G8 governments must lead the way in developing technology to catch carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations as part of immediate action on climate change, scientists urged today. The national science academies in the G8 countries – along with those of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa – called on their leaders to take measures to cut emissions and help countries adapt to a warming climate.
In a statement released today, the academies said governments meeting in Japan next month for the G8 summit should commit to halving emissions by 2050.
And without action to help countries – particularly in the developing world – adapt to the changes that warming temperatures will bring, climate change and rising populations will worsen existing food and water shortages, they said.Water resources, food supplies, health, coastal settlements and some ecosystems, particularly in Africa, Asia and small islands, are likely to be most affected by global warming, the statement said.
The scientists called for improvements in our ability to predict the effects of climate change, and investment in technology which will help people cope with those impacts.
The G8+5 countries should also lead the way in developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to prevent emissions from energy generation, particularly coal.
The scientists said the nations meeting for the G8 summit in Hokkaido should agree a timetable, funding and co-ordinated plan by 2009 for “a significant number” of demonstration CCS plants.
The measures should be part of a transition to a low-carbon society in a bid to stabilise emissions at a level at which they can be absorbed by the Earth’s natural systems – which is approximately half the rate of current output.
Alongside technology developments, the scientists said a number of measures were needed to transfer to a low-carbon society including investment in renewable energy, tackling deforestation and protecting ecosystems.
Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, one of the signatories to the statement, said the food and water shortages which were already a dangerous reality in many developing countries and would be aggravated by climate change and a growing population.
“These threats must be properly assessed and solutions identified if we are to avoid costly mistakes from investing in technologies and infrastructure that do not take climate change into account.”
And he said: “Coal will continue to be one of the world’s primary energy sources for the next 50 years.
“If coal burning power plants and industries continue to pump out carbon dioxide unabated we face a growing risk of triggering a dangerous and irreversible change in the climate.
“Techniques for carbon capture and storage must therefore be developed urgently.”
He said current efforts to boost the technology were “quite inadequate” and the countries attending the G8 summit should commit themselves to a much bigger, better co-ordinated programme.
“The sooner this technology can be proven and widely adopted, and annual carbon dioxide emissions stopped from rising, the lower the risk of catastrophic climate change,” he said.
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