By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Published: November 17, 2007
VALENCIA, Spain, Nov. 17 — Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, describing climate change as "the defining challenge of our age," released the final report of a United Nations panel on climate change here Saturday and called on the United States and China to play "a more constructive role."
"Many of my colleagues would consider that kind of melt a catastrophe" so rapid that mankind would not be able to adapt, said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University who contributed to the IPCC.
"It's extremely clear and is very explicit that the cost of inaction will be huge compared to the cost of action," said Jeffrey D. Sachs, head of Columbia University's Earth Institute. "We can't afford to wait for some perfect accord to replace Kyoto, for some grand agreement. We can afford to spend year bickering about it. We need to start acting now."
He said that delegates in Bali should take action immediately where they do agree, for example, by public funding for demonstration projects on new technologies like "carbon capture," a "promising but not proved" system that pumps emission underground instead of releasing them into the sky. He said the energy ministers should start a global fund to help poor countries avoid deforestation, which causes emissions to increase because growing plants absorb carbon in the atmosphere.
The European Union already has such a carbon trading system in place for many industries, and is fighting to bring airlines into the scheme.
"Stabilization of emissions can be achieved by deployment of a portfolio of technologies that exist or are already under development," said Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Program.
But he noted that developed countries would have to help poorer ones in implementing such plans, which are often expensive.