Climate Change in the Air?

Eli is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine.

A report out today from The International Climate Change Taskforce calls for major industrial nations to join with China and India to fight global warming. The report is expected to help British Prime Minister Tony Blair argue his case for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions this year when Great Britain takes the helm of the G8 nations and Blair becomes president of the European Union.

Stephen Byers, an influential Labor member of Parliament, formed the 14-member taskforce last year with the aim of abetting Blair's climate change policies. The panel hopes its report will fuel the prime minister's major task: convincing American negotiators at this summer's G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, to act to cut carbon emissions.

The report describes the devastating long-term impact of a 2°C rise in average global temperatures. It seeks to find common ground between nations that have ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and those, including the United States and Australia, that have not. The panel recommends a global effort to set up a cap-and-trade system for emissions that would extend beyond the Kyoto framework that expires in 2012, and a shift in agricultural subsidies from food crops to biofuels. It also calls on richer nations to help developing countries control their emissions as their economies grow.

"The cost of failing to mobilize in the face of this threat is likely to be extremely high," the report says, noting studies suggesting that surpassing the 2-degree goal could lay waste to reefs, ice sheets, and various ecosystems.

But policy watchers of all stripes doubt that the report will have much impact on the Bush Administration. Patrick Michaels, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and a leading climate change contrarian, calls the report "appalling" but speculates that the White House "will be amenable to" the report's suggestions to develop clean coal technologies and push for more efficient vehicles. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who co-chaired the independent panel, added that she believed the White House might agree with the task force's recommendation to form a so-called "G8+ Climate Group" of industrialized and developing countries. Administration officials declined to comment on the report's proposals.

Related Sites
The report
Kyoto protocol
World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland

Posted in Policy, Earth