IPCC to study local impact of global warming

IPCC to study local impact of global warming

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body of scientists drawn from around the world, will use its next assessment due in 2014 to look at how the impact of global warming is falling unequally on the poorest developing countries.

Two hundred key members of the IPCC met in Venice recently to begin scoping out its fifth assessment. Rajendra Pachauri, the body’s chairman, told reporters in New York recently that the panel was determined to increase its understanding of local and regional impacts of rising temperatures. There was an awareness, he said, that in Africa in particular there was insufficient scientific and modelling fire-power to be able to predict in any detail what was likely to happen under global warming. “It’s critically important that we create the capacity in Africa to be able to assess the impact of climate change.”

A portion of the money the panel was awarded for the 2007 Nobel peace prize that it shared with Al Gore has been put into a trust specifically to help the least developed countries predict, and thus prepare for, the likely consequences.

Pachauri said the fifth assessment, the first draft of which is scheduled for 2013, would concentrate both on adaptations and mitigations that countries could make as rising temperatures take hold. “Every nation and community in the world will have to adapt (to) whatever happens in Copenhagen.”

2C temperature rise ceiling
Pachauri said he had been heartened by the recent G8 meeting in which the world’s industrialised powers agreed on an aspirational ceiling of 2C temperature rise. But he said that in that case they should also have signed up to the IPCC’s conclusion that to contain global temperatures within that limit, emissions of greenhouse gases had to peak in 2015 and decline rapidly thereafter.

“They should have categorically stated that by 2020, they will implement deep cuts in emissions. So there are several gaps that are rather glaring.” He went on to say that “the time has come for the global community to take action. There is frustration about the gap between our knowledge (of climate change) and acting on that knowledge.” Another area that the IPCC will home in on in its fifth assessment is extreme weather caused by climate change, a topic that has garnered mounting public attention in recent years.

Global warming and economy
Measures needed to tackle global warming could save economies more money than they cost, Rajendra Pachauri, said. “The cost could undoubtedly be negative overall.” This is because of the additional benefits that reducing greenhouse gas emissions could bring, beyond limiting temperature rises. Until now, estimates of the price of preventing dangerous climate change have all indicated significant costs. The most authoritative study, the 2006 Stern report, concluded that one per cent of global GDP would be required, and he has since said two per cent is now more likely.

Funding for reducing and adapting to climate change is one of the most difficult issues in the negotiations towards a global deal at a UN summit in December in Copenhagen. But Pachauri argues that if the costs are negative, then “inertia and vested interests would be washed away. As the Americans say, it would be like dollar bills lying on the sidewalk.”

Associated benefits
The associated benefits Pachauri pointed to include better energy security, protecting consumers from oil price spikes, new employment in green industries, more productive agriculture and lower air pollution, cutting health costs. He said one good example was insulating draughty homes and installing better energy control systems. “This can yield very high rates of returns, with pay back in one year.”

Pachauri’s comments came as he led discussions what the next set of reports from the IPCC should cover. Its last report in 2007 is acknowledged to have settled the argument over whether emissions from human activities were causing climate change. In the next series, due in 2013, Pachauri said the focus would change.

“The IPCC cannot address the issue in purely scientific terms. For adaptation and mitigation, we need to put euro or dollar values on those. But there are also some costs you can’t quantify. For example, take Hurricane Katrina. You can put a value on property losses, what about psychological, sociological, and institutional costs. I would not like to try to quantify those,” Pachauri added.

Ed Pilkington  & Damian Carrington
The Guardian

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