Friday, May 11, 2007

Monbiot: Giving Up On Two Degrees, IPCC Report

Sometimes I read an article, book or blog that addresses an issue so succinctly, argues a point concisely, presents a universal truth that is being ignored or overlooked - and I make a mental note to raise it in my blog. Then, life comes along and other demands take over and the moment has passed. But this is one article that has struck such a chord with me, that I have returned to re-read. I urge anyone who is concerned about what the target level of greenhouse gas emissions should be to read George Monbiot's article, Giving Up On Two Degrees

Monbiot, in his usual well researched fashion, sets out why we need higher targets - and targets that must be met sooner. Infact, not only is our government relying on out-of-date figures, so is the European Union. Working on the basis of a 50% chance of preventing more than 2°C of warming, a global cut of 80% by 2050 would be required.

Monbiot explains that this is a cut in total emissions, not in emissions per head. If the population were to rise from 6 to 9 billion between now and then, we would need an 87% cut in global emissions per person. If carbon emissions are to be distributed equally, the greater cut must be made by the biggest polluters: rich nations like us. The UK’s emissions per capita would need to fall by 91%.

As Monbiot points out, what the recent IPCC report shows is that we have to stop treating climate change as an urgent issue. We have to start treating it as an international emergency.

This latest IPCC Report, "Mitigation of Climate Change" was published on the 4th of May. Here is a brief summary of the key findings of the report:
1. the world has until 2020 to reverse the trend of rising greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change,
2. achieving this would reduce the world's annual gross domestic product by 3 per cent in 2030,
3. cuts in emissions of GHGs can be achieved with existing technologies,
4. bringing that technology into widespread use is likely to require extensive changes in public policy,
5. US$20,000 billion must be spent by 2030 on the world's energy infrastructure to help reduce costs.

The report also estimates that carbon emissions will cost between US$100 per tonne. Multiple strategies are proposed to prevent the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change at a reasonable cost. These include measures such as switching to renewable energy and biofuels, taxing fossil fuels, incentives for improving the energy efficiency of transportation, buildings and industry, as well as changes to agricultural and forestry practices. The key findings of the report have been agreed unanimously by more than 100 governments, including those of the US, China, India and the European Union and will form the basis for international policy. They will also provide the framework for discussions, set to begin this December in Bali, on a successor to the Kyoto protocol on climate change, whose main provisions expire in 2012. Whilst the latest IPCC report makes it clear that the world has a substantial challenge, it also shows that there is an emerging consensus.

*Giving Up On Two Degrees
* IPCC Working Group III Report "Mitigation of Climate Change"

No comments: