“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.”
By Albert Einstein.
The total greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities continued to increase between 1970 and 2010, despite the increasing efforts of policies to mitigate climate change. However, “climate policies can be advised by scientific discoveries”, to be improved and to be more efficient.
Research and development generate knowledge on how to curb climate change and, in this sense, international cooperation can play a constructive role in the development, dissemination and transfer of knowledge and technologies that help protect the planet.
These are some of the conclusions of the third and final phase of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on climate change that has just been presented in Berlin. AR5 has been prepared by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); is titled “Mitigation of climate change”, and in its preparation 235 scientists from a total of 58 countries have participated, reports the IPCC on its website.
The conclusions of the first phase of AR5 were made public last September, and the conclusions of the second phase were presented in Tokyo at the end of March. A synthesis report will also be published next October. AR5 is expected to provide a clear vision of the current state of scientific knowledge about climate change.
Climate change and society
The third phase of AR5 highlights certain aspects that mitigation of climate change would entail for society. On the one hand, it points out that considering sustainable development and the strengthening of social equality will be fundamental aspects for the creation and implementation of efficient climate policies.
At the same time, limiting the effects of climate change will be necessary to achieve sustainable development and equality; and even to eradicate poverty.
On the other hand, a mitigation of effective climate change will not be achieved with individual agents -the countries- advancing independently in their own interests, but will require collective action, on a global scale, because most of the greenhouse gases they accumulate and mix globally over time.
The report also notes that many of the areas of climate policy involve value judgments and ethical considerations ranging from the question of what degree of climate change mitigation is needed to prevent dangerous human interference with the Earth’s climate system, up to the decisions on specific policies to apply for the mitigation of climate change or for adaptation to it.
For all these considerations, social, economic and ethical analyzes should be used; as well as taking into account values of different types, such as human well-being and other species or cultural values.
Finally, the report points out that climate policies can influence, in a negative and positive way depending on these, on the achievement of social objectives such as those related to human health, safety, biodiversity, local environmental quality, access to energy, subsistence or equitable sustainable development. Conversely, the struggle to achieve these same goals would also help to mitigate climate change, if the right policies are applied.
Science and climate change
The report “Mitigation and climate change” indicates that CO2 emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels and industrial processes contributed by 78% to the total increase of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere between 1970 and 2010. economic growth and the population have been key triggers of this situation.
Without additional efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the state will continue to worsen in the coming years, which could cause an increase in the global temperature of the Earth’s surface by 2100 between 3.7 and 4.8 ºC , compared to pre-industrial levels.
Faced with this reality, multiple possible scenarios are raised, whose concretion will depend, among other things, on the technological options that are chosen.
Decarburizing (or reducing carbon from power generation) will be essential. Many renewable energy technologies have demonstrated substantial improvements in energy efficiency and cost reduction, and have reached the level of maturity needed for their application on a significant scale, the report said.
One of the formulas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy supply recommended by this is the replacement of coal plants by combined cycle natural gas plants or heat and power cogeneration plants.
Reference is also made to technologies for the capture and storage of carbon dioxide as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
It is also recommended to apply technical measures to transport that make it more sustainable, urban investments to increase the efficiency of transport in cities (it is estimated that these measures could reduce energy demand by 40% by 2050); and that new technologies be applied to the construction of more sustainable buildings and to the increase of industrial sustainability.