Global warming: We have the technology, but do we have the will?


Global warming is real, it’s here, and we’re the cause of it. Scientists see the evidence today around the world in air and ocean temperatures, melting ice and snow, and rising sea levels.

But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also says in its latest assessment report, released over the weekend in Valencia, Spain, that we have the solutions at our fingertips.

“The world’s scientists are saying we have the technology to prevent irreversible damage,” said J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director for Fresh Energy, a St. Paul nonprofit that advocates for renewable energy solutions.

The greatest barriers, it turns out, are likely political, not technological.

The scientists see a tipping point around 2 degrees Celsius. An average global temperature increase greater than that could trigger irreversible damage, unleashing the worst effects of global warming: things like collapsing ecosystems, mass extinctions, and coastal flooding.

But the new report says it’s likely we could avoid the worst-case scenario and stabilize the planet by using technology that already exists today or will soon be commercialized. That’s assuming, however, there’s investment in the technologies and incentives to use them.

“Without substantial investment flows and effective technology transfer, it may be difficult to achieve emission reduction at a significant scale. Mobilizing financing of incremental costs of low-carbon technologies is important,” the report says.

The report, the fourth in a series, compiles the work of more than 2,500 scientists from more than 130 countries, all of which sign off on the final reports. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the same group that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.