by Liz Kalaugher
Yesterday saw the release of the third installment of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report – working group III’s summary for policymakers of its report on climate change mitigation. As usual, the event attracted much media attention, even before the official release date as leaked copies emerged.
One key message from working group III was the need for a tripling to quadrupling of low-carbon energy.
Not surprisingly, numerous outlets focused on the costs of such mitigation, which are, as reported by the Guardian, “eminently affordable”. The IPCC found that mitigation could reduce the expected annual economic growth rates of 1.3%-3% by 0.06%.
“People are not going to have to sacrifice their aspirations about improved standards of living,” Jim Skea of Imperial College London and a co-chair of the working group III team told the Guardian. “It is not a hair shirt change of lifestyle at all that is being envisaged and there is space for poorer countries to develop too.”
As ever with bills, the question of who pays is crucial. Investment in renewables and other low carbon sources needs to at least treble by the middle of the century, while money flowing into fossil fuels has to diminish, the BBC reported, adding that developed and developing countries have clashed in Berlin over who should make emisisons cuts and who should pay for the switch to low carbon energy, in an echo of the divisions found in UN negotations.
One of the surprising endorsements in the report is natural gas, according to the BBC. Science editor David Shukman said environmentalists will not like one suggestion that many governments will welcome as pragmatic: that gas could replace coal as a “bridging technology” to reduce emissions over the next few decades.
Nuclear power and carbon capture and storage technology received more of a mixed reception from the IPCC. Indeed, one (external) expert considered that bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) may be a “Cinderella” technology. “I don’t know which fairytale figure it is, it may be Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty,” Henrik Karlsson from Swedish company Biorecro told the BBC.
Cities could also be part of the solution. “Smart choices in urban planning and investment in public transport could help significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions, especially in developing countries,” reports the Guardian.
The Independent praised the IPCC’s summary for its “tidy form” at just 33 pages, and its inclusion of “snippets of encouraging news that may shake us from our fatalistic slumbers”.
If you’d like to get the message directly, you can watch video statements from a selection of the Working Group III co-chairs and lead-authors.