If someone knows where I can find a copy of the Stern report they mention, please drop me a line.
Indeed, with reports like this coming out nearly every day, it’s hard not to be schizophrenic.
The world’s biggest economic evaluation of climate change says if countries do not act now the world will face a depression worse than that of the 1930s.
The report puts the global cost of global warming and its effects at $A9 trillion – a bill greater than the combined cost of the two world wars and the Great Depression. It represents a fifth of the global economy.
The Stern report, commissioned by the British Government, also says drought and floods could render swathes of the planet uninhabitable, turning 200 million people into refugees to create the largest migration in history.
Even though it will not be officially released until tonight, the Stern report is generating apocalyptic headlines worldwide.
Australia’s Opposition treasury spokesman Wayne Swan has revealed details from his private briefing with UK economist Sir Nicholas Stern, who is the author of the report.
Mr Swan met with Sir Nicholas during a trip to London last week, and was briefed on the report in the offices of the British Chancellor Gordon Brown.
Mr Swan says Sir Nicholas talked to him about a range of measures for Australia.
“He talked to me particularly about the need and the importance of carbon storage, particularly in relation to power stations where they are emitting large amounts of carbon,” he said.
“So we need some urgent action there, so there’s a need to develop new technologies.”
Urgent global action
The Blair Government, which is itself yet to impose new taxes on energy, wants the world to stop debating whether there is a problem and start doing something about it.
The report from Sir Nicholas says the world needs to spend 1 per cent of global GDP, roughly what is spent worldwide on advertising, and half what the World Bank estimates would be the cost of a full-blown flu pandemic.
If not, the world will face a bill 20 times as big, as well as environmental and social turmoil.
“What it’s likely to mean is an increasing the unpredicted spread of desert, perhaps southwards from the Sahara,” Lord Adair Turner, an adviser to Sir Nicholas’s report, said.
“We’re going to get major movement of people, and some of those people will probably then try to emigrate into Europe, into the UK, and then we’ll have major issues about overcrowding and cultural integration that could come with that.”
British Environment Secretary David Milliband says it is a very significant report.
“I think it’s very significant that the economics revealed by Sir Nicholas Stern’s report should be the longer we wait, the more costly it will be – many times more costly if we wait beyond 10 to 15 years then if we act within that period,” he said.
“But of course the ‘we’ is not just the United Kingdom, we are 2 per cent of global emissions.
“Obviously it’s vital that the major emitters like the United States, and the growing economies like China and India are also part of the solution.”
Sir Nicholas is a former chief economist at the World Bank and Downing St. He hopes his report will spur global action.
His report advocates extending the European ‘cap and trade’ system – whereby carbon emissions are capped at a certain level, and businesses that emit more must buy spare emissions quotas from low-polluting businesses.
But there are signs the Blair Government, seen as a trendsetter on these issues, will not set annual emission reduction targets, for fear that annual fluctuations could make such targets worthless.
Lord Turner says he thinks the transition to a low-carbon economy does not mean a major sacrifice in the standard of living.
“We only spend about 3 to 4 per cent of our national income on energy. If we backed to pay 25 per cent more for that energy in order for it to be low-carbon clean energy, all that that means is that our standard of living by 2050 would be about 1 per cent less than it would otherwise be,” he said.
What the Stern report will emphasise is that even if the world stopped all pollution tomorrow, the long-term effects of carbon already in the atmosphere would mean continued climate change for another 30 years, with sea levels rising for a century.