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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999

FROM VOLUME 8, NUMBER 12, DECEMBER 1995

NEWS...
IPCC ASSESSMENT


Item #d95dec67

As of mid-November, Working Groups II and III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had completed their summaries for policy makers. These plus the summary from Working Group I, leaked in August (GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE DIGEST, p. 12, Oct. 1995) but pending final approval, will contribute to the overall 1995 IPCC assessment due for completion before the end of this year. (See Science News, p. 293, Nov. 4, 1995.)

The 1800-page report of Working Group II (impacts, adaptation and mitigation) concludes that climate change brings important new additional stresses on natural and human global systems, such as species migration, impacts on human disease, sea level rise. Some impacts are positive and some negative, but developing countries will suffer the most from any warming. The group also found that significant decreases in greenhouse gas emissions are technically and economically feasible; it is up to policy makers how they want to deal with climate change. The main recommendation for mitigation is to replace fossil-fueled power plants, as they wear out, with more efficient technology or plants using other fuels. The Working Group II report is discussed in (all 1995): Science, p. 731, Nov. 3; Intl. Environ. Rptr., pp. 831-832, Nov. 1; and in a feature article in Global Environ. Change Rep., pp. 1-3, Nov. 10.

Working Group III (economics and social implications) approved a summary on October 13 which states that there is good reason to take action on a precautionary basis, beyond "no regrets" measures that cost nothing. This is the first time the IPCC has made such a recommendation. Because of the inherent uncertainties of climate change, a portfolio of actions aimed at mitigation, adaptation and improving knowledge is proposed. (See Global Environ. Change Rep., pp. 1-3, Oct. 20, 1995.)

One chapter of the Group III report has generated such controversy that it may be omitted from the final assessment, unless a dispute can be settled between the chapter authors and delegates from developing countries. According to an article in Nature (p. 119, Nov. 9, 1995), the chapter calculates the costs of mitigation, and suggests that these costs may exceed estimates of damage, a conclusion omitted from the Group III summary for policymakers. The controversy involves the method used to estimate the monetary cost of damages, which assigns values to human lives (or at least the amount of money different countries are willing to spend to save a life). The calculation assigns a much lower value for lives in developing countries. Developing country delegates argue that a higher value should be used, which would increase the benefits of mitigation. As a result, some authors want the chapter omitted from the report; others favor an addendum; and some environmentalists want to rewrite the chapter with more authors representing developing countries.

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