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Thursday, December 5, 2013
- Leading experts on climate change and energy gathered at the UN this week to stress the need for urgent action and procedural reform to allow major changes to the world’s energy systems.
The conference was convened by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Permanent Mission of Finland and the Club of Rome, a leading international think tank that brings together scientists, economists, heads of state and diplomats to address urgent global policy issues.
“Climate change has moved into a new and highly dangerous phase and is now the most urgent issue confronting the world,” said Ian Dunlop, member of the Club of Rome and Deputy Convener for the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil.
According to Dunlop, the “official” target of limiting temperature rise to two degrees Celsius over the next decades is far too high and will lead to “enormous” increases in energy demand in the next decades.
Indeed, “Four Saudi Arabias are required by 2035 to maintain current supply in oil,” he said, adding that new fields are not found fast enough or are not large enough.
Even where resources are available, “It’s one thing to have [them] in the ground and another one to bring them to the markets in a sustainable manner,” he said.
He stressed that in order to have a 50 percent chance of remaining below a temperature rise of two degrees Celsius, the world can’t burn more than 30 percent of its existing fossil fuel reserve. Staying below 20 percent would be a more realistic target in order to achieve this goal, he said.
According to Dunlop, different climatic events in the last decade, including Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy “are all in line with its forecast evolution of global warming,” and would have almost certainly not happened at pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide. Other examples he mentioned were the European heat wave in 2003, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf methane emissions from 2008 to 2012, and the Queensland and New South Wales floods in Australia in 2013.
“‘Official’ solutions are not working,” as carbon capture and storage, clean coal technologies and the recent rush from coal to gas all do their part to worsen global warming, according to the energy expert,
Both Dunlop and fellow Club of Rome member Tapio Kanninen stressed the limits to current reform processes, which at current speed “will take decades to implement major changes in our energy system, according to Dunlop.
Kanninen, Co-Director of the Project on Sustainable Global Governance, called for a complete overhaul of the UN Charter to improve negotiations and adapt to “rapidly changing global and regional conditions,” as well as the creation of global, regional and local crisis centers for climate change.
Urging the UN to “take this opportunity to reinvent itself,” Dunlop called for an emergency plan to avoid a four-degree temperature rise in the next decades that could lead to a five-to-70-meters sea-level rise.
Summing up the event, Jorge Réné Laguna Celis, delegate for the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the Second Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, reminded the audience, “Most of the policy we came up with in the 1980s and 1990s are end-of-the-pipe solutions, dealing with the symptoms but not with drivers of change.”
“We need to shift the focus of our action” he said, urging for an approach that tackles the root causes of ongoing climate and energy crises.