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CLIMATE SCIENCE
Progress in Geneva with climate pact blueprint
By Mariette LE ROUX
Geneva (AFP) Feb 11, 2015


'Climate intervention' strategies unlikely to work
Miami (AFP) Feb 11, 2015 - Attempts to curb climate change by capturing carbon underground or geo-engineering to help the Earth better reflect incoming sunlight are nowhere near ready for use, a US panel of scientists said Tuesday.

"There is no substitute for dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the negative consequences of climate change," said the National Research Council in a two-part report on proposed climate-intervention techniques.

"If society ultimately decides to intervene in Earth's climate, any actions should be informed by a far more substantive body of scientific research, including ethical and social dimensions, than is presently available."

The panel urged against "albedo-modification technologies, which aim to increase the ability of Earth or clouds to reflect incoming sunlight," saying they "pose considerable risks and should not be deployed at this time."

Such techniques "would only temporarily mask the warming effect caused by high CO2 concentrations, and present serious known and possible unknown environmental, social, and political risks, including the possibility of being deployed unilaterally," said the report.

Carbon dioxide removal is better understood "but current technologies would take decades to achieve moderate results and be cost-prohibitive at scales large enough to have a sizeable impact," it added.

"Direct air capture of carbon is an immature technology with only laboratory experiments carried out to date and demonstration projects in progress," the report said.

"Technologies for storing the captured carbon are at an intermediate stage, but only prototypes exist and are not at the scale required for significant sequestration."

Other techniques such as forest restoration and low-till agriculture are "mature, readily deployable technologies with well-known environmental consequences," the report said.

It also warned against ocean-based approaches to accelerate natural removal of carbon dioxide, saying they "carry significant environmental and socio-political risks."

The study was sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, the US intelligence community, the US space agency NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Energy.

UN negotiators in Geneva offered an outline Wednesday for a global climate pact that was welcomed by observers as inclusive and unifying, though much editing lies ahead.

The six-day round of talks that close on Friday had been tasked with streamlining a 37-page draft for the agreement that countries must sign in Paris in December.

That blueprint had emerged from a round of ministerial-level negotiations in Lima, Peru two months ago, and is replete with options on most key points, reflecting conflicting country interests and demands.

The text ballooned even further since Sunday until all countries were satisfied their views were represented -- to about 90 pages by Wednesday.

"With two days to go at the UN climate talks in Geneva, we have a draft climate agreement on the table which seems to please all countries," Jens Clausen, climate change adviser for Greenpeace, said.

The talks in Switzerland, one of three sessions added to the 2015 UN climate calendar, must produce an official "negotiating text" by Friday to guide negotiations in the coming months.

The talks' co-chairmen had expressed the hope it would be a "streamlined" version of the Lima text, but this seems unlikely with only two days left for countries to agree on a mechanism for the streamlining process.

Yet some parties and observers say the sprawling text is secondary to the goodwill engendered by including everyone's views.

This was "a necessary part of ensuring that all parties feel ownership" of the eventual deal, said Ahmed Sareer, who represents the Alliance of Small Island States.

"No doubt we'll have our work cut out for us in the coming months," he added. "But I am confident we will meet our mandate for Geneva and stay on track toward an ambitious outcome in Paris."

The next step, said Clausen, is for negotiators "to find agreement on how to streamline the text as we move closer to the major talk in Paris at the end of the year."

The trouble will likely come when parties have to start choosing among the numerous options now contained in the draft on how to share responsibility between rich and developing nations for tackling climate change.

Pierre Cannet of green group WWF agreed the negotiating draft must be inclusive to ensure productive negotiations until December.

"But what we don't want is a text that grows exponentially like in Copenhagen," the 2009 meeting that failed to deliver a global climate pact.

This led to the 195 nations gathered under the UN banner agreeing in Durban in 2011 to ink a global climate pact by 2015.

It must enter into force by 2020 to further the UN goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Scientists warn that on current greenhouse gas emission trends, Earth is on track for double that -- a recipe for catastrophic droughts, storms, floods and rising seas.

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