Radical change urged over 20 years to attain climate goals: institute

Environment

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OSLO (Reuters) – The world will need sweeping changes over the next 20 years ranging from energy use to food production to achieve climate goals set by almost 200 nations, the new heads of a top environmental think-tank said on Friday.

Both said “revolutions” were needed to tackle climate change, such as capturing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that burn fossil fuels or by reforming agriculture, where meat production and fertilisers are big sources of greenhouse gases.

Developed nations should set an example, such as Germany where Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure to end the use of coal in power generation.

“When Germany is not in a position to phase out coal can we expect that Poland or Indonesia or Vietnam or Turkey … can phase out coal?” Ottmar Edenhofer, new co-director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told Reuters.

Edenhofer, formerly the institute’s chief economist, and new co-director Johan Rockstrom, a Swedish scientist, said governments were far from achieving the core goal in the 2015 Paris Agreement of limiting a rise in global average temperatures to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

“We have just literally 20 years to either succeed or fail” in the goals of getting the planet on a more sustainable path, Rockstrom said in a joint telephone interview.

The University of Pennsylvania rated the Potsdam Institute as the world’s top environment policy think-tank this month.

The institute plans to exploit more data to try to grasp under-appreciated long-term harm from natural disasters linked to climate change such as floods, droughts or storms.

Poor families in developing nations often focus, for instance, on rebuilding their homes after a natural disaster but sometimes stopped sending their children to school even after reconstruction, Edenhofer said.

The institute could use more satellite data, for instance the amount of light emitted at night by villages in developing nations, as a gauge of local poverty and vulnerability, he said. The poorest have the least access to electricity.

Rockstrom and Edenhofer were named by the institute on Friday to succeed Hans Joachim Schellnhuber in October.

Reporting By Alister Doyle

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