ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, May 6, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 49

‘Nations have means to tackle global warming’

By Karl Malakunas

BANGKOK, Saturday (AFP) - Nations have the money and the technology to save the world from the worst ravages of global warming, but they must start acting immediately to succeed, experts agreed on Friday. After five days of intense negotiations, the experts from 120 nations endorsed a report laying out proposals to fight climate change which they said were cheap and easy enough for political leaders to act on right away.

“If we continue to do what we are doing now, we are in deep trouble,” said Ogunlade Davidson, co-chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which produced the report. “This report is all about solutions to climate change,” Davidson said, emphasising that the way forward was about doing things differently rather than sacrifice.

The options laid out covered simple measures like switching to energy efficient light bulbs and adjusting the thermostat in the office.
But they also included extremely controversial and complex techniques such as nuclear power, and the storing of carbon dioxide -- the major greenhouse gas -- underground instead of letting it spew into the atmosphere.

Renewable energies, such as wind, solar and biofuel, were highlighted as an important part of the mix, while the experts said putting a price on using the fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases was important. Environmental groups hailed the report as a victory for science over politics -- after fierce debate among the delegates this week -- and said the onus was now on governments to act without delay.

“WWF believe it is a historic moment here,” said Stephan Singer, a climate and energy specialist from the conservation organisation. “It has been shown for the first time that stopping climate pollution in a very ambitious way does not cost a fortune ... there is no excuse for any government to argue that it is going to cause their economy to collapse.”

The IPCC report presented a best-case scenario of limiting global warming to 2.0-2.4 degrees Celsius (3.6-4.3 degrees Fahrenheit), generally recognised as the threshold when the most extreme ravages of climate change will begin. Ramping up use of the new technologies that do not emit greenhouse gases, increasing energy efficiency and other methods to achieve this target would shave less than 0.12 percent off world economic growth each year, it said.

To keep global warming in the best-case range, nations have to make sure that greenhouse gases -- blamed for most of the world's rising temperature -- must start declining by 2015. The report said greenhouse emissions would have to be cut to between 50 and 85 percent of year 2000 levels by 2050.

The report presented other scenarios in which the cost to the economy would be less but the greenhouse gases and consequent global warming much higher. Delegates taking part in the closed-door talks said throughout the week that, China, which fears a slowdown in its surging economic growth, had led concerns about the price of fighting global change.

Despite the haggling, however, negotiators and environmental groups said the final report had not been watered down for political reasons. “It came out much better than we thought,” the WWF's Singer said. “This is a victory of science over the fossil fuel industry (and) economic sceptics.”United Nations Environment Programme Michael Williams said China had played a constructive role, and that their points were for the most part based on scientific grounds that helped improve the final report.

“Most of the interventions by China were useful,” Williams told AFP. The report is the third and last from the IPCC this year, after the first two looked into the evidence and looming devastating impacts of global warming.

U.N. findings on costs of fighting global warming

Following are the main findings in a report by the U.N. climate panel issued in Bangkok on Friday. The survey by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) looks at the costs of slowing climate change and the tools available for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70 percent between 1970 and 2004,” it says. Emissions are set to grow by between 25 and 90 percent between 2000 and 2030.

Developed countries accounted for 46 percent of all emissions in 2000 but just a fifth of the world population. Up to about 75 percent of the projected growth in emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, from energy use will come from developing nations.

“There is substantial economic potential for the mitigation of global greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades, that could offset the projected growth of global emissions or reduce emissions below current levels,” it says.
Potential savings of greenhouse gases by major sectors in 2030, assuming a penalty for emitting carbon dioxide of less than $100 a tonne (world 2004 emissions were 49 billion tonnes):

Sector billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent
Buildings between 5.3 and 6.7
Agriculture 2.3-6.4
Industry 2.5-5.5
Energy supply 2.4-4.7
Forestry 1.3-4.2
Transport 1.6-2.5
Waste 0.4-1.0
Total: 5.8-31.0

Costs of cutting greenhouse gases range between less than 3 percent of world gross domestic product in 2030, with the stiffest curbs, to a small 0.2 percent boost to growth with an easier goal.
The economic impact is spread over many years. The strictest goal, limiting concentrations of greenhouse gases to 445 parts per million of the atmosphere, would brake annual GDP growth rates by less than 0.12 percent a year.
Benefits to health from less air pollution, caused by a shift from fossil fuels, “may offset a substantial fraction of mitigation costs.”

Beyond 2030
“In order to stabilise the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, emissions would need to peak and decline thereafter,” it said. “Mitigation efforts over the next two to three decades will have a large impact on opportunities to achieve lower stabilisation levels.”

In 2050, the report projects that the economic impact of stabilising greenhouse gases at 710 and 445 ppm would range from a 1 percent gain in global GDP to a 5.5 decrease. The strictest goal would require a 50 to 85 percent cut in emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 compared to 2000.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.