Leaked UN climate report calls for rapid switch to clean energy

Limiting global warming to safe levels could cost 4% of global output says study, warning emissions must drop 40-70%


By Ed King

The cost of limiting global temperatures to levels deemed safe could cost 4% of global economic output by 2030.

That’s one of the warnings that have emerged from leaked drafts of a UN report focused on the impacts of climate change.

Scenarios modelled by scientists indicate that preventing the world from warming beyond the 2C cap agreed at the UN means greenhouse gas emissions will have to fall 40-70% by 2050.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its final copy of the Fifth Assessment report of Working Group III in March.

This will be used by negotiators working towards a global emissions reduction deal, set to be signed by world leaders in Paris next year.

So what are reporters who have seen these illicit documents saying?

Alister Doyle focuses on the need for huge carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities to “extract vast amounts of greenhouse gases from the air by 2100”, together with a massive influx of investment in the clear energy sector. He notes that currently most large CCS plants are “experimental”, and that the most radical proposals would only give a 66% chance of avoiding warming beyond 2C.

The Hindu:
Nitin Sethi points to the continued growth in global emissions. These have grown by 2.2% on average during 2000-10, despite many parts of the world experiencing recession.  Failure to take steps now would cost much more in the future, with global consumption losses spiralling from 1-4% in 2030 to 2-12% in 2100. Current pledges are weak and unlikely to make a dent in the level of cuts required.

Increased rates of conservation and efficiency may be pointless if CO2 gases continue to soar, says the BBC. Emissions are now twice as high as they were in the 1970s, and show little sign of slowing. It picks up on the IPCC’s view on investments in the oil and gas sectors, observing that the report” accuses governments of spending far more on subsiding fossil fuels than switching to cleaner energy.” Economic growth and population growth are blamed as the key drivers if emissions it notes.

The Australian:
Emissions from the power sector could double or triple by 2050 from 2010 levels unless clean energy investments are “accelerated” says the Australian. Conversely, fossil fuel funding will need to fall by $US30 billion a year between 2010 and 2029, matched by a low carbon energy rise of $US147 billion a year.

Alex Morales writes of the political importance of this research, as “it’s intended to influence the direction of UN negotiations”. To meet the goal of that particular process (avoiding 2C) the share of renewables, nuclear power and carbon-capture and storage will need to triple. He quotes the study as warning: ““Without explicit efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the fundamental drivers of emissions growth are expected to persist.”

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