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Report: Nations Must Stop Emissions Now

Report: Nations Must Stop Emissions NowAccording to a UN panel report co-authored by two faculty members at The Fletcher School, time is of the essence in working to combat climate change.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.14.07] A report issued this month by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that the technology is in place to help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being expelled into the atmosphere. But in order to thwart global warming, the report—co-authored in part by two professors from The Fletcher School—says that governments, companies and individuals must act now.

"We can no longer make the excuse that we need to wait for more science, or the excuse that we need to wait for more technologies and policy knowledge," Adil Najam, an associate professor of international negotiation at The Fletcher School, told The New York Times. "To me the big message is that we now have both and we do not need to wait any longer."

The international panel, which convened in Bangkok, was comprised of hundreds of scientists, economists and government officials who urged a greater focus on nuclear power and energy efficiency, as well as improvements to agricultural and forestry systems, The Boston Globe reported.

"Here in the early years of the 21st century, we’re looking for an energy revolution that’s as comprehensive as the one that occurred at the beginning of the 20th century when we went from gaslight and horse-drawn carriages to light bulbs and automobiles," William Moomaw, professor of international environmental policy at The Fletcher School, told the Times.

While governments around the world are paying attention to the report, much of the change, the authors assert, must come from individuals.

"I'm actually building a home right now which uses 1/5 the energy of a new code-built house in Massachusetts to begin with," Moomaw told the public radio program Living On Earth. "It's doable. It's affordable and we just need to get on with doing it."

In order to stop temperature increases, the report recommends capping emissions now with a goal of reducing them between 50 and 85 percent by 2050, according to The Boston Globe. All of these efforts, the report states, would cost less than three percent of the world's gross domestic product by 2030—which the report acknowledges could "cause a small blunting of global economic activity," the Times reported.

Despite this cost, the report said action must be taken immediately and sustained in the decades to come if carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are to be reduced, noting that "emissions of greenhouse gases have risen 70 percent since 1970 and could rise an additional 90 percent by 2030 if nothing is done," the Times reported.

"The greatest uncertainty is not in how climate will change," Moomaw told Living On Earth. "The greatest uncertainty is what we'll do about it and whatever actions we take what their impact will be."

It is anticipated, according to media accounts, that this report will have an effect on global policymaking concerning climate change, particularly with renegotiation of the Kyoto Protocol set to begin this year—the international treaty, unsigned by the United States, expires in 2012.

This report is the third of four to be released this year by the panel, which works for three to review climate change research. The fourth will be an overview of the preceding three reports, which included dire assessments of the pace of global warming and its effects on rising waters and temperatures.

"The first report made the science unambiguous, and the second highlighted the urgency of action," Najam told the Globe. "The real contribution of this one is to say that we now have the policy and technology means to do something. That is a hopeful message. Now the ball is in the court of governments and politicians."

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