Harvard Professor John Holdren
WASHINGTON – A panel of 18 scientists from 11 countries reported to the United Nations today that catastrophic climate change is inevitable without a global tax on greenhouse gas emissions – a plan that would impact the U.S. disproportionately to the rest of the world.
John Holdren, the Teresa and John Heinz professor of environmental policy at Harvard University, speaking for the panel said the world must establish a consensus on an acceptable ceiling for temperature rise and find ways to cope with the damage already wrought by climate change. However, these measures will be ineffective in themselves if they are not accompanied by a global tax on greenhouse gas emissions, he added.
“We don’t think ultimately society will get it right in terms of the full range and scope of activities needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions until there is an additional incentive in the form of a price on greenhouse gas emissions, either through a carbon tax or a cap and trade approach,” he said.
The report was requested by the United Nations and partially funded by the U.N. Foundation. It predicts global warming trends leading to dangerous rising sea levels, increasingly turbulent weather, droughts and weather-related pestilences.
It is the latest of a stream of dire forecasts about climate change. Three weeks ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded global warming was real and caused by human activity. Two weeks ago, the board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science issued a statement claiming atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is higher than it has been for at least 650,000 years.
“Climate change is real,” said Holdren today. “It’s already happening. It’s already causing harm. It’s accelerating and we need to do something about it, and we need to do something about it seriously, starting now. Our specific conclusions are that if the world were to go past the point of an increase above pre-industrial temperatures greater than 2 to 2.5 degrees Celsius, we would be in a regime where the danger of intolerable and unmanageable impacts on well-being would rise very rapidly.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is considering calling a summit on climate change later this year.
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