IPCC Under Pressure As Governments Demand Sterner Warnings On GDP Losses

  • Date: 28/03/14
  • Alister Doyle, Reuters

Many governments want sterner warnings of probable economic damage from global warming in a draft U.N. report due on Monday, saying that existing estimates of trillions of dollars in losses are only part of the picture.

A final draft before talks this week among governments and scientists in Japan projected that warming would cut economic output by between 0.2 and 2.0 percent a year by damaging human health, disrupting water supplies and raising sea levels.

But many countries reckon that is an underestimate because it excludes risks of catastrophic changes, such as a runaway melt of Greenland’s ice, collapse of coral reefs or a drying of the Amazon rainforest that could cause massive economic losses.

Trying to address the objections, an updated draft text from the meeting on Friday, obtained by Reuters, adds that impact estimates “do not yet account for catastrophic changes, tipping points, and many other details.”

“The quoted figures of 0.2 to 2.0 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) are at best an under-estimate, and at worst completely meaningless,” a note by the British government said before the meeting, faulting the draft for omitting many risks.

And Nicaragua said the projected range of GDP losses should be raised to 6 percent. Some estimates of losses do not include projected changes in the frequency of extreme events, from heatwaves to hurricanes…

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that only the final summary for policymakers that will be issued on Monday is valid. IPCC meetings are closed to the media and drafts are not meant to be published.

“Comments about the unfinished work of IPCC are of little value,” IPCC vice-chair Jan-Pascal van Ypersele wrote in a Tweet. “Only the final version…matters.”

Even so, the IPCC’s debate about the economic risks goes to the heart of whether governments will feel they have to step up action to limit rising world emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels.

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