Cost of fighting climate change ‘modest’: UN panel

Zero- or low-carbon would reduce annual consumption growth 0.06%.

April 14, 2014   by ASSOCATED PRESS

Low-carbon sources including wind and solar power would reduce consumption growth by about 0.06% per year

Low-carbon sources including wind and solar power would reduce consumption growth by about 0.06% per year

BERLIN — The cost of keeping global warming in check is “relatively modest,” but only if the world acts quickly to reverse the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, says the head of the UN’s expert panel on climate change.

Such gases, mainly CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels, rose on average by 2.2% a year in 2000-2010, driven by the use of coal in the power sector, officials said as they launched the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s report on measures to fight global warming.

Without additional measures to contain emissions, global temperatures will rise about 3 degrees to 4 degrees C by 2100 compared to current levels, the panel said.

“The longer we delay the higher would be the cost,” IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri told The Associated Press. “But despite that, the point I’m making is that even now, the cost is not something that’s going to bring about a major disruption of economic systems. It’s well within our reach.”

The IPCC, an international body assessing climate science, projected that shifting the energy system from fossil fuels to zero- or low-carbon sources including wind and solar power would reduce consumption growth by about 0.06% per year, adding that that didn’t take into account the economic benefits of reduced climate change. “The loss in consumption is relatively modest,” Pachauri said.

The IPCC said the shift would entail a near-quadrupling of low-carbon energy – which in the panel’s projections included renewable sources as well as nuclear power and fossil fuel-fired plants equipped with technologies to capture some of the emissions.

Large changes in investments would be required. Fossil fuel investments in the power sector would drop by about $30 billion annually while investments in low-carbon sources would grow by $147 billion. Meanwhile, annual investments in energy efficiency in transport, buildings and industry sectors would grow by $336 billion.

The message contrasted with oil and gas company Exxon Mobil’s projection two weeks ago that the world’s climate policies are “highly unlikely” to stop it from selling fossil fuels far into the future, saying they are critical to global development and economic growth.

Coal emissions have declined in the US as some power plants have switched to lower-priced natural gas but they are fuelling economic growth in China and India.

The IPCC avoided singling out any countries or recommending how to share the costs of climate action in the report, the third of a four-part assessment on climate change.

Though it is a scientific body, its summaries outlining the main findings of the underlying reports need to be approved by governments.

Counting all emissions since the industrial revolution in the 18th century, the US is the top carbon polluter. China’s current emissions are greater than those of the US and rising quickly. China’s historical emissions are expected to overtake those of the US in the next decade.

Governments are supposed to adopt a new climate agreement next year that would rein in emissions after 2020. The ambition of that process is to keep warming below 1.2 degrees C compared to today’s levels. Global temperatures have already gone up 0.8 degrees C since the start of record-keeping in the 19th century.

The IPCC, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007, said the UN goal is still possible but would require emissions cuts of 40% to 70% by 2050 and possibly the large-scale deployment of new technologies to suck CO2 out of the air and bury it deep underground.

Oil and gas our greatest source of greenhouse gases

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