UNITED NATIONS – While media headlines have declared the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded in its latest report that the unrestricted use of fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100 if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, a U.N. spokesman insisted otherwise in response to questions from WND.
“We are not saying that fossil fuels have to be phased out,” Jonathan Lynn, head of communications and media relations for the U.N. World Meteorological Organization told WND. “What we are saying is that significant and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be required in order to limit climate change.”
Lynn insisted the IPCC’s 2014 climate assessment sought to limit the rise in global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century with no claim that eliminating fossil-fuel use was the only means.
“There are many pathways – scenarios if you like – that would allow you to hold warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century,” Lynn explained.
“They would require substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades and near zero emissions of CO2 [carbon dioxide] and other greenhouse gases by the end of the century.”
But Lynn was careful to distance the IPCC from any specific recommendation about the phasing out of fossil fuels.
“Many of the scenarios consistent with keeping below 2 degrees typically involve a combination of bioenergy and carbon dioxide capture and storage – i.e., they involve negative emissions by the end of the century,” he said.
Lynn explained that as “warming is driven by cumulative emissions, the important thing to look at is net emissions; so these technologies in many scenarios would make it possible to compensate for residual emissions from some sectors.”
“For instance, net negative emissions could still include some fossil-fuel emissions. But the availability and scale of these technologies is uncertain,” he said.
Lynn noted the entire Synthesis Report is dedicated to achieving the purposes stated in Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC. The convention’s goal is “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
“Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner,” the convention states.
WND asked Lynn what recommendations IPCC has for maintaining economic activity and growth if fossil fuels are to be phased out and what alternative energies are sufficiently robust to command more than 5 percent of overall world energy needs.
Solar and wind commercial ventures promoted and subsidized by the Obama administration have infamously gone bankrupt in recent years.
However, by arguing the IPCC had only mandated a cap on global warming by the end of the century, Lynn avoided having to answer the questions.
Instead, he said there were many different ways in which carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could be reduced other than by phasing out fossil fuel use.
He said measures to limit the rise in global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century would reducing the “carbon intensity” of electricity generation, “efficiency enhancements and behavioral changes.”
“We’re not only talking about solar and wind. Energy efficiency is extremely important and brings economic benefits to developing and developed countries alike, as is afforestation and moves to stop deforestation,” Lynn said.
‘We don’t tell governments what to do’
While the IPCC report does not specifically say fossil fuels must be phased out, it does identify fossil-fuel combustion and industrial processes as a major culprit in the creation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
“Emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributed about 78 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions increase from 1970 to 2010, with a similar percentage contribution for the increase during the period 2000 to 2010,” the report noted on Page 5. “Globally, economic and population growth contributed to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel contribution.”
Lynn rejected the suggestion the IPCC could or would dictate policy recommendations to nations participating in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change scheduled for Dec. 1-12 in Lima, Peru.
“We can’t comment on the policies of our member governments, for instance on how they might promote renewables. And we can’t comment on the possible burden-sharing between different types of countries that might emerge from a global agreement to tackle climate change,” Lynn said.
“In fact, we don’t make any recommendations to anyone. Our role is to be policy-relevant not policy-prescriptive – we don’t tell governments or anyone else what to do, but we lay out options for them to choose from if they want to pursue particular policy goals.”
Lynn concluded by stating that “climate change is a threat to sustainable development,” affirming the IPCC basic assumption that increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere produced by human activity causes global warming.