Climate meeting to discuss future of fossil fuels

Apr 05, 2014 by Frank Jordans
In this Feb. 25, 2008 file photo the tower of a church is pictured between the smoke billowing chimneys of the brown coal power plant Frimmersdorf in Grevenbroich near Duesseldorf, Germany. After concluding that global warming is almost certainly man-made and poses a grave threat to humanity, the U.N.-sponsored expert panel on climate change is moving on to the next phase: what to do about it. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, will meet next week in Berlin to chart ways in which the world can curb the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are overheating the planet. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

After concluding that global warming almost certainly is man-made and poses a grave threat to humanity, the U.N.-sponsored expert panel on climate change is moving on to the next phase: what to do about it.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, will meet next week in Berlin to chart ways in which the world can curb the that scientists say are overheating the planet.

It is also trying to give estimates on what it would cost.

In the third report of a landmark climate assessment, the IPCC is expected to say that to keep warming in check, the world needs a major shift in investments from fossil fuels—the principal source of man-made carbon emissions—to renewable energy.

"Underlying this report is a lot of technical analysis of the different solutions, for example wind energy, solar, better energy efficiency and what is the cost of that," said Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director at the National Resources Defense Council, a Washington-based environmental group. "And there will also be some discussions of how deep global cuts are needed to put us onto these different climate trajectories."

A leaked draft of the report sent to governments in December suggests that in order to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) by the end of the century—the stated goal of international climate talks—emissions need to fall by 40-70 percent by 2050.

Investments in fossil fuels such as oil and coal would have to drop by $30 billion a year, while spending on renewables would have to go up by $147 billion annually, according to the draft.

That message is likely to face opposition from the fossil fuel industry and countries that depend on it.

Earlier this week, Exxon Mobile said the world's climate policies are "highly unlikely" to stop it from selling far into the future.

In this Nov. 19, 2008 file photo Roberto Chudzinski checks solar modules on the roof of the Soemtron AG in Soemmerda, Germany. After concluding that global warming is almost certainly man-made and poses a grave threat to humanity, the U.N.-sponsored expert panel on climate change is moving on to the next phase: what to do about it. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, will meet next week in Berlin to chart ways in which the world can curb the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are overheating the planet. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer, File)

That contrasted with a message from U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres, who told oil and gas industry officials in London on Thursday that three-quarters of the fossil fuel reserves still in the ground needs to stay there for the world to achieve the 2-degree target.

"We must look past the next quarter, past the end of the decade, into the second half of the century by which time the global economy must be carbon neutral," Figueres said.

The alternative plan to mitigate climate change would involve coming up with new ways to scrub carbon out of the atmosphere or prevent too much sunlight from being trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases.

Known as geoengineering, ideas floated from time to time include dropping tons of iron into the ocean to make carbon-munching algae bloom or putting an umbrella in space to shield us from the sun.

Many scientists and campaigners believe such ideas are unlikely to work.

"My own scientific point of view is that it's too dangerous," said Bill Hare, lead author of the IPCC's 2007 report on mitigation. "It's got to be assessed though. You can't just ignore it."

Opponents say possible disastrous side effects from geoengineering could include a change in the monsoon pattern or a widening of the ozone hole that could threaten the lives of millions.

Observers will be watching for how much attention the IPCC gives to the issue when they wrangle over the wording of the final report next week in Berlin. The draft mentions it only briefly.

In this Nov. 14, 2013 file photo cows are standing in front of the latest coal-fired power station of German power provider RWE in Hamm, Germany. After concluding that global warming is almost certainly man-made and poses a grave threat to humanity, the U.N.-sponsored expert panel on climate change is moving on to the next phase: what to do about it. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, will meet next week in Berlin to chart ways in which the world can curb the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are overheating the planet. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

The two previous reports in the IPCC's first comprehensive assessment of climate since 2007 said it's 95-percent certain that climate change is man-made and highlighted the damage it is projected to inflict on economies, crops and human health.

The latest report also focuses on the costs associated with keeping warming below 2 degrees C. The draft projects consumption losses of 1-4 percent by 2030. That number is highly uncertain, though, and may be changed or deleted altogether in Berlin.

Another controversial part of the report is the one dealing with who should pay for efforts to curb —an issue that's at the heart of U.N. negotiations on a new global agreement, set to be adopted by 2015. Poor and middle-income countries say they need more help from rich countries to switch to low-carbon energy sources.

The IPCC, which is a scientific body, tries to steer clear of politics, but notes that mitigation could involve financial transfers "in the order of hundreds of billions of dollars per year before mid-century."

In this Dec. 6, 2010 file photo a wind turbine is pictured in the in front of a steaming coal power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. After concluding that global warming is almost certainly man-made and poses a grave threat to humanity, the U.N.-sponsored expert panel on climate change is moving on to the next phase: what to do about it. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, will meet next week in Berlin to chart ways in which the world can curb the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are overheating the planet. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

By most measures, the West, which underwent industrialization earlier, has historically pumped more carbon into the atmosphere than newly emerging economies such as China, which has the world's highest carbon emissions.

"The main bone of contention will be how the cost is factored and how it's shared across the world," said Schmidt, of the National Resources Defense Council. "We're making decisions now that are building out our potential carbon infrastructure for decades. You can turn some of that off but there's a cost and implication for society in the future."

Explore further: Exxon: Highly unlikely world limits fossil fuels

More information: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: www.ipcc.ch

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Bob Osaka
2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 06, 2014
I hate to be a doomsayer. Mitigating climate change may be a mute point. Missing from any discussion is the base cause of climate change acceleration. Carbon and methane emission point the finger at everyone being the cause. What effect did 900+atmospheric nuclear weapons tests have on the environment? Scientists at the Trinity test had a betting pool, some thought the entire atmosphere might ignite, others that a hole would be punched in the ozone. Who won the bet?
Imaging technology for the ozone layer wasn't available until 1985. Those images show placement of ozone breeches above Nevada, Novo Zemlya, along the Kazakh-Chinese border and the largest migrating south from the Marshall Islands to Antarctica.The urban legend is that hairspray (CFC's) did it.The last atmospheric nuclear weapon test was conducted by China in 1980.
Honest climatologists will tell you we are in an interglacial and there is nothing that can be done to stop the next ice age.The rest is political misdirection.
Howhot
5 / 5 (3) Apr 09, 2014
Scientists at the Trinity test had a betting pool, some thought the entire atmosphere might ignite...

That was Dr. Edward Teller (the Father of the Hydrogen Bomb). And nuclear weapons certainly could have a depleting effect on ozone. If a limited nuclear exchange took place, it has been estimated that up 70% of the ozone could be depleted in the extreme scenarios.
http://www.atomic...22.shtml
Having said that, if you think it's urban legend that CFC were not the cause of ozone deletion, then you will need to explain why the ozone layer repaired itself slowly years after CFCs where globally banned and outlawed by international UN agreements.
Carbon and methane emission point the finger at everyone being the cause.
Also just partly true. It's not everyone. The majority is from the China, the USA, and the industrial nations and most of that is to make electricity. Alternatives for electricity could mitigate global warming if mandated

Bob Osaka
1 / 5 (2) Apr 11, 2014
Yes, the ozone is slowly repairing itself. And Rowland and Molina won the 1995 Nobel prize for atmospheric chemistry for their part in discovering the connection between CFC's, HCFC's and the depletion effect on stratospheric ozone. They began their research in 1974. The majority of atmospheric nuclear weapon tests took place before 1963. CFC's were invented in 1890 but were not produced commercially until the 1930's, and not on a large scale until DuPont' s patented Freon in the 1960's. Worldwide there is an estimated 5,791 kilotons. It would take 27 years and luck for a large heavy molecule to rise to the upper atmosphere and then the amount necessary to punch a hole, well, the numbers and dates just don't add up. Go ahead, if you think hairspray did it, tell your all your friends. The real culprits have already avoided the responsibility.

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