'Fighting Warming Key to Anti-Poverty Goals
By Haider Rizvi
Inter Press Service
United Nations - Driven by increased concerns and mounting evidence of the threats posed by global warming, some of the world's most eminent scientists are telling policymakers to get their act together before it is too late to avoid a doomsday scenario.
Releasing a new study entitled "Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable," researchers said here Tuesday that world leaders should take immediate steps to start reversing the upward trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions, otherwise the current path would lead to "serious" climate change impacts.
Prepared in response to a request by the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) two years ago, the 144-page study outlines a roadmap for measures to reduce dangerous emissions, alleviate poverty, and spur sustainable development.
"It is still impossible to avoid an unmanageable degree of climate change, but the time for action is now," John Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at Harvard University and one of the lead authors of the study, told reporters at U.N. headquarters.
According to the study's findings, the average global surface temperature has already risen about 0.8 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels and that may rise by another two to four degrees by the end of this century.
Prof. Holdren and other authors of the study said the risk of climate change could entail "intolerable impacts" if the average temperature level reached more than two degrees C. above the 1750 pre-industrial level.
They observed that the world is already experiencing climate disruptions, and the increases in droughts, floods, and sea level rise that will occur in the coming decades could lead to enormous human suffering and economic losses.
"We imperil our children's and grandchildren's future if we fail to improve society's capacity to adapt to a changing climate," said Rosina Bierbaum, former acting director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Such an eventuality can be avoided, she went on to say, "if we manage water better, bolster disaster preparedness, increase surveillance for emerging diseases, make cities more resilient, prepare for environmental refugees, and use natural resources more sustainably."
Other experts told reporters the goal to halt temperature increases beyond two-2.5 degrees centigrade is achievable if policymakers are willing to follow their recommendations for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
That demands stabilising atmospheric concentrations at the equivalent of no more than 450,000 parts per million of CO2 (compared to parts per million CO2 equivalent today), according to the study. This would require global CO2 emissions to peak no later than 2015-2020 at not much above their current level and decline by 2100 to about a third of that value.
The study's authors urged policymakers to take immediate steps for energy efficiency in the transport sector, environmental measures in urban construction, and expanded use of biofuels and other renewable sources.
"These steps will contribute to achievement of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); failing to do so will make these goals much harder, if not impossible to reach," said Peter Raven, a biodiversity expert and former president of Sigma Xi, a U.S.-based research group with more than 60,000 members worldwide that carried out the study in collaboration with the U.N. Foundation.
Calling for increased cooperation among all U.N. member states, Raven and others said they believed the use of environmentally-friendly technologies could prove not only greatly helpful in reducing emissions, but also in providing other economic and social benefits.'
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