Mitigation of Climate Change:
2007 IPCC Working Group III Report
Regarding climate change, there is hope for the future if effective mitigation practices can be combined with emission reductions and appropriate adaptation measures, according to Working Group III of the Fourth IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Assessment Report. Greenhouse gas mitigation practices have substantial economic potential, and if fully implemented, these practices could keep future emissions below current levels, according to the working group. Although nations are not yet rising to their full potential in mitigating climate change, the negative effects can be lessened if they step it up over the next few decades.
The IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Report, released in November, contains three “working groups.” Working Group III focuses on “Mitigation of Climate Change.”
Numerous steps can be taken to mitigate climate change, such as improved crop and grazing land management, establishing new forest acreage, improving energy efficiency in vehicles and buildings, changing fuel sources for electricity production, and simply reducing waste. But one answer will not solve every problem, states the report. Energy producers, industry, transportation, agriculture, waste facilities, and other areas will all need several different strategies. Some strategies are available now, and others are on the horizon.
Energy production and use will play a key role in future greenhouse gas emission levels. To get the most return for the money, it is better to invest in improved energy efficiency than to build new power plants whenever possible, the report states. Renewable energy sources and low-carbon technologies should be encouraged, as well as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) methods, it adds.
Other industries could mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by improving energy efficiency, enhancing heat and power recovery,, and implementing Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) – especially in cement, ammonia, and iron manufacturing.
In the transport sector, direct greenhouse gas emissions rose 120 percent between 1970 and 2004, according to the report. Currently, technologies like hybrid vehicles and non-motorized transportation are available to reduce emissions, and biofuels could have a positive effect on emission control, depending on how they are produced. In the future, advanced electric and hybrid vehicles are projected to be on the market, along with more efficient aircraft. However, improvements in transportation will probably be challenged by consumer preferences, lack of policy frameworks, and growth in the sector, according to Group III.
There is great potential for greenhouse gas mitigation by making new and existing buildings more energy efficient, although there are also many economic and technological barriers to getting this accomplished, Working Group III acknowledges.
Evidence shows that changes in agriculture and forest management can make significant contributions to lowering greenhouse gases, at low cost. Soil carbon sequestration has the greatest potential, though the stored soil carbon could be susceptible to loss again if land management practices change. Some agricultural systems also have considerable potential to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Reforestation and tree species improvement to increase biomass production would also remove carbon from the air, and reducing emissions from deforestation in the tropics and elsewhere would help immensely.
New ways of handling post-consumer waste also offer low-cost options for mitigating a small amount of greenhouse gases. Many technologies for improving waste management already exist, and would provide many co-benefits, the report states. Producing less waste and recycling more would also provide many benefits.
The longer mitigation and emission reductions are delayed, the greater the impacts, states the report. According to Working Group III, government funding for most energy research programs has leveled or declined during the past two decades, in real absolute terms.
Many national policies are available to governments to create incentive for mitigation. Group III states that putting a price on carbon, in particular, could create incentive for both producers and consumers to invest in low greenhouse gas products, technologies, and processes. Carbon prices of $20-50 per ton of CO2 equivalent could lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 2050, and make many mitigation practices economically feasible. Other policies include emissions regulations, carbon taxes, tradable permits, financial incentives, voluntary agreements, and awareness campaigns. Methods are determined by factors such as environmental effectiveness and cost effectiveness. The report states that if nations cooperate in their efforts, global costs could be lowered, and environmental effectiveness would improve.
Currently there are gaps in knowledge about some aspects of mitigation of climate change, states the report, especially in developing countries. Further research in these areas would help decision-making on mitigation policies.
-- Katie Starzec, CASMGS Communications
-- Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications