Curbing global warming will require big cuts in greenhouse gases
By Summit Voice
FRISCO —Greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb despite international attempts to curb heat-trapping gases, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its latest climate report.
Issued Sunday in Berlin, the report shows that greenhouse gas emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades. Only with significant institutional, social and technological changes will humankind be able to meet its stated target of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius, the scientists wrote.
The report, entitled Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, is the third of three Working Group reports, which, along with a Synthesis Report due in October 2014, constitute the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on climate change. Working Group III is led by three Co-Chairs: Ottmar Edenhofer from Germany, Ramón Pichs-Madruga from Cuba, and Youba Sokona from Mali.
“Climate policies in line with the two degrees Celsius goal need to aim for substantial emission reductions,” Edenhofer said. “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.”
Based on the best available science, limiting temperature increases to the desired 2 degrees Celsius will require cuttinf global greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70 percent from 2010 levels by mid-century, and to near-zero by the end of this century. Ambitious mitigation may even require removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to the report.
For the report, climate scientists analyzed about 1200 scenarios generated by 31 modelling teams around the world to explore the economic, technological and institutional prerequisites and implications of mitigation pathways with different degrees of ambition.
“Many different pathways lead to a future within the boundaries set by the two degrees Celsius goal,” Edenhofer said. “All of these require substantial investments. Avoiding further delays in mitigation and making use of a broad variety of technologies can limit the associated costs.”
Estimates of the economic costs of mitigation vary widely. In business-as-usual scenarios, consumption grows by 1.6 to 3 percent per year. Ambitious mitigation would reduce this growth by around 0.06 percentage points a year. However, the underlying estimates do not take into account economic benefits of reduced climate change.
Stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere requires emissions reductions from energy production and use, transport, buildings, industry, land use, and human settlements. Mitigation efforts in one sector determine the needs in others.
Cutting emissions from electricity production to near zero is a common feature of ambitious mitigation scenarios. But using energy efficiently is also important.
“Reducing energy use would give us more flexibility in the choice of low-carbon energy technologies, now and in the future. It can also increase the cost-effectiveness of mitigation measures,” Pichs- Madruga said.
“The core task of climate change mitigation is decoupling greenhouse gas emissions from the growth of economies and population,” Sokona said. “Through providing energy access and reducing local air pollution, many mitigation measures can contribute to sustainable development.”
“Climate change is a global commons problem,” said Edenhofer. “International cooperation is key for achieving mitigation goals. Putting in place the international institutions needed for cooperation is a challenge in itself.”
The Working Group III Summary for Policymakers, full report and further information are available at http://www.mitigation2014.org and http://www.ipcc.ch. The full report will be posted on these websites on Tuesday 15 April.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.
Global emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities have continued to rise. Total manmade greenhouse gas emission rates were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010.
Carbon dioxide accounts for 78 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1970 to 2010; methane accounts for 16 percent.
About half of all carbon dioxide emissions between 1750 and 2010 occurred in the last 40 years.
The energy, industry and transport sectors are dominating emissions increases. On the current trajectory, global transportation emissions will double by 2050.
Emissions from consumption growth continue to outgrow emission savings from energy efficiency improvements.
The world needs to act now, and move quickly, to limit the magnitude and rate of climate change. The longer we delay action, the more expensive it will be.
To have a fifty-fifty chance of avoiding the most dangerous climate change scenarios, countries will need to cut emissions by at least 40 percent from 2010 levels by the year 2050.
There is a range of options for sustainable climate actions. Almost 1,000 scenarios were analyzed for the report.
Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced significantly by replacing current coal‐fired power plants with modern, highly efficient natural gas combined‐cycle power plants or combined heat and power plants — provided that the fugitive emissions associated with extraction are low or mitigated.
Renewable energy technologies, including wind and solar power, have finally achieved a level of maturity that enables large-scale deployment, although steep challenges still exist.
Behavioral and lifestyle changes — including lower energy use in households, buying longer-lasting products, and reducing food waste – can considerably lower emissions alongside technological and structural changes.
Effective actions will only be achieved by international cooperation. Fortunately, the number of institutions for international cooperation is increasing.
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