A panel of experts convened by three institutes for policy research issued warnings last week that radically new thinking is required to avert the threats posed by climate change. The world must not allow global temperatures to rise more than about 1 °C above what the average global temperature is today or runaway global warming is likely to occur, the panel reported.
The panel was convened by the Center for American Progress; the Institute for Public Policy Research, in London; and the Australia Institute. Led by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and U.K. Parliament member Stephen Byers, a close confidant of Prime Minister Tony Blair's, the panel released the report last week, shortly after Blair became president of the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries (G-8).
The panel laid out specific recommendations: G-8 governments should generate at least 25% of electricity from renewable sources by 2025, G-8 countries and other major economies (including developing countries) should form a G-8 Plus climate group to pursue technology agreements and related initiatives that will lead to large emissions reductions, and governments should remove barriers to investments in renewable energy by phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies. Many affordable technologies already exist to reduce emissions and use energy more efficiently, the report says. The G-8 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.
Without almost immediate short-term action, rapid melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, widespread drought, crop failures, severe water shortages, and extreme damage to a large proportion of the world's coral reefs are likely, the panel warned in the report, "Meeting the Climate Challenge." To prevent dangerous climate change, vigorous action to reduce global emissions "must start now" in order to stabilize CO2 levels at 400 ppm by 2100, the report says.
Two days after the report's release, Blair gave the opening speech at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland. In the speech, he mentioned two issues that he wants to tackle during his G-8 presidency--climate change and poverty and development problems in Africa. Science and technology can "provide the means to ensure that we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions without damaging our economy," Blair said.
Climate change "isn't an issue that is going away," he continued. "I am committed to using the U.K.'s G-8 and EU presidencies to try to make a significant breakthrough on Africa and climate change," he said. The U.K. assumes the European Union presidency in July.
In response to the report, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy says it remains committed to its policies that involve research and development to address climate change. "The U.S. is an active participant in activities under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and President Bush has reaffirmed our commitment to this treaty," OSTP spokesman Robert Hopkins says.