How to save the planet? More nuclear power and GM crops, say climate experts
THE world's leading climate-change experts will this week put themselves on a collision course with environmentalists by proposing a series of controversial measures to tackle global warming.
More than 2,000 scientists will put forward a global warming action-plan to save the world from overheating, including a major expansion of nuclear power, using GM crops to boost biofuels and burying carbons underground.
The proposals are outlined in a draft version of the report Mitigation of Climate Change by the United Nations-created Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The survey, the final draft of which will be released on Friday following a week-long meeting in Bangkok, is the third this year by the UN climate panel. An IPCC report in February said it was at least 90 per cent certain that mankind was to blame for global warming and on 6 April it warned of more hunger, droughts and rising seas.
Achim Steiner, the head of the UN Environment Programme, said: "We're moving from two very sobering reports to what we can do about climate change. And we can do it.
"Having shown us the path towards greater and greater problems, the IPCC raises our horizons to where the solutions lie and shows that they are within our grasp."
The report estimates that stabilising greenhouse-gas emissions will cost between 0.2 per cent and 3 per cent of world gross domestic product by 2030, depending on the severity of curbs on rising emissions.
Under some scenarios, GDP growth might even get a small net spur from less pollution and less health damage from burning fossil fuels, blamed as the main cause of global warming.
The draft report says: "There is a significant economic potential for the mitigation of greenhouse-gas emissions from all sectors over the coming decades, sufficient to offset growth of global emissions or to reduce emissions below current levels."
The conclusions broadly back those by Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist at the World Bank, who estimated last year that the costs of acting now to slow warming were about 1 per cent of global output - but 5 per cent to 20 per cent if the world delayed action.
But delegates yesterday voiced fears that some countries, including China and the US, will say the costs of action are greater than the report suggests and that the proposed measures are unrealistic. Michel Petit, a member of the French delegation, said: "Some countries may challenge these figures."
The report also sets out solutions, such as capturing and burying emissions from coal-fired power plants; a shift to renewable energies such as solar and wind power; more use of nuclear power and biofuels and more efficient lighting and insulation of buildings.
But it says that temperatures will rise by at least 2C to 2.4C above pre-industrial levels even under the most stringent curbs. The European Union says a 2C rise is a threshold for "dangerous" changes to the climate.
Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, attacked some of the proposed solutions. "Nuclear power is nothing other than a white elephant. Scotland and other nations can meet their targets for tackling climate change while maintaining fuel security by using clean, safe alternatives that are already available," he said.
Better public transport and a reduction in road and air travel were more important than more biofuels, a "gung-ho" attitude to which, he warned, could make the problem worse.
"In Indonesia, forested peat bogs are being cleared to establish palm-oil plantations, releasing much more of the carbon stored in the peat and the trees than the oil produced will save. At the same time, this forest clearance is threatening the survival of rare species such as orang-utans," he said.
And Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said far more fundamental lifestyle changes were needed than had been considered by the UN group.
"Simply replacing one set of technologies with another set of technologies won't work, especially when there are such big downsides with some of them," he said.
News of the IPCC's report came as the Met Office released figures at the weekend which showed this month will be the warmest April in the UK for more than 140 years. The average for the past month of 11.1C (51.9F) beats the previous record of 10.6C (51F) in 1865.
• THIS week's IPCC report is the third issued by the UN group this year on climate change.
The first said that it was "very likely" or at least 90 per cent certain that humanity was to blame for most of the warming in the last half-century.
It predicted that temperatures would rise by 1.8 to 4.0C this century.
The second report detailed the likely impacts of climate change around the globe, such as on health, farming and water availability. Critics described it as "apocalyptic".
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west