Alex Kirby, Climate News Network | July 19, 2015 12:41 pm | Comments
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The UK government says that climate change poses risks that demand to be treated as seriously as the threat of nuclear war.
Climate change poses risks that demand to be treated as seriously as the threat of nuclear war, says a report commissioned by the UK government.
Scientists from the UK, U.S., India and China say in a report commissioned by the UK that deciding what to do about climate change depends on the value we put on human life, both now and in years to come.
One of the lead authors of the report is Sir David King, formerly the UK government’s chief scientist, who last month co-authored a report on the scale of investment that should be made to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy by 2025.
In a foreword to the latest report, Baroness Anelay, a minister at the British foreign office, writes that assessing the risks surrounding nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation means understanding inter-dependent elements—including what science says is possible, what other countries may intend, and systemic factors such as regional power dynamics.
“The risk of climate change demands a similarly holistic assessment,” she says.
Value Human Life
She concludes: “How much do we care about the effects of climate change? How important is it that we act to avoid them? What probability of their occurrence can we tolerate? … The answers to these questions depend in part on how we value human life—both now, and in the future.”
The report is not the first to put climate chaos and nuclear devastation in the same category of risk, but its sponsorship by one of the world’s nuclear powers is eloquent.
It says the most important political decision is how much effort to exert on countering climate change, taking into account what we are doing to the climate, how it may respond, what that could do to us, and what we might then do to each other.
The authors’ best guess, based on current policies and trends, is that greenhouse gas emissions will keep going up for another few decades, and then either level off or slowly decline.
This, they say, is for two reasons: governments are not making maximum use of the technologies already available; and technology is not yet progressing fast enough to give governments the policy options they will need. In the worst case, emissions could keep on rising throughout the century.
They warn that how the climate may change, and what that could do to us, are both highly uncertain. “The important thing to understand is that uncertainty is not our friend,” the report says. “There is much more scope to be unlucky than there is to be lucky.”
High Emissions Pathway
The report foresees wide ranges of possible global temperature and sea level increase. On a high emissions pathway, it says, where the most likely temperature rise is estimated at 5°C by 2100, anything from 3°C to 7°C may be possible.
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