Urgent political action will help world avoid expensive costs of climate change

Clare Saxon Ghauri
4 January 2013

LONDON: Reaching climate change targets will become more difficult and more expensive if action is not taken soon – and political action can have the greatest effect of all – a new study confirms.

The analysis comes from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), ETH-Zurich and NCAR.

Comparing scenarios

Authors of the study compare global temperature scenarios under various levels of climate policy, to calculate the cost of mitigation against the probability of temperatures rising two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Two degrees is the globally agreed level that is supported by over 190 countries as a limit to avoid dangerous climate change.

To estimate the costs of achieving such a target, the study measures the importance of ‘uncertainties’ around topics such as technology, energy demand and, the area deemed most important, policy.

Policy power

The report confirms that the delay in national governments implementing mitigation policies has the biggest effect on the costs associated with climate change.

After policy, also listed as important were: geophysical uncertainties, social factors which influence consumer energy demand and, lastly, technological uncertainties around the availability of mitigation options.

Urgent action

But above all calculations, Keywan Riahi, IIASA energy program leader and study co-author states the key factor is time: “With a twenty-year delay, you can throw as much money as you have at the problem, and the best outcome you can get is a fifty-fifty chance of keeping temperature rise below two degrees.”

Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group supports the authors' call for urgency: “As we outlined in our first Breaking the Climate Deadlock report with Tony Blair in 2008, the longer you delay, the more drastic and costly the action that is needed to cut emissions. This remains the same today, as does the fact that we are rapidly heading towards potentially devastating and irreversible climate impacts. A Clean Revolution providing sustained prosperity for all is within our grasp, but for it to be possible, we need to act now.

“Every day we become less masters of our own destiny. We must avoid these steeply rising costs and embrace the economic and environmental opportunities of a clean revolution today.”

The authors also developed an interactive tool for the wider public to explore the costs and probabilities of limiting global warming to specific targets, which you can download here.

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By Clare Saxon

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