Thursday, April 17, 2008

Stern: I UNDERESTIMATED global warming threat in Stern Review

In an interview with Sir Nicolas Stern the author of the self named "Stern Review" published 18 months ago, Stern admits that he underestimated the threat from global warming.

Stern uses the interview to argue that his original report figures were correct and that those academics who said his figures were grossly exaggerated were wrong.

He is now impressively pessimistic. A trait all economists should sympathise with.

INTERVIEW - Climate Expert Stern Says Underestimated Problem [PlanetArk]

LONDON - Climate change expert Nicholas Stern says he under-estimated the threat from global warming in a major report 18 months ago when he compared the economic risk to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Latest climate science showed global emissions of planet-heating gases were rising faster and upsetting the climate more than previously thought, Stern said in a Reuters interview on Wednesday.

For example, evidence was growing that the planet's oceans -- an important "sink" -- were increasingly saturated and couldn't absorb as much as previously of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2), he said.

"Emissions are growing much faster than we'd thought, the absorptive capacity of the planet is less than we'd thought, the risks of greenhouse gases are potentially bigger than more cautious estimates, and the speed of climate change seems to be faster," he told Reuters at a conference in London.

Stern said that increasing commitments from some countries such as the European Union to curb greenhouse gases now needed to be translated into action. Policymakers, businesses and environmental pressure groups frequently cite the Stern Review as a blueprint for urgent climate action.

The report predicted that, on current treds, average global temperatures will rise by 2-3 degrees centigrade in the next 50 years or so and could reduce global consumption per head by up to 20 percent, with the poorest nations feeling the most pain.

Some academics said he had over-played the costs of potential future damage from global warming at up to twenty times the cost of fighting the problem now, such as by replacing fossil fuels with more costly renewable power.

Stern said on Wednesday that increasing evidence of the threat from climate change had vindicated his report, published in October 2006.

"People who said I was scaremongering were profoundly wrong," he told the climate change conference organised by industry information provider IHS.


Stern then has a dig at the IPCC criticising them for failing to take account of the ocean absorption issue. Given Stern was talking in the US and effectively saying that the US needed to cut emissions by 90% his strategy to make things look as bleak as possible is clearly the only politically sensible and media friendly stance to take.

IPCC

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Its latest report in 2007 had not taken detailed account of some dangerous threats, including the falling ability of the world's oceans to absorb CO2, because scientists had to be cautious and that evidence was just emerging, the former World Bank chief economist added.

"The IPCC has done a tremendous job but things are moving on," he told Reuters.

"The IPCC's (cautious) approach to this is entirely understandable and sensible, but if you're looking ahead and asking about the risk then you do have to go beyond."

Stern said that to minimise the risks of dangerous climate change global greenhouse gas emissions should halve by mid-century. He said the United States should cut its emissions by up to 90 percent by then.

He was speaking before a senior White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said US President George W Bush planned on Wednesday to call for a halting of growth in US greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.


This link below covers the "ocean absorption story:

Oceans Absorbing Less CO2 May Have 1,500 Year Impact [PlanetArk]

VIENNA - Global oceans are soaking up less carbon dioxide, a development that could speed up the greenhouse effect and have an impact for the next 1,500 years, scientists said on Wednesday.

Research from a five-year project funded by the European Union showed the North Atlantic, which along with the Antarctic is of the world's two vital ocean carbon sinks, is absorbing only half the amount of CO2 that it did in the mid-1990s.


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