UN warns greenhouse gas emissions accelerating

IPCC says output of carbon dioxide and other toxins rose at unprecedented rate in past decade

File photograph  of a coal-fired power pant. The latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sets out ways to curb rising temperatures by tackling greenhouse gas emissions. Photograph: John Giles/PA Wire

File photograph of a coal-fired power pant. The latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sets out ways to curb rising temperatures by tackling greenhouse gas emissions. Photograph: John Giles/PA Wire

Sun, Apr 13, 2014, 15:10

Massive cuts to greenhouse gas emissions are needed in the next few decades to avoid “dangerous” climate change, a major international report has warned.

Output of carbon dioxide and other climate-changing gases has increased in recent years, despite efforts to tackle global warming, the latest study from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found.

It is still possible to keep global temperature rises to no more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, the level at which it is thought dangerous impacts of climate change will be felt.

But substantial reductions in greenhouse gases will be needed, through large-scale changes to energy supplies and use, as well as curbing deforestation and planting forests.

The Green Party has welcomed the publication of the report. Party leader Eamon Ryan said the benefits of acting on its proposals “in saved lives and protected natural systems are almost too valuable to measure”.

It was necessary to increase investment in clean power supplies by some 100 per cent per annum, while annual spending on fossil fuels had to fall by 20 per cent, he said. “We will also have to change our transport, agriculture and building systems, but there is no reason we cannot make the necessary changes.”

The party’s environment spokesperson, Cllr Malcolm Noonan, said: “While acting to minimise increasing temperatures will make a small impact on global economic growth, the cost of business-as-usual will be catastrophic, resulting in persistent worldwide economic decline and a collapse in social order. In fact, we must now have the courage to question the economic paradigm that has led us to this perilous state.”

The report found emissions need to be reduced by 40 per cent to 70 per cent on 2010 levels by the middle of the century and to near zero by 2100, to make it likely temperatures will not go above two degrees, the report said.

This will require a shift away from investment in fossil fuels and a three- or four-fold increase by 2050 in the share of energy from low-carbon sources such as renewables, nuclear and power plants fitted with technology to capture and store carbon underground.

By the end of the century fossil fuel power plants without carbon capture and storage will need to be virtually phased out.

Measures will be needed to make transport cleaner, improve energy efficiency in homes, offices and industries and change behaviour to reduce energy demand, the report said.

Ambitious efforts to cut emissions could also involve growing crops which take in carbon dioxide and then burning them for energy in power plants fitted with carbon capture and storage technology, to actively take emissions out of the atmosphere.