Courage can save Earth

Massive increases in wind and solar power are needed to prevent catastrophic global warming. (Bob Strong, Reuters)

Massive increases in wind and solar power are needed to prevent catastrophic global warming. (Bob Strong, Reuters)

A report by 30 leading climate and energy experts, Tackling the Challenge of Climate Change, was presented at United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s UN climate summit in New York last month. The authors, who include leading scientists and government advisers from around the world, say that staying under the 2°C threshold needs “immediate, urgent action’’ at the highest levels of governments.

Sir Bob Watson, the former scientific adviser to the British government, said that ignoring the 2°C target would be a step backward from the urgent action that’s needed.

Waiting until 2025 or 2030 to bend the carbon dioxide emissions curve will be too late to meet the 2°C target, the report said. That would hit most of Africa, many small island states and the world’s poorest extremely hard.

The report is a “short, punchy document focused on near-term solutions”, said Watson, while acknowledging there is little new in it.
The steps outlined to achieve 2°C are “hardly rocket science”, he said.

These steps include increased energy efficiency in all sectors – building retrofits can achieve emissions reductions of 70% to 90% – and an effective price on carbon that reflects the enormous health and environmental costs of fossil fuels. Tackling air pollution is estimated to cost China 10% of its gross domestic product.

Retiring inefficient coal plants and massive increases in wind and solar energy are also crucial.

Low-carbon economies
Governments need to follow countries such as Germany and Denmark that have made climate a priority and are well along the path to creating low-carbon economies. These countries are benefiting from less pollution and the creation of new economic sectors the report notes.

“We have the technology and know-how to solve this climate crisis,” said Marlene Moses, ambassador of the Pacific Island nation of Nauru that commissioned the report. 

“What’s missing is the courage to make the change – and that has to come from world leaders,’’ said Moses, who is also the chair of the Alliance of Small Island States.

Nearly half of the world’s most powerful corporations are in the fossil fuel sector. They have extraordinary influence on government policies that Watson calls “a form of corruption” preventing the necessary action on climate. In countries such as the United States, Australia and Canada, industry leads and government follows, he said.

Watson worries that time is rapidly running out but “people aren’t scared enough” to force governments to act. – © Guardian News & Media 2014

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