Time running out to avoid climate disaster
27 April 2007, Hamburg (dpa) - Once climate change gains momentum there is little we can do to stop it. Only 13 years are left to avert a catastrophe, according to a draft of the next part of the UN climate report. Unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed by 2020, there will be irreversible consequences such as a melting of the polar ice caps, rising sea levels and widespread flooding, experts agree. Mankind's role in damaging the climate its consequences for the planet have already been outlined in the
27 April 2007
Hamburg (dpa) - Once climate change gains momentum there is little we can do to stop it. Only 13 years are left to avert a catastrophe, according to a draft of the next part of the UN climate report.
Unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed by 2020, there will be irreversible consequences such as a melting of the polar ice caps, rising sea levels and widespread flooding, experts agree.
Mankind's role in damaging the climate its consequences for the planet have already been outlined in the first two parts of the report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In the third section due to be presented in the Thai capital of Bangkok on May 4, the IPCC is expected to outline what options are left for us to save the planet
One chance is a more efficient usage of energy, according to Professor Olav Hohmeyer from the University of Flensburg, one of the co-authors of the new report.
Hohmeyer says energy efficiency is more economical than renewable energy, although investments in renewable sources are necessary in order to contribute to efforts to counter global warming.
"Tightening guidelines on the construction of new homes could result in energy savings of 10 to 20 per cent from current levels," says Hohmeyer. "The regulations in force today are far removed from what is possible in the future," Hohmeyer says.
The professor said the construction industry has a key role to play in conserving energy and called for steps to be introduced now so that climate issues could be resolved by 2050.
Hohmeyer sees household electrical equipment as another field in which there is a great potential for sayings. Japan, he says, has the toughest regulations for such goods. "The highest standard there today will be the minimum standard in a few years' time," he adds.
Hohmeyer believes a legal limit on fuel consumption should be introduced for cars using conventional fuels. "Politicians need to define standards and constantly improve them," he says.
Another German co-author of the report, economist Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research, believes that economic incentives are needed to force action on climate change.
"The atmosphere should no longer be used free of charge. People who pollute have to pay," he says, calling for improvements in carbon trading and the inclusion of more countries in the process.
Economists believe that investments in new technology to the tune of less than 1 per cent of gross domestic product per year would be enoughto achieve an effective slowdown in climate change.
"The conflict between business and environmental protection can only be overcome if governments invest in the proper technology," says Edenhofer.
As examples, he mentions biomass, underground storage of carbon dioxide and solar thermal projects which convert heat from the sun. A pilot project has just started for CO2 storage, but scientists remain divided on whether this system will contribute to climate protection.
Hohmeyer is optimistic than China and the United States, two of the world's biggest polluters, will in future join in international agreements to protect the environment.
In the case of the United States, he believes this could could come after the presidential elections in 2008 when President George W. Bush will not be up for re-election.
"It's possible that the US might ratify the Kyoto protocols in 2008," he says in reference to the agreement requiring countries to limit their greenhouse gas emissions nationally by 2012.
If Washington were to do this, China and India could follow suit under a system that allows them carbon emission rights per head of population, according to Hohmeyer.
"Under such a system of apportion, each person on earth would receive the same emission rights by, say, 2080 or 2100," he says.
In 2003 Americans produced 20 tons of carbon dioxide per head of population, Germans 10.5 tons, Chinese 3.5 tons and Indians 1 ton.
Subject: German news