Leaders need to do more on climate

29th July 2015


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Mitigation ,
  • Adaptation

Author

Kevin Haycock

Without an increase in political commitment and an acceleration of technological innovation, global emissions are likely to rise by more than 4°C by the end of the century, and continue to increase over the next few decades, according to a report for the Foreign and Commonwealth office.

The climate change risk assessment looked at how much effort governments should expend on countering climate change and was produced by a group of experts in the UK, US, China and India.

The group, led by David King, the foreign secretary’s special representative for climate change, concluded that current policies and plans for major countries and regions are consistent with a medium to high emissions pathway that would result in temperatures rising by more than 4°C by 2150. However, they could not rule out a high emissions pathway in which temperatures would rise by 7°C by the end of the century. This is because of the global potential for extraction of large new coal reserves, as well as oil shale and methane hydrates.

The report warns that technological challenges to achieving a low emissions pathway, which is to restrict temperature rise to around 2°C in the second half of the century, are substantial, and are not being adequately addressed at present. Without an acceleration of innovation in energy technology and energy systems – including wind and solar with storage, nuclear, biofuel, petroleum-free passenger transport, carbon capture and storage, and large-scale energy efficiency – the likelihood of following a pathway in which emissions fall rapidly and approach zero by late in the century is very low, its states.

At the launch of the report, foreign office minister, Baroness Anelay, warned: “When we think about keeping our country safe, we always consider the worst-case scenarios. That is what guides our policies on nuclear non-proliferation, counter-terrorism, and conflict prevention. We have to think about climate change in the same way.

"Unlike those more familiar risks, the risks of climate change will increase continually over time – until we have entirely eliminated their cause. To manage these risks successfully, it is essential that we take a long-term view, and that we act in the present, with urgency.”

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