Friday, January 17, 2014

U.N. Says Lag in Confronting Climate Woes Will Be Costly

Coal in Vietnam that is bound for China. A United Nations draft report says more is spent globally on subsidizing fossil fuels than on shifting to cleaner energy. (Credit: Kham/Reuters) Click to enlarge.
Nations have so dragged their feet in battling climate change that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising, according to a draft United Nations report.  Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies, experts found.

A delay would most likely force future generations to develop the ability to suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and store them underground to preserve the livability of the planet, the report found.  But it is not clear whether such technologies will ever exist at the necessary scale, and even if they do, the approach would probably be wildly expensive compared with taking steps now to slow emissions.

The report said that governments of the world were still spending far more money to subsidize fossil fuels than to accelerate the shift to cleaner energy, thus encouraging continued investment in projects like coal-burning power plants that pose a long-term climate risk.

Business leaders will tackle many of the problems raised in the draft next week, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where a day will be devoted to addressing the rising economic costs of climate change — and the costs to businesses and governments of solving the problem.

Within the business community, “there is an awakening of increasing economic risk — a recognition that operating conditions are changing and we need to respond,” said Dominic Waughray, head of environmental initiatives for the forum.  “There has been a failure of government to address these solutions.  If there is an alliance of companies that can bite off pieces of the puzzle, it might help.”

U.N. Says Lag in Confronting Climate Woes Will Be Costly

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