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Will New IPCC Report on Global Warming Push Nuclear Power?

By May 4, 2007

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The world’s leading climate scientists are proposing an aggressive action plan for the growing problem of global warming that includes several controversial measures that have long been opposed or questioned by environmentalists, according to newspaper reports based on early drafts of a report due to be released today.


Photo courtesy of Kenn Kiser

IPCC Expected to Recommend More Nuclear Power
In the report Mitigation of Climate Change, by the UN-created Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, more than 2,000 scientists will recommend countering global warming by expanding nuclear power, using genetically modified(GM) crops to support biofuel production, and burying carbons underground in a process called carbon sequestration. Newspaper accounts say the report also recommends strategies that are more in line with traditional environmentalist thinking, including a shift to renewable energy sources such as solar power and wind power, and more efficient lighting and insulation for buildings.

The new report, which will be released in Bangkok today, is the third of four IPCC reports scheduled for publication in 2007. An IPCC report in February stated with at least 90 percent certainty that humans are to blame for global warming, and a second report in April warned that global warming will lead to widespread catastrophic effects ranging from droughts and rising sea levels to water scarcity to hunger and malnutrition.

IPCC Response to Early Criticism of Report Findings
Rajenda Pachauri, head of the IPCC, responded to newspaper articles about the draft report by saying that the agency has never recommended any particular action to reduce global warming, preferring to leave that work to the government policymakers who receive the IPCC report summaries.

“'I don't know where newspapers have picked that up,” Pachauri told the Bangkok Post. “We never say let's go nuclear, go coal or go natural gas. That's not the work of the IPCC.”

Yet, it is not just the media that seems to be under the impression that the new IPCC report outlines potential strategies to counter global warming. Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Programme, observed:

“We're moving from two very sobering reports to what we can do about climate change. And we can do it. Having shown us the path towards greater and greater problems, the IPCC raises our horizons to where the solutions lie and shows that they are within our grasp.”

The Cost of Reducing Global Warming
According to newspapers that obtained early drafts, the report estimates that stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions will cost between 0.2 percent and 3 percent of the world gross domestic product by 2030, depending on how severely greenhouse gas emissions are curbed over the next two decades.

Doing less, or delaying action, would be likely to cost even more. For example, in 2006 Nicholas Stern, former chief economist at the World Bank, estimated that acting immediately to slow global warming would cost about 1 percent of the world domestic product while acting only a few years later would cost between 5 percent and 20 percent.

Environmentalists Critical of IPCC Action Plan for Global Warming
Environmentalists are expected to be critical of the report for proposing heavy reliance on nuclear power and biofuels made from GM crops as two key strategies for reducing global warming. A major shift toward biofuels would require a massive commitment of agricultural land to support a technology that, so far, requires nearly as much energy to produce as it saves. The primary problem with nuclear power is that the radioactive waste it produces remains toxic and potentially lethal for 100,000 years or more—and mankind still has not found a way to safely store or dispose of nuclear waste.

According to some environmentalists who have seen early drafts of the report, one key problem is that the IPCC failed to highlight fundamental lifestyle changes environmentalists believe will be necessary to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming.

"Simply replacing one set of technologies with another set of technologies won't work,” Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth in the UK, told The Scotsman, “especially when there are such big downsides with some of them."

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Comments

May 4, 2007 at 5:29 pm
(1) iris says:

We have had global warming since the ice age. If not then a lot of the U.S.A. would still be covered by a glacier. So I doubt we have much control over it. Lets just keep our air and water as clean as we can.

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