Climate change: firm action called for amid catastrophic warnings

Both the dangers posed by climate change and some of the mitigation solutions available were outlined this week, as global warming dominated the headlines.

The week started with the International Climate Change Taskforce releasing a report calling for the creation of a G8-Plus Climate Group to engage the US and major developing countries in action to reduce greenhouse gases.

It recommends that Tony Blair should seek agreement for the creation of the group as chair of the G8 this year.

The G8-Plus group would pursue partnerships to achieve immediate deployment of existing low-carbon energy technologies and argues that all G8 countries should set a lead by adopting national targets to generate at least 25% of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025.

The Taskforce calls on Governments to agree to a long term objective of preventing global temperature from rising by more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels. Other recommendations include shifting agricultural subsidies from food crops to biofuels, and removing all barriers to, and increase investment in, renewable energy and energy efficient technologies and practices.

Stephen Byers MP, co-chair of the Taskforce said: "I appreciate that tackling climate change is politically difficult. First, there is a mismatch between the potentially unpopular decisions that need to be taken now and the benefits that will come in the medium and long term. Secondly, no country acting on its own can resolve the issue. Strong international action is vital."

He added that the Taskforce - created in March 2004 by the Institute for Public Policy Research, Centre for American Progress and the Australia Institute - had been able to find common ground due to its diverse membership.

Johnathon Porritt, Taskforce Member and Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, said: "As the news about climate change goes on getting worse, political inertia all around the world remains the biggest barrier to finalising an appropriate response. It's now critically important to inject some creative new thinking into today's climate change negotiations, and the Taskforce has an important contribution to make to that process."

Just how bad the news about climate change is, was highlighted several days later as the first results of the world's largest climate prediction experiment, were released.

The results, published in the journal Nature, show that average global temperatures could rise by up to 11 degrees Celsius even if CO2 levels are limited to twice those found before the industrial revolution.

This is more than double the maximum warming so far considered likely by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC). These levels are expected to be reached around the middle of this century unless deep cuts are made in greenhouse gas emissions. project co-ordinator, Dr. David Frame, said: "The possibility of such high responses has profound implications. If the real world response were anywhere near the upper end of our range, even today's levels of greenhouse gases could already be dangerously high."

The ongoing project involves more than 95,000 people from 150 countries across the world. The programme runs through a climate scenario over the course of a few days or weeks, before automatically reporting results back to climate researchers at Oxford University and collaborating institutions worldwide, via the internet.

Participants have simulated over four million model years and donated over 8,000 years of computing time, allowing the project to explore a wide range of uncertainties, picking up previously unidentified high-impact possibilities.

David Stainforth, Chief Scientist for the project, said: "Having found that these extreme responses are a realistic possibility, we need people's support more than ever to pin down the risk of such strong warming and understand its regional impacts."

Tony Blair then took up the climate change theme. Speaking at the World Economic Forum this week, Mr Blair was seen as trying to persuade US President Bush to sign a global pact on climate change.

However, he seemed to take a far softer line than normal when he said the evidence on climate change was "still disputed," even if it had been "clearly and persuasively advocated."

The US responded to Mr Blair's calls by pointing out that their opposition to mandatory cuts on CO2 emission remains unchanged.

By David Hopkins



Waste & resource management
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