Wednesday, January 21, 2009

$1-2.5 Trillion/Year To Avoid Climate Tipping Point

Jan 13: The latest State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World, released by the Worldwatch Institute warns that the world will have to reduce emissions more drastically than has been widely predicted, essentially ending the emission of carbon dioxide by 2050 to avoid catastrophic disruption to the world's climate. The book's 47 authors state, however, that "opportunities abound in renewable energy and efficiency improvements, agriculture and forestry, and the resilience of societies for slowing and managing climate change." Worldwatch VP for Programs Robert Engelman, project co-director for State of the World 2009 said,"We're privileged to live at a moment in history when we can still avert a climate catastrophe that would leave the planet hostile to human development and well-being. But there's not much time left. Sealing the deal to save the global climate will require mass public support and worldwide political will to shift to renewable energy, new ways of living, and a human scale that matches the atmosphere's limits."

The report, the 26th edition of the State of the World series, addresses the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as prepare to adapt to climate change. The Earth's average temperature has already risen by more than 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century, with much of that increase attributed to human activities. Nearly 1 degree Celsius of additional warming may already be in store, based on past emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases that have not yet made their influence felt on surface temperatures.

A chapter by climate scientist W. L. Hare concludes that in order to avoid a catastrophic climate tipping point, global greenhouse gas emissions will need to peak before 2020 and drop 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, with further reductions beyond that date. Emissions of carbon dioxide would actually need to ‘go negative'-with more being absorbed than emitted-during the second half of this century. Hare's research finds that even a warming of 2 degrees Celsius poses unacceptable risks to key natural and human systems, including significant loss of species, major reductions in food-production capacity in developing countries, severe water stress for hundreds of millions of people, and significant sea-level rise and coastal flooding.

According to a release from Worldwatch, economists have estimated the cost of avoiding dangerous climate change at around $1-2.5 trillion a year for decades to come; yet the costs of not doing so are expected to be far higher. At the center of this framework, the book's opening chapter notes ten key challenges that must be adopted as part of any successful path to mitigation and climate change adaptation and resilience. Worldwatch indicates, "addressing these interlinked and challenging issues could lay the groundwork for a world that will not merely bounce back from both the economic and climate crises, but surge forward. A new U.S. administration and impending climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009 could finally break the gridlock that has long plagued climate policy. Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin said, "We can't afford to let the Copenhagen climate conference fail. The outcome of this meeting will be written in the history books-and in the lasting composition of the world's atmosphere."

On January 16, Worldwatch released an interview with Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, one of the world's most visible, outspoken voices on fighting climate change. Pachauri wrote the foreword to the Worldwatch 2009 report. In response to a question regarding what would you tell President Obama, Pachauri said, "I would tell him he has the unique opportunity of saving a large part of the human species and several others, because unless the U.S. takes the lead, I'm afraid we will not get an adequate global response. In absence of that, there will obviously be climate change that will go unmitigated. And we're pretty close to the stage where impacts start to turn very serious and very negative." Worldwatch reported that Pachauri also said, "President-elect Obama's goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 falls short of the response needed by world leaders to meet the challenge of reducing emissions to levels that will actually spare us the worst effects of climate change."

Access a release from Worldwatch on the State of the World report (
click here). Access the interview with Pachauri (click here). Access more information on the State of the World report and download individual chapters (click here). [*Climate]