A United Nations science panel issued a sobering wake-up call to world policymakers Sunday, warning that countries must make dramatic changes in their energy consumption, their use of technology and even their ways of life to avert the catastrophic effects of climate change.
The only options that stand a chance of heading off the worst of the harm would require cutting at least slightly into economic growth in the coming decades, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said. Nations may even have to make ambitious attempts to remove carbon pollution from the atmosphere — not just limit how much comes out of smokestacks and tailpipes.
The highly anticipated report’s 37-page summary for policymakers doesn’t offer a precise dollar figure of how much all this will cost. But it warns that half-measures won’t cut it, and time is running out.
“There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” Germany’s Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the the three co-chairs of the report, said in a statement.
But the panel warned that “only major institutional and technological changes” have a chance of limiting the rise in global average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — the target that scientists say could limit the most dramatic effects of climate change. Without action, the report says, the temperature is set to rise by as much as 4.8 degrees by 2100.