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 March 01, 2007
Climate Impacts can be Lessened - UN Report

 Washington D.C., USA (GLOBE-Net) -- A group of expert scientists assembled by the United Nations has delivered its report on mitigation and adaptation for climate change. Some level of warming is now unavoidable, but the technology exists for reduction of emissions and avoidance of the worst impacts if swift policy action is taken now, says the group's report.

The Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Development (SEG) consists of 18 distinguished international scientists. It was asked to produce "innovative approaches for mitigating and/or adapting to projected climate changes, and to anticipate the relationship of response measures to sustainable development."

"Significant harm from climate change is already occurring, and further damages are a certainty. The challenge now is to keep climate change from becoming a catastrophe. There is still a good chance of succeeding in this, and of doing so by means that create economic opportunities that are greater than the costs and that advance rather than impede other societal goals."

-Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Development

The 160-page report, "Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable", offers some advice on implementing solutions which are available to policy-makers worldwide.

The group notes that according to the scientific consensus, to avoid a "tipping point" that would lead to intolerable impacts on humans, policy makers should limit temperature increases from global warming to 2-2.5C above the 1750 pre-industrial level. Beyond that, impacts will likely be "intolerable", including adverse impacts on agriculture, forestry, fisheries, fresh water, and the habitability of many human settlements.

Avoiding this would require very rapid success in reducing emissions of methane and black soot worldwide, and global carbon dioxide emissions must level off by 2015 or 2020 at not much above their current amount, before beginning a decline to no more than a third of that level by 2100, says the report.

Current technologies such as renewable energy from solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and other sources, can help to reduce emissions and provide other economic, environmental and social benefits, says the SEG.

Other "win-win solutions" that can reduce emissions while moving the world toward a more sustainable future energy path and achieving social development goals include:

  • Improving efficiency in the transportation sector through measures such as vehicle efficiency standards, fuel taxes, and registration fees/rebates that favor purchase of efficient and alternative fuel vehicles.

  • Improving design and efficiency of commercial and residential buildings through building codes, standards for equipment and appliances, incentives for property developers and landlords to build and manage properties efficiently, and financing for energy-efficiency investments.

  • Expanding the use of biofuels through energy portfolio standards and incentives to growers and consumers.

  • Beginning immediately, designing and deploying only coal-fired power plants that will be capable of cost-effective and environmentally-sound retrofits for capture and sequestration of their carbon emissions.

However, the group argues that some level of climate change and related impacts are already unavoidable. Adaptation efforts must be undertaken concurrently with measures to reduce emissions, recommends the report.

Adaptation will include development of strategies and management of natural resources "cope with future climatic conditions that will be fundamentally different than those experienced for the last 100 years". The most vulnerable nations include many developing countries which will bear the brunt of warming impacts.

Strategies should include planning and building climate resilient cities, says the group. As well, the report says governmental institutions should be strengthened to cope with weather-related disasters and an increasing number of climate change refugees.

The report advocates for the role of the international community, through the United Nations and other multilateral institutions, in organizing climate efforts. This will include assisting with the transfer of clean technologies to developing countries, and negotiating an international climate change agreement to follow the Kyoto Protocol.

The full SEG report can be found here.



For More Information: United Nations - General