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U.S. PIRG: World’s Scientists: Solutions to Global Warming Available But Require Government Action

MAY 4, 2007
10:54 AM

Ben Dunham, 202.546.9707
Emily Figdor, 202-546-9707 x307
Rob Sargent, 617-747-4317

World’s Scientists: Solutions to Global Warming Available But Require Government Action -
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Also Would Improve Energy Security, Improve Health, and Create Jobs

WASHINGTON - May 4 - The pollution reductions needed to stave off the worst effects of global warming can be achieved—if governments act now, according to a major consensus report released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  The IPCC is a United Nations body charged with assessing the scientific record on global warming.

“Delayed emission reductions lead to investments that lock in more emission-intensive infrastructure and development pathways.  This significantly constrains the opportunities to achieve lower [greenhouse gas] stabilization levels and increases the risk of more severe climate impacts,” the report states.

“This report provides a roadmap on how to avoid the worst effects of global warming, but we have to start moving right now,” said Ben Dunham, Staff Attorney for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.  “The sooner we act, the sooner we start improving energy security, creating jobs, and protecting future generations from the worst effects of global warming,” he added.

The report finds that already available energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies could substantially reduce global warming pollution, while improving energy security, reducing air pollution, and creating jobs.  Taken together with the second volume of the IPCC’s report, released in April, it also finds that it is cheaper to prevent dangerous global warming than to deal with its consequences.

The document released today, entitled “Mitigation of Climate Change,” is the Summary for Policymakers of the third volume of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. 

Major findings include the following:

  • *      Pollution Will Skyrocket Unless Governments Act: Global emissions are projected to rise by 25-90% over 2000 levels by 2030, unless policies are adopted to reduce emissions.
  • *      Still Possible to Avoid Dangerous Global Warming: To prevent dangerous global warming (as documented in the second volume of the IPCC’s report), global emissions would need to peak no later than 2015 and then decline by as much as 50% by 2050, thereby limiting the global average temperature increase to about 2°C over pre-industrial levels (which is equivalent to 3.6°F, or about 2°F over today’s levels).  This level of reduction “can be achieved by deployment of a portfolio of technologies that are currently available today and those that are expected to be commercialized in coming decades.”  While not specified in today's release, the U.S. must reduce its emissions by at least 80% by 2050 to meet the global target of about 50% reductions, given our greater contribution to the problem.
  • *      Action Cheaper than Inaction: Stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations at relatively safe levels will cost less than 3% of expected economic growth by 2030 (less than 0.12% per year).  Costs would be lower if carbon permits are auctioned and the revenue is invested in energy efficiency and the development of new, clean energy technologies.  The former chief economist of the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Stern, has put the price of unmitigated warming at as high as 20% of global GDP by 2100. 
  • *      Vast Potential for Energy Efficiency: Energy efficiency in vehicles and buildings could significantly reduce global warming emissions “with net economic benefit” and with “large co-benefits,” but “many barriers exist against tapping this potential.”  The co-benefits include improved energy security, job creation, lower costs, and reduced air pollution.
  • *      Vast Potential for Renewable Energy: “Given costs relative to other supply options, renewable electricity…can have a 30-35% share of the total electricity supply in 2030….”  “Renewable energy generally has a positive effect on energy security, employment, and on air quality.”
  • *      Reducing Global Warming Pollution Can Improve Health: “[N]ear-term health co-benefits from reduced air pollution as a result of actions to reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions can be substantial and may offset a substantial fraction of mitigation costs.” 
  • *      Voluntary Action Ineffective: “The majority of [voluntary] agreements has not achieved significant emissions reductions beyond business as usual.”

“There are two bills in Congress that follow the prescriptions in this report – namely the Safe Climate Act in the House and the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act in the Senate,” added Dunham.  “These bills would reduce U.S. global warming pollution by 80% by 2050 by requiring improvements in energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy like wind and solar power,” he said.

A final synthesis of the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report is due out later this year.  The full Fourth Assessment Report includes input from more than 2,500 experts worldwide.

The previous two volumes of the IPCC report, released earlier this year, concluded that (1) global warming is “unequivocal;” (2) burning fossil fuels and other human activities are responsible for most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century; (3) the impacts are already evident worldwide and will worsen significantly, with increasing droughts, floods, heat waves, water stress, forest fires, and coastal flooding in store for the U.S.; but that (4) “many impacts can be avoided, reduced, or delayed” by quickly and substantially reducing global warming pollution.

The IPCC was established by the United Nations Environmental Program and the World Meteorological Organization in 1988 with a mandate to assess the state of knowledge on global warming on a “comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis” and to generate documents that reflect a consensus among those involved.  In 1990, 1995, and 2001, the IPCC issued its prior assessments.

Dunham also noted that the report is inherently conservative because it reflects the consensus of hundreds of parties, including industry groups and governments opposed to taking action to reduce global warming pollution.


U.S. PIRG is the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations.



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