Calls for action as world faces fork in climate road

Scientists, politicians, envoys, and green groups stand united in calls for faster, more drastic action to avoid the worst-case scenarios of conflict, drought and massive displacement highlighted in IPCC's climate report

HAZY SKIES. A picture taken on March 31, 2014 shows the French northern town of Meteren through a haze of pollution. Photo by Philippe Huguen/AFP

PARIS, France – A stark warning by UN scientists of menacing climate change prompted demands Monday, March 31, for urgent action to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, even as a global pact remained elusive.

Scientists, politicians, envoys, and green groups united in calls for faster, more drastic action to avoid the worst-case scenarios of conflict, drought and massive displacement highlighted in the expert report

“The path of tomorrow is undoubtedly determined by our choices today,” United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres said after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned of a “severe, pervasive and irreversible impact” if nothing is done. (READ: Climate change boosts conflict risk, flood, hunger: UN)

“This report requires and requests that everyone accelerate and scale up efforts towards a low-carbon world and manage the risks of climate change in order to spare the planet and its people,” she said. (READ: UN climate scientists see grim future if no action)

Activist groups said governments now have all the proof they need that inaction will lead to disaster, as well as the scientific basis on which to plan an appropriate response.

Many voiced hope that the dire warning would give impetus to negotiations for a new, global pact on curbing carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.

“The gap between the science and what governments are doing remains huge,” said Sandeep Chamling Rai of green group World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

“Now it is up to people to hold their governments to account, to get them to act purposefully and immediately.”

The Alliance of Small Island States said the new alert came as no surprise for nations already grappling with sea-level rise, droughts and record-breaking storms.

“We hope that it helps convince the international community, particularly those most responsible for climate change, to address the crisis with greater urgency and not at some abstract date in the future but immediately.”

After a nearly 22-year effort under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), negotiators are seeking to sign a new, global pact in Paris next year, to take effect in 2020.

The aim is to contain warming to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, though even this level would require adaptive measures for a changed climate.

Countries remain deeply divided on what the deal will look like, what it must contain, how binding its provisions should be and how they will be enforced. (INFOGRAPHIC: What UN reports say about climate change)

No denial, says US

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the political system must “wake up” to the threat.

“Denial of the science is malpractice,” he said in a statement. “There are those who say we can’t afford to act. But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic.”

The IPCC warned that untamed greenhouse gas emissions may cost trillions of dollars in damage to property and ecosystems, and in bills for shoring up climate defences.

For Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre think-tank, “the best solution is to dramatically ramp up funding for research and development of effective green technology.”

Today’s renewable technology, such as solar and wind energy, required subsidies of at least $100 billion (73 billion euros) per year to become viable.

“Innovation can help us developing technologies to provide green energy more cheaply than fossil fuels, and then everyone will adopt them,” said Lomborg.

In the run-up to the conclusion of this year’s global climate negotiations in Lima, Peru, in December, UN chief Ban Ki-moon will host heads of state and government in New York on September 23 “to mobilize action and ambition on climate change”.

European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the world should oppose “hitting the snooze button” on the issue.

“Europe is preparing an ambitious reduction target for 2030 to be adopted later this year. I appeal to all major emitters to do the same thing,” she said in a statement.

Tom Mitchell, a climate expert at Britain’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI), cautioned against hopes the Paris meeting will be the definitive solution.

“The real challenge is in what happens after 2015,” he said in a phone interview with Agence France-Presse in Tokyo.

“If countries say they are going to reduce emissions, what is the architecture for holding countries to account, and ensuring that they are contributing their fair share in the first place?” – Rappler.com

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