Climate Expert To Make Hill Debut on Tuesday

February 12, 2007
10:11 AM
For reporters on climate patrol, this week will be a busy one. Topping the agenda is Senate Energy Committee’s 10 a.m. hearing on Tuesday to appraise the Stern Review -- a major report on the economic impacts of global warming.  Testifying for the first time before Congress will be Sir Nicholas Stern, head of Britain’s Economic Service, former World Bank chief economist and author of the namesake report.
Background:  In 2005, the British government asked Sir Nicholas to undertake this major independent study.  Stern assembled a team of top economists, scientists and other specialists.  It took one year to gather and analyze the data, and they presented their findings last October.  That assessment attracted a remarkable amount of international attention.
Since then, Stern and his team have traveled the world to increase public awareness about key conclusions in the Stern Review.  Earlier this month they were in Australia.  This story from a Sydney newspaper is probably a good preview of what reporters will hear tomorrow in Dirksen 106.
Source: The Sun-Herald
SIR Nicholas Stern, author of a major report on the economic impact of global warming, says the latest review of the scientific evidence by United Nations' experts has demolished the chief argument of so-called climate sceptics.
"I have heard three kinds of argument claiming that it is not necessary to combat climate change," Sir Nicholas told a conference in Paris on Friday.
"The first is based on saying that scientists are wrong. After the report of the IPCC (UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released today, this position is untenable," the former World Bank chief economist said.
The assessment by the IPCC said global warming was almost certainly caused by humans, and carbon pollution disgorged this century would disrupt the climate system for a thousand years.
"To do nothing is to run a risk that we cannot afford to take," said Sir Nicholas, as he called for "urgent, resolute and concerted" action in Europe and the international community as a whole to tackle the challenge.
He also rejected the argument that, even if the science was accepted, mankind could easily cope with rising temperatures.
"That is an irresponsible position, because it does not take into account the real risks linked to a very high rise in temperatures, for example in the case of a world where temperatures rise by five or six degrees," he said.
And those who dismissed the consequences of global warming as a remote, long-term problem were "indefensible from an ethical view".
In a report commissioned by the British Government last year Sir Nicholas warned that without urgent action the fallout of climate change could be on the scale of the two world wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Singling out current and rising economic powerhouses the United States, China and India, he said the world must be prepared to pay now - in the form of green taxes or emissions trading schemes - to prevent economic disaster.
The IPCC, the UN's paramount scientific authority on global warming, predicted Earth's surface temperatures would rise between 1.8 and 4 degrees by 2100. It described this as a "best estimate" within a range of 1.1 to 6.4 degrees.
Meanwhile, lawyers said the IPCC report could trigger more lawsuits against big industrial emitters despite hurdles in pinning down blame for floods, droughts or rising seas.
"We're entering a new era," said Audley Sheppard, a partner at Clifford Chance law firm in Britain. He said major emitters of greenhouse gases could no longer argue they were unaware of the risks.
However, greenhouse gases, led by carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, mix into the atmosphere, which makes it hard to quantify who is to blame for emissions.
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