The big picture on climate change
Given the potential impacts of climate change on the environment, economy and society, effective climate policies are a global concern. Many pin their hopes on the Kyoto Protocol which, once enacted, will reduce emissions from the countries signing it to 5 per cent of the 1990 level by 2012. But is this enough?
In this article, Klaus Hasselmann of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, and others say the protocol will have a negligible effect on future global warming. The problem, they say, lies in the hundred-year climate projections we use. Employing a millennial timescale reveals a very different scenario, in which unabated burning of fossil fuels would lead to huge rises in sea level and temperature.
Limits on emissions need to be much more stringent, they say. But this could be relatively painless: the cost of halving global emissions has been estimated at just 1 to 3 per cent of gross domestic product. Ultimately, what is needed is a dual approach focusing on short-term targets and long-term goals.
Reference: Science 302, 1923 (2003)