Global warming is avoidable

Massive climate change can still be avoided at low cost

Potsdam, May 4, 2007 - The most massive effects of climate change can still be avoided. Effective climate protection by reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide is affordable and economically sensible. The relevant study on this, on which the IPCC is based, was scientifically carried out by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). According to the UN report, energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and the capture and storage of carbon are crucial. Nuclear energy plays a lesser role.

The report of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows ways in which human-caused global warming can be limited to a maximum of 2-3 degrees Celsius (global mean temperature) compared to pre-industrial levels. Without additional efforts to avoid CO2 emissions, the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere will continue to increase in the coming decades - and with it the mean temperature of the earth. Several international studies have shown that the steps necessary to limit warming would cost less than 1% of global gross domestic product. The IPCC gives costs of 3 percent as the most conservative estimate. "Even under the somewhat more pessimistic assumption, the economic costs of climate protection are still acceptable," explains Ottmar Edenhofer, chief economist at PIK.

The cost estimates of the IPCC are essentially based on a relevant study by the Potsdam Institute [see also press release of March 15, 2006]. The new UN report quotes the work of the research group around Edenhofer with approval when it emphasizes that an active climate protection policy reduces the economic costs of climate protection, as it stimulates technological change and thus makes it cheaper. “In order to be able to meet the 2-degree target, we are only counting on climate protection costs of one percent of the global national product. That would mean that economic growth will only be delayed by around three months by 2030, ”says Ottmar Edenhofer. The climate report makes it clear that all the prerequisites for adhering to the 2-degree line must be created within a few years, emphasizes Edenhofer. "It is becoming more and more expensive to postpone climate protection." If the emission rates continue to rise as before, there is a threat of global warming of up to 6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, according to the IPCC. The consequences for ecosystems and the global economy would be devastating, as the second part of the IPCC report published in April and the British Stern Report 2006 clearly showed.

“The industrialized countries are caught in the climate trap, from which they can no longer get out without the cooperation of the emerging countries. That is why we have to develop highly attractive climate-protecting technologies and economic practices that are already being adopted by China, India, Brazil and others out of their own interest, "emphasizes Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of PIK and advisor to the German government on climate issues for the time of the EU and G8 Chair. By 2020, emissions could be reduced by 40%, "without the lights going out in Germany," Schellnhuber is certain.

According to the IPCC, the expansion of renewable energy sources, the increase in energy efficiency and the separation and storage of carbon in geological formations are of decisive importance. Renewable energies could already account for 30 to 35% of the global electricity supply by 2030, and there is also room for improvement. At the same time, more natural gas could be used instead of coal (“fuel switch”) in order to further reduce CO2 emissions. Nuclear energy, which was discussed in detail for the first time in the Climate Council, plays a much smaller role in the solution strategies. The IPCC anticipates that more nuclear power plants will be built in the next few decades. According to the report, however, it is expected that their share in global electricity production will only increase to a maximum of 18% compared to the current 16%. This also applies to the assumption that at a CO2 price of 50 euros / t CO2 eq. should come - today's price is 1 euro.

Additional Information:

Summary for decision makers (SPM) of the IPCC:

Home page of Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer

PIK press release on costs and strategies of climate protection, 03/15/2006

Ottmar Edenhofer, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
Tel .: 0331 288-2565, email: [email protected]

PIK press office:
Uta Pohlmann
Tel .: 0331 288-2507, email: [email protected]