U.N.'s Climate Change Report Calls for Major Emissions Cuts
The report says that in order to keep global average temperatures from rising as much as 3.6 percent this century, the world must work together to stablize the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2015. By 2050, carbon dioxide emissions will have to drop by at least 50 percent from present levels to prevent severe changes in the global climate.
Authors of the report told reporters that the message is clear: the time for talk is over, and the time for action has begun.
“If we continue doing what we are doing now, we are in deep trouble,” Ogunlade Davidson, the chair of one of the working groups at the conference, told the Associated Press.
“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,” Adil Najam, an author of one chapter, told the International Herald Tribune. “To me the big message is that we now have both and we do not need to wait any longer.”
Reports from Thailand during the negotiations said that developing nations like China and India pushed for the lowest possible targets for reducing emissions, as well as setting a higher bar for the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before any environmental action is taken.
The countries fear that stringent restrictions will harm their economic growth. But upon the release of the report, delegates said that, in a victory of science over politics, the low emissions target did not make it into the final report.
“This is still an excellent report,” French delegate Michel Petit told the AP. “Nothing important was removed during the process.”
The report outlines broad suggestions for how governments should begin taking action. Among the sectors identified as most in need of a climate-friendly overhaul in the report are buildings and energy infrastructure. Between 1970 and 1990, the amount of emissions released by buildings worldwide has grown 26 percent, and the high energy use of buildings increases the indirect amount of emissions caused by the sector.
The report finds that by 2030, emissions can be reduced by 30 percent with an overall positive economic effect. Although significant financial and technological barriers exist to widespread implementation of energy efficient buildings, the reports’ authors found multiple benefits to improving buildings’ energy efficiency.
Lifestyle changes are among the recommendations urged by the panel. Changing consumption patterns to encourage resource conservation, especially energy efficiency, can “contribute to developing a low-carbon economy that is both equitable and sustainable,” the report says.
Agricultural practices also figure prominently in solutions to the climate crisis. Sustainable agricultural practices, the report notes, can sequester significant amounts of carbon dioxide in the soil and reduce vulnerability to climate change. The agriculture industry should also take steps to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions, which come primarily from livestock and the agricultural use of fertilizers, respectively.
The report ruled out geo-engineering solutions for the short term, saying options like sequestering CO2 in the ocean and physically blocking out sunlight are “largely speculative and unproven.”
The report follows two previous reports issued by the IPCC earlier this year, which focused on the evidence for and potential impact of global warming. Although the report concludes by saying some gaps in knowledge of how best to implement these strategies still exist, especially in terms of developing countries, the steps laid out are readily applicable to developed countries and with further research can be refined for the developing world.
The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report focuses on new literature on the scientific, technological, environmental, economic and social aspects of mitigation of climate change.
The report is organised into five sections:
- Greenhouse gas (GHG) emission trends
- Mitigation in the short and medium term, across different economic sectors (until 2030)
- Mitigation in the long-term (beyond 2030)
- Policies, measures and instruments to mitigate climate change
- Sustainable development and climate change mitigation.
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