Members of environmental activist group Greenpeace pose with a giant placard in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, where the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its report on Sunday. (Reuters)
New Delhi, April 13: An international panel today warned that the world hadn’t done enough to curb greenhouse gas emissions but said that changes in lifestyles and energy technologies could yet help avert the most devastating impacts of global warming.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in a report released in Berlin, said greenhouse gas emissions had climbed to unprecedented levels over the past decade despite emission-curbing policies and actions by many countries.
The report from the IPCC Working Group-3 has signalled that only an accelerated move towards clean energy and changes in consumption patterns could help the world limit the increase in the global average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The impacts of global warming — from extreme weather events to rising sea levels to crop losses — are expected to turn devastating beyond this limit.
The scientific panel analysed dozens of modelling studies and found that the world would need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 and by 70 per cent by 2050, and reduce them to zero by the turn of the century. Only then can warming be limited to 2 degrees Celsius.
“It can be done — with technology and through changes in lifestyles and behaviour,” said Joyashree Roy, professor of economics at Jadavpur University and a co-author of the report.
“I think this report has laid greater emphasis on changing consumption patterns and lifestyle and behaviour than previous IPCC reports,” Roy told The Telegraph over the phone from Berlin.
The report says that emissions can be substantially lowered through reduced travel, changes in energy use at homes, choice of longer-lasting products, dietary changes and reduction in food wastes.
“Something as simple as car pooling or eating locally grown vegetables are things that can help reduce emissions,” Roy said. “These are actions that people in both the developed and the developing countries can take.”
Many developed and developing countries, including India, have over the past decade taken steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions —from encouraging energy efficiency to expanding renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.
But the report has found that greenhouse gas emissions grew on an average 1 gigatonne or 2.2 per cent per year from 2000 to 2010, compared with 0.4 gigatonne or 1.3 per cent per year from 1970 to 2000.
“The core task of climate change mitigation is decoupling emissions from the growth of economies and population,” said Youba Sokona, coordinator for the African Climate Policy Centre and co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group-3, which deals with mitigation.
But the report appears headed towards controversy with one of its co-authors in India claiming that it is “trying to shift the focus away from the emissions of the developed countries to those of the developing countries”.
“The message seems to be: forget the past, look at future emissions,” said Shreekant Gupta, an associate professor at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi.
“In the (report’s) ‘summary for policymakers’, there is not a single mention of how the per capita emissions of greenhouse gases differ between the developed and the developing countries — although this is found in the underlying technical document.”
Climate change analysts believe the report will further intensify pressure on the developing countries, including India, to do more to curb their greenhouse gas emissions.
“These reports have a way of influencing global climate change negotiations,” Gupta told The Telegraph.
But other co-authors say that policies intended to curb greenhouse gas emissions should not be viewed as hostile to economic development.
“It is not about sidelining (development) aspirations but integrating climate policy into a larger vision of sustainable development,” Navroz Dubash, senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, said.
“Curbing emissions have co-benefits — for example, clean energy can also reduce air pollution.”
The scientific studies that the IPCC report analysed suggest that in the absence of emission-curbing efforts beyond those already in place, the global average surface temperature could rise by 3.7 degrees Celsius to 4.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
A world that is four degrees warmer could experience widespread food shortages, Kelly Levin and Forbes Tompkins, two climate policy experts at the World Resources Institute in the US, wrote in a commentary issued today on the IPCC report.