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Leaked UN Report: Only 15 Years Left to Avoid Climate Catastrophe


January 19, 2014
Justin Gillis / The New York Times & Jacob Chamberlain / Common Dreams

Nations have dragged their feet in battling climate change so much that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising. Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve. The governments of the world are spending far more money to subsidize fossil fuels than to accelerate the shift to cleaner energy. Continued investment in coal-burning power plants poses an imminent climate risk.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/science/2014/01/17/united-nations-says-lag-confronting-climate-woes-will-costly/gLzdaRqCFvl1RwnVVWqwXJ/story.html

Inaction on Climate Change Costly, Report Warns
By 2030, current technology won't be able to help

Justin Gillis / New York Times & The Boston Globe

(January 17, 2014) -- Nations have dragged their feet in battling climate change so much that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising, according to a UN draft report. Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies, the experts found.

Delay would probably force future generations to develop the capability to suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and store them underground to preserve the livability of the planet, the report found. But it is not clear whether such technologies will ever exist at the necessary scale, and even if they do, the approach would probably be wildly expensive compared with taking steps now to slow emissions.

The report said that governments of the world were still spending far more money to subsidize fossil fuels than to accelerate the shift to cleaner energy, thus encouraging continued investment in projects like coal-burning power plants that pose a long-term climate risk.

While the spread of technologies like solar power and wind farms might give the impression of progress, the report said, such developments are being overtaken by rising emissions from fossil fuels over the past decade, especially in fast-growing countries like China. And one of the most important sources of low-carbon energy, nuclear power, is actually declining over time as a percentage of the global energy mix, the report said.

"The fundamental drivers of emissions growth are expected to persist despite major improvements in energy supply" and in the efficiency with which energy is used, the report declared.

The new warnings come in a draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a panel of climate experts that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts to analyze and communicate the risks of climate change. The report is not final, but a draft dated Dec. 17 leaked this week and was first reported by Reuters. The New York Times obtained a copy independently.

In the dry language of a technical committee, the draft outlines an increasingly dire situation.

Even as the early effects of climate change are starting to be felt around the world, the panel concluded, efforts are lagging not only in reducing emissions, but in adapting to the climatic changes that have become inevitable.

It is true, the report found, that the political willingness to tackle climate change is growing in many countries, and that new policies are spreading; but the report said these were essentially being outrun by the rapid growth of fossil fuels.

While emissions appear to have fallen in recent years in some of the wealthiest countries, that is somewhat of an illusion, the report found. The growth of international trade means many of the goods consumed in wealthy countries are now made abroad -- so that those countries have, in effect, outsourced their greenhouse gas emissions to countries like China. Emissions in the United States rose slightly in 2013, but are still about 10 percent below their 2005 levels, largely because of the country's newfound abundance of natural gas, which produces less greenhouse gases than burning coal.

The Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty meant to limit emissions, has "not been as successful as intended," the report found. That is partly because some important countries like the United States refused to ratify it or later withdrew, but also because of flaws within the treaty itself, the report found. The treaty exempted developing countries from taking strong action, for instance, a decision that many experts have said was a mistake in retrospect.

Efforts are underway to negotiate a new international treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, but it is not supposed to take effect until 2020, and it is unclear whether countries will agree on ambitious goals to limit emissions. It is equally unclear how much political support a new treaty will gain in China and the United States, the world's largest emitters.

Nations have agreed to try to limit the warming of the planet to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. Even though it will be exceedingly difficult to meet, this target would still mean vast ecological and economic damage, experts have found. But the hope is that these would come on slowly enough to be somewhat manageable; having no target would be to risk catastrophic disruption, the thinking goes.

As scientists can best figure, the target requires that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, stay below 500 parts per million. The level recently surpassed 400, and at present growth rates will surpass 500 within a few decades.

If countries permit continued high emissions growth until 2030, the draft report found, the target will likely be impossible to meet, at least without a hugely expensive crash program to rebuild the energy system, and even that might not work.

The leaked draft is the third and final segment of a major report that the climate change panel is completing in stages in 2013 and 2014.



Act Now or Pay the Heaviest Price, Warns Leaked Climate Report
'Explicit efforts' must be taken to reduce emissions

Jacob Chamberlain / Common Dreams

(January 17, 2014) -- Hopes to reduce the worst impacts of climate change around the globe will likely be lost if the international community doesn't immediately switch to clean energy and significantly reduce carbon emissions, according to a leaked draft of a report being conducted by UN scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

If "explicit efforts" are not immediately taken to reduce emissions, the scientists warned, future efforts will either be too costly or too late.

Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 40-70% of 2010 levels by 2050, a reduction that will not be met if the world continues to rely on fossil fuels such as oil and coal to power the energy needs of an exponentially growing population.

As The New York Times reports:
Nations have so dragged their feet in battling climate change that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising, according to a draft United Nations report. Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies, experts found. […]

While the spread of technologies like solar power and wind farms might give the impression of progress, the report said, such developments are being overtaken by rising emissions from fossil fuels over the past decade, especially in fast-growing countries like China. And one of the most important sources of low-carbon energy, nuclear power, is actually declining over time as a percentage of the global energy mix, the report said.

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emissions grew 2.2% per year on average between 2000 and 2010, the scientists note, in comparison to the 1.3% per year on average between 1970 to 2000.

While oil and coal were cited as the leading contributors to climate change, the draft report says those levels are only expected to rise, thanks to current national and international climate policies.

The draft report is the third installment of three climate change reports conducted by the IPCC.

The first study, published on September 27, said that "warming in the climate system is unequivocal and since 1950 many changes have been observed throughout the climate system that are unprecedented over decades to millennia," and confirmed that that it is "extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.

The evidence for this has grown, thanks to more and better observations, an improved understanding of the climate system response and improved climate models."

The second and third parts of the report will be published in March and April.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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