The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC

The IPCC was formed in 1988 jointly by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. I had the privilege of being chairman or co-chairman of the Panel's scientific assessment from 1988 to 2002. Hundreds of scientists drawn from many countries were involved as contributors and reviewers in these assessments. Our task was honestly and objectively to distinguish what is reasonably well known and understood from those areas with large uncertainty. The IPCC has produced three assessments - in 1990, 1995 and 2001 - covering science, impacts and analyses of policy options. The IPCC 2001 report is in four volumes, each of about 1,000 pages and containing many thousands of references to the scientific literature. Because the IPCC is an intergovernmental body, the reports' Summaries for Policymakers were agreed sentence by sentence by meetings of governmental delegates from about 100 countries - including all the world's major countries. No assessment on any other scientific topic has been so thoroughly researched and reviewed.

The work of the IPCC is backed by the world-wide scientific community. A joint statement of support was issued in May 2001 by the national science academies of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Sweden and the UK. It stated: 'We recognise the IPCC as the world's most reliable source of information on climate change and its causes, and we endorse its method of achieving consensus.' In 2001, a report of the United States National Academy of Sciences commissioned by the President George W Bush administration also supported the IPCC's conclusions.

Unfortunately, there are strong vested interests that have spent tens of millions of dollars on spreading misinformation about the climate change issue. First they tried to deny the existence of any scientific evidence for rapid climate change due to human activities. More recently they have largely accepted the fact of anthropogenic climate change but argue that its impacts will not be great, that we can 'wait and see' and, in any case, we can always 'fix' the problem if it turns out to be substantial. The scientific evidence cannot support such arguments.

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Figure 1.4 Global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning (in billions of tonnes of carbon) up to 1990 and as projected to 2100 under World Energy Council scenarios, As and Bs with various 'business as usual assumptions' and C for 'ecologically driven scenario' that would lead to stabilization of carbon dioxide concentration at about 500 ppm

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Figure 1.4 Global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning (in billions of tonnes of carbon) up to 1990 and as projected to 2100 under World Energy Council scenarios, As and Bs with various 'business as usual assumptions' and C for 'ecologically driven scenario' that would lead to stabilization of carbon dioxide concentration at about 500 ppm

Because of the work of the IPCC and its first report in 1990, the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro in 1992 could address the climate change issue and the action that needed to be taken. The Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) - agreed by more than 160 countries, signed by President George Bush for the USA and subsequently ratified unanimously by the US Senate - agreed that Parties to the Convention should take 'precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimise the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures'.

More particularly, the Objective of the FCCC in its Article 2 is 'to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that does not cause dangerous interference with the climate system' and that is consistent with sustainable development. Such stabilization would also eventually stop further climate change. However, because of the long time that carbon dioxide resides in the atmosphere, the lag in the response of the climate to changes in greenhouse gases (largely because of the time taken for the ocean to warm), and the time taken for appropriate human action to be agreed, the achievement of such stabilization will take at least the best part of a century.

Global emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning are currently approaching 7 billion tonnes of carbon per annum and rising rapidly (Fig. 1.4). Unless strong measures are taken, they will reach two or three times their present levels during the twenty-first century and stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations or of climate will be nowhere in sight. To stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations, emissions during the twenty-first century must reduce to a fraction of their present levels before the century's end.

The reductions in emissions must be made globally; all nations must take part. However, there are very large differences between greenhouse gas emissions in different countries. Expressed in tonnes of carbon per capita per annum, they vary from about 5.5 for the USA, 2.2 for Europe, 0.7 for China and 0.2 for India (Fig. 1.5). Ways need to be found to achieve reductions that are realistic and equitable - for instance, by following a suggestion of the Global Commons Institute called Contraction and Convergence that proposes convergence

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Figure 1.5 Carbon dioxide emissions in 2000 per capita for different countries and groups of

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Figure 1.5 Carbon dioxide emissions in 2000 per capita for different countries and groups of within a few decades to equal per capita allowances of carbon dioxide together with trading within those allowances.

The Kyoto Protocol set up by the FCCC represents a beginning for the process of reduction, averaging about 5% below 1990 levels by 2012 by those developed countries which have ratified the protocol. It is an important start, demonstrating the achievement of a useful measure of international agreement on such a complex issue. It also introduces, for the first time, international trading of greenhouse gas emissions so that reductions can be achieved in the most cost-effective ways.

Serious discussion is now beginning about international agreements for emissions reductions post Kyoto. These must include all major emitters in developed and developing countries. On what eventual level of stabilization of carbon dioxide, for instance, should these negotiations focus? To stop damaging climate change, the level needs to be as low as possible. In the light of the FCCC Objective it must also allow for sustainable development. Let me give two examples of stabilization proposals. In 1996 the European Commission proposed a limit for the rise in global average temperature from its preindustrial value of 2°C, which implies a stabilization level for carbon dioxide of about 430 ppm (allowing for the effect of other greenhouse gases at their 1990 levels). The second example comes from Lord John Browne, Chief Executive Officer of British Petroleum - one of the world's largest oil companies - who, in a recent speech, proposed 'stabilization in the range 500-550 ppm' that 'with care could be achieved without disrupting economic growth'.

Let us consider carbon dioxide stabilization at 500 ppm. If the effect of other greenhouse gases at their 1990 levels is added, it is about equivalent to doubled carbon dioxide at its prein-dustrial level and a rise in global averaged temperature of about 2.5°C. Although climate change would eventually largely be halted - albeit not for well over a hundred years - the countries climate change impacts at such a level would be large. A steady rise in sea level will continue for many centuries, heatwaves such as in Europe in 2003 would be commonplace, devastating floods and droughts would be much more common in many places and Greenland would most likely start to melt down. The aim should be, therefore, to stabilize at a lower level. But is that possible?

In 2004, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published a World Energy Outlook that, in its words, 'paints a sobering picture of how the global energy system is likely to evolve from now to 2030'. With present governments' policies, the world's energy needs will be almost 60% higher in 2030 than they are now. Fossil fuels will dominate, meeting most of the increase in overall energy use. Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide will grow marginally faster than energy use and will be more than 60% higher in 2030 than now (Reference Scenario, Fig. 1.6a). Over two-thirds of the projected increase in emissions will come from developing countries.

The Outlook also presents an alternative scenario which analyses the global impact of environmental and energy-security policies that countries around the world are already considering, as well as the effects of faster deployment of energy-efficient technologies. However, even in this scenario, global emissions in 2030 are substantially greater than they are today (Fig. 1.6b). Neither scenario comes close to creating the turnaround in the global profile required.

The UK Government has taken a lead on this issue and agreed a target for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 60% by 2050 - predicated on a stabilization target of doubled carbon dioxide concentrations together with a recognition that developed countries will need to make greater reductions to allow some headroom for developing countries. Economists in the UK Government Treasury Department have estimated the cost to the UK economy of achieving this target. On the assumption of an average growth in the UK economy of 2.25% p.a., they estimated a cost of no more than the equivalent of 6 months' growth over the 50 year period. Similar costs for achieving stabilization have been estimated by the IPCC.

The effect of such a reduction - if agreed by all developed countries - is shown in Fig. 1.6c, together with a scenario for developing countries that increases by 1% p.a. until 2030, followed by level emissions to 2050. For this, the 500 ppm curve is approximately followed, but for developing countries to be satisfied with such a modest growth presents a very large challenge. Even more challenging for developed and developing countries would be the measures required to stabilize at 450 ppm (Fig. 1.6d).

Let me now address the actions that need to be taken if the larger reductions that I have argued for are to be achieved. Three sorts of actions are required. First, there is energy efficiency. Very approximately one third of energy is employed in buildings (domestic and commercial), one third in transport and one third by industry. Large savings can be made in all three sectors, many with significant savings in cost. But to achieve these savings in practice seems surprisingly difficult.

Take buildings, for example. Recent projects such as BedZED in south London demonstrate that 'zero energy' buildings are a practical possibility (ZED = Zero Energy Development). Initial costs are a little larger than for conventional buildings but the running costs a lot less, but most recent housing in Britain - built or planned - continues to be very unsatisfactory in terms of a level of energy sustainability that is easily achievable. Why, for instance, is combined heat and power (CHP) not the norm for new housing estates? Significant efficiency savings are also achievable in the transport sector. Within the industrial sector, some serious drives for energy savings are already becoming apparent. Eleven of the world's largest companies have already achieved savings in energy that have translated into money savings of US$5.5bn.

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Emissions data from IEA World Energy Review 2004, stabilization curves from Met Office Hadley Centre

Figure 1.6 Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning: from 1950-2000, actual emissions; from 2000 to 2100, profile of emissions leading to CO2 stabilization at 500 ppm (a, b and c) and 450 ppm (d) - shaded area indicates uncertainty. Cyan and magenta areas show projected emissions from International Energy Agency scenarios. Reference Scenario (a), Alternative Scenario (b) for developed countries (cyan) and developing (magenta). (c) and (d) show Alternative Scenario in dotted lines, for further explanation see text.

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Figure 1.7 Fossil fuel dioxide emissions 2000-2060 showing growth reduced by seven stabilization 'wedges'

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Figure 1.7 Fossil fuel dioxide emissions 2000-2060 showing growth reduced by seven stabilization 'wedges'

A simple presentation of the type of reductions that are required has been created by Professor Socolow of Princeton University. To counter the likely growth in global emissions of carbon dioxide from now until 2050, seven 'wedges' of reduction are proposed, each wedge amounting to 1 gigatonne of carbon per year in 2050 or 25 gigatonnes in the period up to 2050 (Fig. 1.7). Some of the possible 'wedges' he proposes are the following. They illustrate the scale of what is necessary.

• Buildings' efficiency - reduce emissions by 25%

• Vehicles' fuel use - from 30 to 60 mpg in 2bn vehicles

• Carbon capture and storage at 800 GW of coal plants

Wind power from one million 2 MWp windmills

• Stop tropical deforestation and establish 300 Mha of new tree plantations

Biofuel production (ethanol) from biomass on 250 Mha of land

Secondly, a wide variety of non-fossil fuel sources of energy are available for development and exploitation, such as biomass (including waste), solar power (both photovoltaic and thermal), hydro, wind, wave, tidal and geothermal energy. Thirdly, there are possibilities for sequestering carbon that would otherwise enter the atmosphere, either through the planting of forests or by pumping underground (for instance, in spent oil and gas wells). The opportunities for industry for innovation, development and investment in all these areas is large.

It is, of course, easy to present paper solutions (see example in box) but harder to see how they can be implemented. Questions are immediately raised, such as: 'what are the best options?' There is no one solution to the problem and no best technology. Further, different solutions will be appropriate in different countries or regions. Simplistic answers I have heard many times recently have been:

'Leave it to the market that will provide in due course' and 'The three solutions are Technology, Technology and Technology'. The market and technology are essential and effective tools but poor masters. Solutions need to be much more carefully crafted than these tools can provide on their own. So how can the process start?

Figure 1.8 Where are we heading? - the need for an energy strategy. The boat flies national and UN flags to illustrate the need for national and international strategies

A long-term perspective is required. I like to think of it in terms of a voyage. For the boat we are taking, technology can be thought of as the engine and market forces as the propeller driven by the engine (Fig. 1.8). But where is the boat heading? Without a rudder and someone steering, the course will be arbitrary; it could even be disastrous. Every voyage needs a destination and a strategy to reach it. Let me mention four components of the strategy that should direct any solutions.

First the economy and environment must be addressed together. It has been said that 'the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment'. In a recent speech, Gordon Brown, the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer, expanded on this idea when he said:

Environmental issues - including climate change - have traditionally been placed in a category separate from the economy and from economic policy. But this is no longer tenable. Across a range of environmental issues - from soil erosion to the depletion of marine stocks, from water scarcity to air pollution - it is clear now not just that economic activity is their cause, but that these problems in themselves threaten future economic activity and growth.

Take the market. It responds overwhelmingly to price and the short term. It has been effective in bringing reduced energy prices over the last two decades. But in its raw form it takes no account of environmental or other external factors. Although there has been general agreement among economists for many years that such factors should be internalized in the market - for instance through carbon taxes or cap and trade arrangements - most governments have been slow to introduce such measures. An example where it is working comes from Norway, where the carbon tax that is levied makes it economic to pump carbon dioxide back into the strata from where gas is extracted. Aviation presents a contrary example where the absence of any economic measures is allowing global aviation to expand at a highly unsustainable rate.

Where are we heading? Components of energy strategy

• Market and technology are tools, not masters

• Long-term, not only short-term

• Economy and environment considered together - internalize external costs

• Get potential technologies to starting gate

• Address social and 'quality of life' values e.g. community benefits of local energy provision

• Energy security to be taken into account

Secondly, not all potential technologies are at the same stage of development. For good choices to be made, promising technologies need to be brought to the starting gate so that they can properly compete. This implies joint programmes between government and industry, the provision of adequate resources for research and development, the creation of demonstration projects and sufficient support to see technologies through to maturity. The market will provide rather little of this on its own. What are needed are appropriate incentive schemes. The UK Renewables Obligation scheme goes some way to providing what is required but is inadequate as it stands for bringing important technologies to the position where they can satisfactorily compete. For instance, the UK has some of the largest tides in the world. Energy from tidal streams, lagoons or barrages has the advantage over wind energy of being precisely predictable and of presenting few environmental or amenity problems. It has the potential of providing up to 20% of the UK's electricity at competitive prices. Given the right encouragement and incentives, there seems no technical reason why good demonstration projects cannot be established very soon so that some of this potential can be realized within the next decade - much earlier than the timing of 'beyond 2020' that is often mentioned for this technology to be brought in. Similar potential is available from wave energy to the north and west of Britain.

A third part of the strategy is to address the social and 'quality of life' implications arising from the way energy is provided to a community. For instance, energy coming from large central installations has very different knock-on social and community effects than that coming from small and local energy provision. The best urban solutions may be different from what is most appropriate in rural locations.

Addressing more than one problem at once is also part of this component of the strategy. For instance, it is not by accident that this lecture is listed under the drive to Zero Waste, which is one of the five Manifesto challenges of the Royal Society of Arts. Disposal of waste and generation of energy can frequently go together. There are many examples. I have already mentioned the BedZED development that obtains its heat and power from forestry residue. In Upper Austria, a population of 1.5 million obtains 14% of its total energy from local biomass projects including waste - this is planned to double by 2010. They benefit greatly from the community involvement such projects bring with them, illustrating another of the RSA Manifesto thrusts: that of 'fostering resilient communities that exercise creative stewardship'. The Energy Future Coalition in the USA is putting forward '25 by '25' - a target that 25% of total US energy needs should be provided from biomass sources by 2025. In contrast, the UK raises a mere 0.1% of its energy this way - one of the lowest levels in Europe. A report from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has highlighted the barriers that are preventing development of energy from biomass and waste sources. The Commission believes that, provided the barriers are removed, these sources could provide 8% of total UK energy needs by 2050.

The Shell Foundation - of which I am a Trustee - is supporting the development of many biomass pilot schemes in poorer countries, ranging from using sewage from latrines in India, coconut shells in the Philippines and rice straw in China. All these could be multiplied many times over and point to an important component of the way forward for developing countries. Solar energy schemes can also be highly versatile in size or application. Small solar home systems (Fig. 1.9) can bring electricity in home-sized packages to villages in the third world - again with enormous benefits to local communities. At the other end of the size scale, large solar thermal or PV projects are being envisaged that couple electricity and hydrogen generation with desalination in desert regions where water is a scarce resource.

Fourthly, energy security must be part of the strategy and is increasingly being addressed by governments in many countries. How safe are gas pipelines crossing whole continents?

Figure 1.9 A simple 'solar home system' as is being marketed in many developing countries

How safe are nuclear power stations from terrorist attack or nuclear material from proliferation to terrorist groups? It is such considerations that put into question large expansion of the contribution from nuclear energy. However, there are hundreds of tonnes of plutonium now surplus from military programmes that could be used in nuclear power stations (and degraded in the process) assisting with greenhouse gas reductions in the medium term.

Diversity of source is clearly important. But thinking about security could be more integrated and holistic. Admiral Sir Julian Oswald, First Sea Lord more than ten years ago, suggested that defence policy and spending could be broadened to consider potential causes of conflict, such as the large scale damage and insecurity that increasingly will arise from climate change.

Let me now address those who argue that we can 'wait and see' before action is necessary. That is not a responsible position. The need for action is urgent for three reasons. The first reason is scientific. Because the oceans take time to warm, there is a lag in the response of climate to increasing greenhouse gases. Because of greenhouse gas emissions to date, a commitment to substantial change already exists, much of which will not be realized for 30 to 50 years. Further emissions just add to that commitment. The second reason is economic. Energy infrastructure, for instance in power stations, also lasts typically for 30 to 50 years. It is much more cost-effective to begin now to phase in the required infrastructure changes rather than having to make them much more rapidly later.

The third reason is political. Countries such as China and India are industrializing very rapidly. I heard a senior energy adviser to the Chinese Government speak recently. He said that China by itself would not be making big moves to non-fossil-fuel sources. When the developed nations of the west take action, they will take action - they will follow, not lead. China is building new electricity-generating capacity of about 1 GW power station every two weeks. If we want to provide an example of effective leadership, we need to start now.

Essential components of this leadership are, at the national level, that all parts of government should work in a joined-up way and that government and industry should together plan the necessary strategy. Internationally, European countries through the EU need to plan and act together, to work to bring the USA properly on board and to cooperate closely with developing countries so that they too can be part of the solution.

People often say to me that I am wasting my time talking about global warming. 'The world', they say, 'will never agree to take the necessary action'. I reply that I am optimistic for three reasons. First, I have experienced the commitment of the world scientific community (including scientists from many different nations, backgrounds and cultures) in painstakingly and honestly working together to understand the problems and assessing what needs to be done. Secondly, I believe the necessary technology is available for achieving satisfactory solutions. My third reason is that I believe we have a God-given task of being good stewards of creation. For our fulfilment as humans we need not just economic goals but moral and spiritual ones. Near the top of the list of such goals could be long-term care for our planet and its resources. Reaching out for such a goal could lead to nations and peoples working together more effectively and closely than is possible with many of the other goals on offer.

We, in the developed countries, have already benefited over many generations from abundant fossil fuel energy. The demands on our stewardship take on a special poignancy as we realize that the adverse impacts of climate change will fall disproportionately on poorer nations and tend to exacerbate the increasingly large divide between rich and poor.

My wife always reminds me when I speak on this subject that I need to indicate the sort of actions that individuals can take. There are some things that all of us can do. For instance, when purchasing vehicles or appliances we can choose ones that are fuel efficient; we can ensure our homes are as energy efficient as possible and buy our electricity from 'green' suppliers; we can use public transportation or car-share more frequently and we can support leaders in government or industry who are advocating or organizing the necessary solutions. To quote from Edmund Burke, a British parliamentarian of 200 years ago: 'No one made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do so little.'

The UK has been a world leader on addressing climate change since 1988, the year in which Margaret Thatcher spoke about it in an address to the Royal Society. We are the first nation to set an emissions reduction target for 2050. This year, Prime Minister Tony Blair has put climate change at the top of his agenda for his presidency of the G8 and the EU. This is all good news. However, to many of us, Government seems to drag its feet. Matching action has failed to keep up with the fine words. In Europe, for instance, we are not leaders in renewable energy provision and many do not believe we will meet the targets for 2010 or 2020 that we have set for ourselves. To move the world forward we have to be seen to be moving ourselves. Both the challenge and the opportunity for the new UK Government are unmistakable.

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