This is the third article by Jeffrey Sachs that I've copied from Scientific American and published on this blog site. For an American, he seems to make an enormous amount of sense. Maybe the next US president will listen to him more.
To seriously address the issue of global climate change, policymakers need to establish a framework that extends through the end of the century.
By JEFFREY D. SACHS
Late in 2006, several events moved the
The Kyoto Protocol calls on the high-income countries and the post-communist nations of eastern Europe and the former
This time around, it is better to start with a long-term view. "Dangerous anthropogenic interference" will most likely kick in when carbon concentrations in the atmosphere are at 450 to 550 parts per million (ppm). The world's current trajectory of energy use, deforestation and industrial growth could easily take us to twice that range by the end of the century. The Stern Review, an excellent new report by the U.K. Treasury, makes clear that the consequences could be catastrophic: melting of ice sheets, with a huge rise of ocean levels; massive crop failures; increased transmission of diseases; and potentially calamitous effects on ecosystem services.
The world should therefore agree to stabilize GHG concentrations in the 450 to 550 range (my esteemed colleague Jim Hansen urges the lower end of the range, others the higher end). A mid-century goal, perhaps 50 ppm lower, would provide a 40-year target consistent with the end-century target. As new scientific evidence arises, the goals would be periodically adjusted. With the two long-term anchors set, the world's governments could then agree on strategies for reaching them. These strategies would include market incentives to reduce emissions; greatly expanded research on sustainable energy use, land use and industrial development; and technology transfers from rich to poor countries.
The Stern Review makes clear that the costs of such control will be far lower than the costs of inaction. Low-cost, high-benefit efforts look promising in at least three major areas: improved energy efficiency, energy technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and sustainable land use. Smart technologies can probably keep the long-term annual costs of GHG stabilization at below 1 percent of global GDP. Rich countries can help poor countries to adopt the needed technologies.
It is time, therefore, to aim for a sensible long-term framework in which all countries will participate. The economics are right. The U.S. Congress is set to back such a course. The White House will as well, soon after 2008 and, with some luck, even before.
Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at
Scientific American, February 2007