Time is running out to deal with the "defining challenge of the 21st century," a group of leading scientists said Friday at the close of a climate conference, and added that this must be the year of bold action like taxing carbon to rein in greenhouse gases.
The call was issued in the outcome statement from the Our Common Future under Climate Change, a four-day meeting that gathered nearly 2,000 international academics five months ahead of the United Nations climate talks in Paris, COP21.
"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal," it states. "Its effects have the potential to impact every region of the Earth, every ecosystem, and many aspects of the human endeavour. Its solutions require a bold commitment to our common future.
"The window for economically feasible solutions with a reasonable prospect of holding warming to 2°C or less is rapidly closing," the statement reads, referring to the widely accepted warming threshold for the planet—an increase that many say will still bring disaster.
And a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions—40-70 percent below current levels by 2050—is what is necessary, they state.
Among the "ambitious" actions laid out in the statement are dumping fossil fuel subsidies and putting a price on carbon. The latter, the statement reads, "helps level the playing field among energy technologies by charging for the damage caused by climate change and rewarding other benefits of mitigation activities."
Investments in climate change mitigation, adaptation, and clean energy can help bring about "inclusive and sustainable" growth, it adds.
The outcome statement was embraced by the UN top climate official, Christiana Figueres, who stated: "The world's leading researchers on climate have underlined the crucial importance of nations focusing on a long term goal—call it zero emissions, net zero or climate neutrality. The overwhelming consensus is that Paris 2015 needs to send an unequivocal signal that the world will take a path towards a steep and deep decline in greenhouse gas pollution by the second half of the century."
Among the signatories to the outcome statement is Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) director John Schellnhuber. He also spoke at a plenary session at the conference, and called for nothing short of "an induced implosion of the carbon economy over the next 20-30 years" in order to keep warming under the 2°C threshold.
"In the end it is a moral decision," the Guardian quotes Schellnhuber as saying. "Do you want to be part of the generation that screwed up the planet for the next 1,000 years? I don’t think we should make that decision."