tampabay.com

Swift action can cut warming

By BILL ADAIR Times Washington Bureau Chief
Published May 5, 2007


WASHINGTON - A new report from an international panel of scientists says global warming can be tamed through energy conservation, limits on greenhouse gases and other measures that won't seriously harm the world's economy.

The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lays out dozens of options for combating global warming - ranging from capping carbon emissions to encouraging more commuting by bicycle - and says they could limit the increase in global temperatures to 3.6 degrees over preindustrial levels, enough to avoid catastrophic changes to the planet.

The IPCC, an international panel of 2, 500 scientists, has previously warned about the dire effects from the projected rise in temperatures. But the new report says the threat can be reduced if governments around the world move swiftly to reduce greenhouse gases, which scientists believe are largely responsible for the warming.

Bill Hare, an Australian scientist who was one of the lead authors, said the message "is that it's actually possible to solve the climate change problem, and it won't cost a lot."

He said warming can be reduced by technologies available now or very soon. "I think that's an essentially optimistic message, " he said.

The report discusses many options. Some involve energy conservation through reduced emissions from automobiles and power plants. They include more nuclear power, hybrid cars, more efficient lighting and more reliance on walking and bicycling. Other efforts involve direct ways to reduce greenhouse gases such as "carbon capturing, " in which carbon dioxide is prevented from entering the atmosphere, and a variety of ways to reduce emissions of methane, the No. 2 greenhouse gas, which comes from livestock, peat bogs and landfills.

Effect on economies

Some measures, such as taxes or limits on carbon emissions, have drawn strong opposition from industries that would be affected. The industries say those measures are too costly and would harm the economy.

But the IPCC report says combating global warming won't have a drastic impact on the world's economy, although developing countries such as China and India said their economies could be harmed. The report estimates the strongest measures would slow the global economy by only 0.12 percent each year, or less than 3 percent by 2030. By contrast, a British report last year warned that allowing warming to continue unabated could eventually hurt the world's economy by much more.

Despite the modest overall impact of the measures to combat global warming, the authors said many initiatives will have a substantial cost. For example, some industries might be taxed on how much carbon they produce, or they could be forced to buy expensive new technology.

"I think it's time for us to stop kidding ourselves and say there is going to be some cost to this, " said Dennis Tirpak, a coordinating lead author of the study.

'We must act now'

The Bush administration had a mixed reaction to the report. Officials said the president's plan to reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years would help slow global warming, but they warned that some measures cited in the report could disrupt the economy.

James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, warned that it could cause a global recession. "So that is something we'd probably want to avoid. Our goal is reducing emissions and growing the economy, " he said.

Environmental groups said the report showed global warming can be addressed with realistic measures. "This latest report provides unmistakable clarity that we must act now, and that solutions are within reach to avoid the worst effects of global warming, " said Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation.

Information from the Associated Press and the ABC Radio in Australia was included in this report. Washington bureau chief Bill Adair can be reached at adair@sptimes.com or 202 463-0575.

Fast Facts:

What you can do

To slow global warming, scientists say we need to conserve energy to reduce greenhouse gases from power plants and automobiles. A few easy ways:

- Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescents, like the one shown above

- Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes

- Buy appliances certified by the Energy Star program

For more ideas, see the U.S. Department of Energy's consumer guide at www.eere.energy.gov/consumer

To read more

For more information on the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change go to links.tampabay.com.