UN Panel: Cost to Fight Climate Change Still 'Modest'
But only if the world acts soon, experts say
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2014 1:25 PM CDT
In this Feb. 25, 2008 file photo the tower of a church is pictured between the smoke billowing chimneys of the brown coal power plant Frimmersdorf in Grevenbroich near Duesseldorf, Germany.   (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

(Newser) – 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, the head of the UN's expert panel on climate change said today. 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 5 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 compared to current levels, the panel said.

"The longer we delay the higher would be the cost," IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said after the panel's weeklong session in Berlin. "But despite that ... the cost is not something that's going to bring about a major disruption of economic systems." 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. Click for more on the story.

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Glenn McGrew II
Apr 14, 2014 10:03 AM CDT
Michael Marley: Unfortunately, there is no quick fix because the whole climate change problem is largely beyond our control. Look up the "Milankovitch Cycle" for a list of natural factors that affect the global temperature (including the Sun, and the Earth's orbit and eccentricity). However, anytime aspects of a system change, that causes the system, and every other system it interacts with, to change, too. Therefore, while human interference may be thought of as a "minor" influence, it is indeed an influence, and one that has been growing. How much influence we have on climate change is a point of contention but anyone who says we have NO influence is ignoring the fact that physics and mathematics both bear this out. So, what can be done? As someone who's been "looking into" this problem for several years, I have had the great good fortune to talk to people from around the world and we shared ideas with each other. We can think of this in different ways. The first would be 3 layers: 1) Individual changes to lifestyle - although some people have argued that the impact is negligible, with around 7 billion people on the planet this is clearly not true. Switching to alternative sources of energy (especially those that don't constantly require resources like biofuel does), buying better quality products, using a more efficient vehicle or taking public transport, using a fan or swamp cooler instead of an AC, line-drying instead of using a dryer, recycling, reusing, reducing and so on are all things that we can do to help. 2) Community changes - when we work together to start impacting things on a larger scale, the results are bigger. Some examples include swapping instead of buying new, developing community gardens and community composting of organic waste, having a community recycling program, communities pushing the local government to do better, etc. 3) Government and business changes - this one is twofold because governments tend not to want to deal with this problem unless people kick up a fuss. If lots of communities put pressure on the government and businesses through policy changes and better buying habits, these behemoths will be forced to change or suffer the backlash. Without political grassroots action, there is little likelihood that governments like the intransigent US will really change. Look what happened to all of Carter's efforts when Reagan took over - solar panels were ripped out of the White House, hybrid car programs were halted, and people were pushed to be every more spending oriented. Cap and trade is certainly one way to go but CO2 is not the only problem, nor is cap and trade really going to solve the situation. Water vapor, nitrous oxide and methane are powerful greenhouse gases. We produce a LOT of heat, and our architecture absorbs heat and produces the urban heat island effect. The way cities are designed and buildings built has to change. More green roof and green wall projects need to be seriously applied to fight the effects of all the heat we produce. Systems that recycle the heat for reuse for other processes can be added, including electricity production. One of the largest problems is the population. If we had a stable population cap of 1 billion we wouldn't have to worry about the human factor. The economic-financial growth business system that has come to dominate almost the entire world is helping to destroy the planet. It's a large and complex arrangement, but it amounts to a spiral - a cycle if you will - and it ignores the needs of people, ecosystems and many other things in favor of wealth consolidation. It ignores that we're already overburdening the Earth, polluting it beyond the ecosphere's ability to recover, and treating natural resources like they are all renewable and inexhaustible. Living creatures suffer the most because there's nothing they can do to stop what we're doing. The rich countries need to stop exploiting the poor ones for their own benefit. We need to step away from the current systems of business and politics and into something far more enlightened where power cannot be accumulated in the hands of a tiny minority, where the needs of the many outweigh the needs of that few, and where social, ecological, health and human rights are all considered more important than the bottom line. I know a few people who have come up with different ideas about these things. Another problem is human nature, and that's the stickiest one. After thousands of years of existence, with some of the best philosophical and intellectual minds having lived long before the age of science, we have yet to change our ways. The world is still driven by greed for money, possessions and power. People continue to behave largely as they wish within certain restraints and many people have little choice how they behave because they have no power, influence, wealth or support that they can use to lift themselves out of the poverty that they face moment to moment. It is time that humans unite and treat each other fairly. There is no reason ANYONE should starve unless they choose to, because we produce enough food for everyone already, nor should there be shortages of fresh water, housing, clothes, high quality education, health care and other basic needs. We live in an age where the potential truly exists to change this dystopian world into a much better place. I think one important step to take is to revolutionize education from pre-primary to tertiary. Make it free, high quality, non-discriminatory, transformative, and the best that we can offer. This will go a long way towards resolving the problems above. Time will be needed, of course. We need to seriously revise our belief that we have the right to do what we want without considering how it affects everything and everyone else, and that especially includes making babies. I know this is not a popular position with some but let me ask a question. Which is better: to only allow couples one or, at most, two children (unless there is a death, or they adopt), or watch as all the bad things we're doing to the ecosphere we rely upon for everything kills off the excess? It is only a matter of time before we reach a point at which it will no longer be possible for us to save humanity, let alone the planet, and the fallout from that (war, famine, drought, diseases, pestilence, etc.) will take so many lives that we'll marvel that we ever questioned limiting the population. Nature will do it if we refuse to, and it will be a MOST painful experience for us, not to mention the rest of the lifeforms on Earth. Sorry, a bit preachy I'm afraid, but I hope that I have answered your question satisfactorily.
Chris Farley
Apr 14, 2014 6:39 AM CDT
OK. Many folks commenting have way more knowledge on this subject than I do. My queastion would be, what is the fix? The Sollution? Cap and trade? In only first world nations, just moving it (like labor) to the lowest global cost? Its still being polluted. And who would make out from Cap and trade?
orlandojon
Apr 13, 2014 4:57 PM CDT
World government led by the USA are practicing weather modification and they have been doing it since the mid 1990's. If more people would wake up and learn about it, maybe we could stop it before the planet is destroyed