The Fourth Assessment Report (FAR) has just been released by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (IPCC) No real surprises. We expected the news to be bad and the report says things are getting worse and urges governments again to take action to avoid total catastrophe.
How likely is it that governments will respond? The United States and Australia refused to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol on the reduction of greenhouse gases, and the process of designing a new protocol, to apply after 2012, is stalled. While Britain will reach its Kyoto target, this is mainly due to the closure of coal-fired power stations in the late 90s. Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions are once again rising. Britain is still building roads and expanding airports. Germany has just buckled under to the automotive lobby and relaxed emission standards for new cars. China, which as a developing country was not required to make emission reductions under Kyoto, continues to expand, to use increasing quantities of coal and to produce 15% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
Cutting emissions means cutting the use of fossil fuels or installing equipment to trap the CO2. In both cases this means extra costs: in both cases this will depress the economy. The US economy is already in bad shape so industrialists resist anything that might make it worse. Their tactic is to attack the science and suppress the evidence. The New Scientist (3rd February 2007) claims this is happening with the support of the US government, and that lobbyists who used to deny the danger of smoking are now attacking the climate scientists.
Not a reassuring prospect.