Some good, some not so good…
Editorial: Good news -- sort of
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, May 6, 2007
Climate scientists delivered another dose of gloom and hope on Friday: The world's nations can avoid the worst potential effects of global warming, but only with quick action and major investments in conservation and available technologies.
In its third major report this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change laid out the full scope of change required to head off catastrophes projected by the world's leading atmospheric researchers. This transformation must include cleaner energies, more energy-efficient buildings, preservation of forests and better urban planning so city dwellers generate less CO2 in their daily travel.
This transition can occur without the economic impacts some nations have feared, say researchers that contributed to this latest United Nations report. But it can't be done voluntarily (as President Bush has suggested). It will take government action and an unprecedented level of international cooperation.
It will mean removing barriers to innovation and ending subsidies that add to wasteful pollution. It may involve "carbon taxes" on fossil fuels -- one of the cheapest ways to expand alternative energies. And it could involve some options that make environmentalists cringe, such as new nuclear power plants.
This transition will not be cheap. According to the intergovernmental panel, reducing greenhouse gases to a relatively safe level -- one that will result in an average temperature increase of 2 to 4 degrees centigrade (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2030 -- will require spending of at least 0.2 percent of the world's annual gross domestic product. At the maximum, it will require GDP spending of 3 percent, or about $1.8 trillion.