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Climate impacts happening quicker than expected 1 February 2013

Renowned climate economist and author of the 2006 ‘Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change’ Lord Nicholas Stern admits he got it wrong during a interview with the Guardian on the 26th January.

From the Guardian: In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Stern, who is now a crossbench peer, said: "Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then."

The Stern review, published in 2006, pointed to a 75% chance that global temperatures would rise by between two and three degrees above the long-term average; he now believes we are "on track for something like four ". Had he known the way the situation would evolve, he says, "I think I would have been a bit more blunt. I would have been much more strong about the risks of a four- or five-degree rise."

He said some countries, including China, had now started to grasp the seriousness of the risks, but governments should now act forcefully to shift their economies towards less energy-intensive, more environmentally sustainable technologies.

"This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential."

Reacting to Lord Stern’s comments, Environment Minister, Phil Gawne said;

“If Lord Stern is concerned then we should take note. As former Chief Economist and Senior Vice President at the World Bank he is renowned for his expertise in economics and public policy, not Green advocacy.”

The 2006 Stern review stated:

“Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more.

In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year.”

The Minister continued, “Unfortunately six years down the line at the most recent UN Climate talks in Doha in November 2012, the international community deferred agreeing all inclusive and binding global greenhouse gas reductions targets to 2015 with a view to implementation from 2020. As Dieter Helm, Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Oxford has suggested, by this time China’s coal intensive economy, on which we rely for the production of many of our goods, could have doubled in size yet again with a corresponding huge increase in its rate of green house gas emissions.”

“Two key goals to avoid what are acknowledged internationally as dangerous levels of climate change are, limiting atmospheric CO2 levels to 450 parts per million and limiting global warming to 2oC above preindustrial levels. Worryingly the vast majority of climate scientists now predict that these maximum targets are very likely to be exceeded.”

Projections of how the climate of the Isle of Man will change, up to the end of this century, have been produced by the UK Met Office and show that we are at risk from sea level rise in particular. For more information on climate projections and climate change adaptation visit http://www.ukcip.org.uk/ and http://ukclimateprojections.defra.gov.uk/ .

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