IPCC’s latest report :: solutions can be affordable, but will be politically challenging

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international organization of scientists established by the UN to investigate climate change, released its latest report Friday in Bangkok. Earlier this year, IPCC presented substantial evidence of humans’ role in climate change, and the devastation that unabated emissions will probably cause. (for overview, see my previous posts here and here). The new report argues that while solutions already exist for stabilizing emissions, they will not be impactful unless huge leaps in global collaboration are made.

Across several sectors of emissions-generating activity, the report concludes that 4 areas have the most potential for reducing emissions: improving energy efficiency, improving agricultural and forestation practices, and improving industrial emissions. Areas unlikely to have impact are in transportation and waste. These areas of opportunity generally parallel the areas identified by the McKinsey Global Institute’s recent analysis (posted here).

It also finds that reductions would cost up to 3% of global GDP by 2050, to reach the most aggressive levels of abatement. To reach even this higher-end estimation, that would involve an annual increase in costs towards climate change of around 0.6%. ( (.6% + 100%)^45 = 1.3089). (by comparison – the MGI’s analysis suggested figures closer to 1% of world GDP).

Existing technologies can have huge impact, and the global cost will be affordable – – these are encouraging messages. The major challenge now is, how does each country solve their issues – where climate change impacts different areas differently, and there are many moving parts across economic, social, political, and other factors??? It’s clear that governments will play a crucial role – from setting harsh standards when needed, to providing booster funds and tax breaks for new technologies, to regulating markets to distribute credits.

Questions I’m wondering about:

  • Does this make a case for distributed solutions by country, with a few over-arching common global goals? (such as global emissions trading? Emissions standards?) What will make the most sense in the global political climate, no pun intended?
  • In countries with weak governments or those opposed to climate change, how can you encourage grass-roots innovation and efficiency?
  • What are the history, scope, and impact of the Kyoto Protocol?

To read more on this report, check out:

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