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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Friday, May 4, 2007

Global warming panel says everyone must pitch in

By Beth Daley, Globe Staff

The world already has the technical tools to make significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and must immediately put them in place to avert the worst impacts of global warming, the leading scientific authority on climate change said this morning.

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said temperatures could stabilize after an increase of around 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit -- but only if greenhouse gas emissions peak in the next decade and then decline between 50 and 80 percent by 2050.

Humans have the ability to do this by adopting a suite of policies and methods that include energy efficiency, renewable energy, better agricultural and forestry practices and sequestering of carbon dioxide, the chief global warming gas. The cost of doing this could total 3 percent of the world’s gross domestic product by 2030.

“The time for making excuses is over…the time to act is now,’’ said Adil Najam, a lead author of the IPCC report and associate professor of International Negotiation & Diplomacy at Tufts' Fletcher School, who is in Bangkok for the release of the report. “We can do something about climate change. We now have the technologies and enough known policy measures that we know work.”

For the first time, the IPCC assessment, issued about once every five years, said individuals could make a significant difference in emissions by changing their lifestyle and consumption patterns.

Through relatively simple efforts from carpooling to reducing air conditioning usage, people could collectively make large changes with little economic harm, the report's authors said in a press conference.

Still, lasting long-term reductions will almost definitely cost consumers money.

Today’s report follows on the heels of two grim analyses issued earlier this year by the scientific panel that concluded humans were largely responsible for the rising temperatures in the world and climatic changes are already underway as a result.

The panel projects that the world’s temperature could rise 3.2 to 7.2 degrees by the end of this century if emissions aren't curbed. That temperature rise could cause widespread havoc, because of rising sea levels, more powerful storms and increased droughts.

Climate change analysts at the conference and elsewhere say they want governments to use the report as an arsenal of ideas to start enacting policy changes. But they admitted it would not be easy. In many countries, few incentives exist to spark renewable energy or energy efficiency investment.

Posted by Karen Weintraub at 10:59 AM
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