IPCC Conference Opens in Bangkok on How to Combat Global Warming

April 30, 2007

The costs of cutting greenhouse gases and who will pay for doing it are likely to be the key issues at a major U.N.-backed climate change meeting of scientists and diplomats in the Thai capital this week, participants said Sunday.

Some of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters like the U.S. and Australia and top oil exporters such as Saudi Arabia will try to water down language in a draft report, obtained by The Associated Press earlier this month, that suggests reducing emissions can be done with minimal cost to the global economy, environmental activists said.

“Cost will be on everybody’s mind,” said environmental protection group WWF International’s Martin Hiller. “Changing the energy system is costly but we can still afford to do it. The cost for doing nothing is staggering and could be up to 20 times more expensive.”

Developing countries are likely to demand that richer countries help them adapt to warming global temperatures which are expected to cause widespread flooding, droughts and rising sea levels. “If you take roads or electricity lines or buildings, they will all have to be adapted to climate change,” said Hiller.

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a network of more than 2,000 scientists, will open a five-day meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, to finalize a report on how the world can mitigate rising levels of carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping gases.

The draft report, which will be amended following comments from dozens of governments, says emissions can be cut below current levels if the world shifts away from carbon-heavy fuels like coal, invests in energy efficiency and reforms the agriculture sector.

Two previous IPCC reports this year painted a dire picture of a future in which unabated greenhouse gas emissions could drive global temperatures up as much as 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. Even a 2-degree-Celsius (3.6-degree-Fahrenheit) rise could subject up to 2 billion people to water shortages by 2050 and threaten extinction for 20 percent to 30 percent of the world’s species, the IPCC said.

The third report makes clear the world must quickly embrace a basket of technological options _ already available and being developed _ just to keep the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Making buildings more energy-efficient, especially in the developing world, through better insulation, lighting and other steps, could also lead to significant cuts as would converting from coal to natural gas, nuclear power and renewable energy such as wind.
It says taking “optimal” mitigation measures might by 2030 stabilize greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere at 445 to 534 parts per million, up from an estimated 430 ppm today.

Achieving the 445-534 ppm range might cost less than 3 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) over two decades, the draft says.

The damage from unabated climate change, in contrast, might eventually cost the global economy between 5 percent and 20 percent of GDP every year, according to a British government report [the Stern Report – See IJ web site Oct. 31, 2006] last year.

For further information consult the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change web site at: www.ipcc.ch.

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