New Delhi, April 4: The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has seriously underestimated the technological challenge of steering the earth away from the dangers posed by climate change, three scientists have claimed.
The IPCC is a UN scientific body tasked with evaluating the risk and likely impacts of climate change through various scenarios that examine how levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere might change in the coming years.
It has been projected that average temperature could rise by 1°C to 6°C during the 21st century, leading to a sea-level rise and melting glaciers and affecting crops and health.
Now, Roger Pielke Jr at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and two other experts have said the technological advances required to stabilise carbon dioxide emissions might be far greater than what was taken into account by the IPCC.
The IPCC assumptions for decarbonisation in the short term — between 2000 and 2010 — are “already inconsistent” with the recent evolution of the global economy, the researchers said in a commentary that appeared in the journal Nature yesterday.
All scenarios predict decreases in carbon intensity during 2000-10. “But in recent years, both global energy intensity and carbon intensity have risen, reversing the trend of previous decades,” Pielke and co-authors Tom Wigley from the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research and Christopher Green from Canada’s McGill University wrote.
The IPCC, headed by Rajendra Pachauri, shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former US Vice-President Al Gore for their efforts to disseminate knowledge about man-made climate change and laying foundations to counter it.
Most emission scenarios predict a rapid decline in energy intensity — more than 1 per cent a year. But the three researchers have said this goal “may be neither realistic nor achievable”.
They argue that one reason for the rise in global energy and carbon intensity is the economic transformation of developing countries, particularly China and India. As development proceeds, rural populations are likely to consume more energy and energy-intensive materials, they said.
They said an analysis of China’s carbon dioxide emissions estimated them to be rising at 11 to 13 per cent a year for 2000-10, higher than the below 4.8 per cent Asian emissions, the scenarios predicted.
“The IPCC plays a risky game in assuming that spontaneous advances in technological innovation will carry most of the burden of achieving future reductions, rather than focusing on creating the conditions for such innovations to occur,” the report said.