Global Warming Can Be Stopped, World Climate Experts Say
for National Geographic News
Humans have the means to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the catastrophic consequences of global warming, a major climate report released today concludes.
But in order to stabilize the climate, the transition from fossil fuels like coal and oil needs to occur within decades, according to the final report this year from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Delegates representing a network of 2,500 scientists, economists, and policymakers from more than 120 nations hammered out details of the report at a week-long, closed-door meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.
"What is an extremely powerful message in this report is the need for human society as a whole to start looking at changes in lifestyle and consumption patterns," Rajendra Pachauri, the panel's chair, said at a press conference today.
The report outlines options communities can take, from using more renewable energy sources like solar and wind to using efficient light bulbs and planting trees. Even controversial nuclear energy is considered a viable option.
In addition the report says countries must adopt policies that put a price on carbon emissions and provide incentives to spur the development of energy-efficient technologies.
Widespread embrace of these measures could stabilize the amount of greenhouse gases at 2000 levels, according to the report.
Failure to adopt these measures, however, could send heat-trapping gases spiraling an additional 90 percent by 2030.
"If we continue to do what we are doing now, we are in deep trouble," Ogunlade Davidson, a co-chair of the working group that prepared the report, said at the briefing.
This is the third IPCC report released this year.
The first concluded global warming is almost certainly human caused. The second warned of the consequences already occurring and yet to come such as massive human death and disease, droughts, floods, and storms.
Today's report outlines a series of options to prevent the worst from occurring.
"We have a really monumental challenge on our hands," Vicki Arroyo of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change in Arlington, Virginia, said in a telephone interview.
Scientists and policymakers have argued over which options to emphasize in the fight against global warming. For example, many environmental groups are concerned about hazardous waste from nuclear energy if that option is widely promoted.
But given the immensity of the challenge, Arroyo said, the "luxury" to ignore any of the available options does not exist.
"We really need to tackle this problem from every angle we can," she said.
Daniel Kammen directs the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. He said in a telephone interview that the market has yet to show which methods will prevail.
"The critical issue isn't to pick and choose too much but is to say, if the governments are going to listen to this report as they should, there is actually a large number of technologies that are available to explore and look at," he said.
Some of the technologies are ready to enter the marketplace now, he added, while others will require further research.
Kammen and Arroyo both said that the cost to the global economy of acting now to curb greenhouse gas emissions is far less than doing nothing.