpaid credit card debt.

To stop the rise, report authors said, countries would need to expand adoption of existing policies that can cut emissions -- like a fuel tax or the binding limits set by the Kyoto Protocol -- while also increasing research seeking new energy options. This work would include pushing for advances in solar and nuclear power.

The meeting ended just after dawn today in Bangkok with several authors of the report saying that there had been relatively little last-minute fighting with government officials over details. China had resisted language that implied big cuts would have to be made in fast-growing developing countries, which will soon surpass rich countries as the dominant source of greenhouse gases.

According to several authors, the final version estimates that bringing global carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 to levels measured in 2000 would require a cost on released carbon dioxide of $50 to $100 a ton, roughly on a par -- in terms of fossil fuel prices -- of an additional 25 cents to 50 cents for a gallon of gasoline.

The report projects that this shift might cause a small blunting of global economic activity, resulting in an overall reduction of perhaps one-tenth of a percentage point per year through 2100 in the world's total economic activity, the authors said.

Some of the experts and government officials involved in the final discussions said in telephone interviews and in e-mail messages that the costs could be substantially greater than that.

But a variety of participants, including some from the United States, said in interviews that it was hard to argue against such an investment, given the potential costs of inaction.

William Moomaw, a lead author of a chapter on energy options and a professor of international environmental policy at Tufts University, said that he saw evidence that big cuts could happen.

Here in the early years of the 21st century, we're looking for an energy revolution that's as comprehensive as the one that occurred at the beginning of the 20th century when we went from gaslight and horse-drawn carriages to light bulbs and automobiles, Dr. Moomaw said. In 1905, only 3 percent of homes had electricity. Right now, 3 percent is about the same range as the amount of renewable energy we have today. None of us can predict the future any more than we could in 1905, but that suggests to me it may not be impossible to make that kind of revolution again. 

 

 

Climate Plan Arms World for Key Talks

The Associated Press,  May 4, 2007

 

BANGKOK, Thailand -- From nuclear power to reforestation to better toasters, the world now has a game plan from climate experts for fighting global warming, a report their chief scientist says will have a "profound influence" on upcoming negotiations.


American officials questioned the economic cost, and the Chinese questioned whether fast results could be achieved. But a leading expert said there was little choice.


"If we continue doing what we are doing now, we are in deep trouble," said Ogunlade Davidson, co-chairman of the U.N.-sponsored group that produced the report, approved by consensus by more than 120 nations Friday at the end of a weeklong meeting.


A 35-page summary of a 1,000-plus-page study, the report said the world must significantly cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by sharply improving energy efficiency in buildings, vehicles and even kitchen appliances; shifting from fossil fuels to nuclear, wind, solar and other renewable energy sources; saving forests as "carbon sinks"; capping agricultural emissions, and taking many other steps.


The document says the world has the technology and wealth now to act decisively in time to avoid a sharp rise in temperatures that scientists say would wipe out species, raise ocean levels, trigger droughts in some places and flooding in others, and wreak economic havoc.


The assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change builds on reports by two other IPCC working groups issued earlier this year, which said unabated emissions from power plants, auto exhausts and other sources could drive global temperatures up as much as 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, and reported that warming was already affecting animal and plant life.


The Working Group III study looks in detail at the most promising technologies for reining in the heat-trapping gases and at policies, such as taxes or quotas on carbon emissions, that might encourage development of those technologies. It also looks how much that might cost economies.


It estimates the world must stabilize the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2015 at 445 parts per million to keep global temperatures from rising 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. Scientists fear temperatures higher than that might cause severe damage. Current atmospheric concentrations are believed to have passed 400 parts per million.


Delegates hailed this latest assessment, the first by IPCC since 2001, as setting the stage for a strong international agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, with its relatively weak mandated emissions cuts, when it expires in 2012.


"Clearly, the signs that the IPCC assessed will have a direct and profound influence on the discussions that take place and the direction toward (a post-Kyoto) agreement," said the IPCC chairman, climatologist Rajendra Pachauri.


The assessment offers a range of emissions scenarios showing temperatures rising as much as 9.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Under the most stringent scenario, capping concentrations at 445 ppm, the experts projected an economic loss of under 3 percent of global gross domestic product by 2030, that is, spread over 23 years.

The report acknowledges this is an improbable scenario, requiring all nations to deploy the best available technologies. And the U.S and Chinese delegations here complained that attempting to meet the stringent target would be too economically damaging.


"That would, of course, cause a global recession. So that is something we'd probably want to avoid," said James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "Our goal is reducing emissions and growing the economy."


Chinese researcher Zhou Dadi, one of the summary's 33 authors, said such low targets were "unachievable" and would put an unfair burden on countries like his that are climbing out of poverty.


"If we want to change current trends so dramatically, it will not be easy," he said. "We should focus on what we can do right now. It's not good to just talk about targets."


Beijing unsuccessfully tried to strike the 445 ppm figure from the final report.


The Bush administration has rejected the Kyoto Protocol, which 35 other industrialized countries have ratified, requiring them to cut emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. China, India and other poorer countries are exempted from those requirements, but negotiators want cutback commitments from China and others _ including Washington _ in the global talks that resume this December in Bali, Indonesia.


Co-chair Davidson insisted the report offers poorer countries a roadmap to balancing economic development with cleaning up their environment. It also encourages richer countries to help developing nations with financial and technical assistance to shift away from dirty fossil fuels, he said.


The summary did not attempt to estimate economic damage that might occur if the world does nothing about warming, but a British government report last year said unabated climate change might eventually cost between 5 and 20 percent of global GDP every year.


Environmentalists said the report demonstrates the world can afford to battle global warming and must do so immediately.


"This is a roadmap that the IPCC is delivering," said Hans Verolme of WWF International. "It's time for the politicians to do more than just pay lip service to the issue of global warming, and to stop climate change before it's too late."