BERLIN, Germany, April 13, 2014 (ENS) – Global greenhouse gas emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in any of the three previous decades, reaching record levels despite a growing number of policies to reduce climate change, finds a new report by economists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released today in Berlin.
Still, it is possible, using a wide array of technological measures and changes in behavior, to limit the increase in global mean temperature to 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels, advises Working Group III in its contribution to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report.
Only major institutional and technological change will give a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed the two degree threshold, which was agreed by world leaders as a mutual goal in 2010 at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen.
For this report, analysis of 1,200 scenarios from scientific literature show that limiting the temperature increase to two degrees Celsius, means lowering global greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70 percent compared with 2010 by mid-century, and to near-zero by the end of this century.
Baseline scenarios, those without additional climate mitigation, result in global mean surface temperature increases in 2100 that are 3.7 to 4.8°C higher than pre‐industrial levels, the report demonstrates. By some estimates the increase could reach 7.8°C.
Even less ambitious temperature goals would require similar emissions reductions.
Today’s 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, constitute the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on climate change.
Working Group III is led by three co-chairs from different parts of the world who are specialists in the economics of climate change: 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,” said Professor Edenhofer, an economist with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Ambitious mitigation may even require removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”
“There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said Edenhofer.
The scenarios were 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.”
The panel analyzed the causes for this increase in the main economic sectors: energy, transport, construction, and building, industry, land use, agriculture and forestry among others.
Estimates of the economic costs of mitigation vary widely. In business-as-usual scenarios, consumption of fossil fuels grows by 1.6 to 3 percent per year. Ambitious mitigation would reduce this growth by around 0.06 percentage points a year. The underlying estimates do not take into account economic benefits of reduced climate change.
“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,” said Pichs-Madruga, a researcher at the Centre for World Economy Studies in Havana.
Stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere requires emissions reductions from energy production and use, transport, buildings, industry, land use, and human settlements, the report finds.
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.
“The core task of climate change mitigation is decoupling greenhouse gas emissions from the growth of economies and population. Through providing energy access and reducing local air pollution, many mitigation measures can contribute to sustainable development,” said Dr. Sokona, sustainable development specialist at The South Centre, an intergovernmental organization of developing countries located in Geneva, Switzerland.
Globally, economic and population growth continue to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
The contribution of population growth between 2000 and 2010 remained roughly identical to the previous three decades, while the contribution of economic growth has risen sharply, the report shows.
“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.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sees the economic opportunities in this report. “We’ve already had wake-up call after wake-up call about climate science,” he said. “This report is a wake-up call about global economic opportunity we can seize today as we lead on climate change.”
“So many of the technologies that will help us fight climate change are far cheaper, more readily available, and better performing than they were when the last IPCC assessment was released less than a decade ago. Good energy solutions are climate solutions and this report shines a light on energy technologies available right now to substantially reduce global emissions,” said Kerry.
“These technologies can cut carbon pollution while growing economic opportunity at the same time. The global energy market represents a $6 trillion opportunity, with six billion users around the world. By 2035, investment in the energy sector is expected to reach nearly $17 trillion,” Kerry said.
“We already know that climate science is unambiguous and that every year the world defers action, the costs only grow. But focusing only on grim realities misses promising realities staring us right in the face. This report makes very clear we face an issue of global willpower, not capacity,” said Kerry.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said, “The newest IPCC report shows a wide range of options to cut carbon pollution, including the use cost-effective clean energy. The longer we wait to act, the harder and more expensive it will be.”
Frances Beinecke, president of the U.S. nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “The IPCC is telling us in no uncertain terms that we are running out of time – but not out of solutions – if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. That requires decisive actions to curb carbon pollution – and an all-out race to embrace renewable sources of energy. History is calling.”
In Berlin, the report was greeted by a group of German climate justice activists holding banners and photos of protests and campaigns from the across the world.
The campaigns are united by the Reclaim Power initiative, a global collaboration on the links between energy and climate change.
Theresa Kalmer, a local climate justice activist and organizer of the snap-protest at the launch in Germany, said, “We are highlighting the on ground experiences that this report talks about. In every country there are movements fighting for an energy transformation – stopping dirty energy and building community-controlled solutions. Governments need to listen to the voices of those struggles, read this science, and shut-out dirty energy corporations once and for all.”
Lidy Nacpil, a coordinator from the Philippines of the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, said, “Ambitious and drastic efforts cannot be delayed for later if we are to succeed in stabilizing the earth’s climate and limiting temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees. Currently it says we could be on track for 7.8°C by the end of the century – that is an unimaginable and horrific future.”
Osver Polo, coordinator of the Latin-American initiative “Construyendo Puentes,” which is preparing regional civil society for the next UN climate conference in Lima later this year, said, “This report should frame every government’s understanding of the challenge in UN climate talks. Targets for climate pollution pre-2020 have to be raised much higher than current pledges.”
Asad Rehman, with Friends of the Earth International, said “The demand for progressive change in the world – such as ending slavery or apartheid – has always come first from people before political leaders. This report adds to the combined actions of ordinary people across the world who are saying loud and clear – end dirty energy now, support the just transition, and save the planet and its people.”