Costs of combating global warming will rise inexorably if the world fails to cap greenhouse gases by 2015, but new technologies can curb the price, the head of the U.N. climate panel said on Monday.
Rajendra Pachauri also told Reuters he felt “reasonably optimistic” that a U.N. climate meeting in Mexico from November 29 to December 10 would make at least modest progress toward curbing climate change.
A scenario by his panel in 2007 said world emissions would have to peak by 2015 to get on track to limit temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above pre-industrial times, widely seen as a threshold for “dangerous” climate change.
“If you deviate from that (2015 goal) and delay the peaking of global emissions you are moving onto a more expensive trajectory,” he said on the sidelines of a conference in Norway about Zero Emissions.
“You are not giving up the possibility but you are going to have to pay a higher price,” said Pachauri.
Earlier on Monday, a study showed emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide are on track to hit a record in 2010, driven largely by booming economies in China and India and their reliance on coal.
But Pachauri also said technological breakthroughs could mute the costs of a strong assault on global warming, projected by the panel to cost about 0.12 percent of world gross domestic product a year until 2030.
“It is entirely possible … that the benefits might outweigh the costs,” he said of efforts to avert more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels. “And the decline in costs might be far more rapid than expected.”
Telephone bills, for instance, had plunged in recent years because of unexpectedly cheap new technologies. A shift from fossil fuels means less air pollution and smaller health bills.
He said there were big uncertainties in any cost forecasts. “I don’t think one can make predictions that one treats as the words of The Bible in looking at the future,” he said.
Pachauri said he had no plans to quit despite errors in the 2007 report including an exaggeration of the rate of melt of Himalayan glaciers. No governments called for his resignation at a recent meeting in South Korea, he said.
About 140 governments agreed at the U.N.’s Copenhagen summit in 2009 to limit temperature rises to below 2C. Temperatures have already risen by about 0.7C from pre-industrial times.
U.N. talks in Cancun, Mexico, next week will seek agreement on steps such as setting up a “green fund” to channel aid to developing nations, protect tropical forests and share clean technologies. A full treaty is out of reach.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg expressed hopes for modest progress in Cancun despite a standoff in 2010 between China and the United States, the top two emitters.
“I am less optimistic than I have been for a long time,” he said in a speech. “There will be no overall binding agreement.”
Irish rock star and anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof told the conference the world could easily reach a target of raising $100 billion a year in aid to developing nations to combat global warming, despite austerity in many nations.
Rich nations could save $25 billion a year, for instance, just by halving consumption of sweets, he said. “I don’t want to hear from politicians that we can’t find $100 billion for the gravest political challenge of our time. It can be done.”