(2015-08-12)As the political manoeuvring continues over Australia's emissions targets, the world's top climate scientists are urging all sides to respond to the science.
Four scientists from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are in Canberra to meet the Environment Minister and other politicians to discuss their latest report.
Our National environment reporter Jake Sturmer spoke to the panel's vice chairman Jean-Pascal van Ypersele.
JAKE STURMER: You've timed your visit very well; the Federal Government has just announced its emissions reduction commitments for 2030, that's a 26-28 per cent cut based on 2005 levels; what do you make of that?
JEAN-PASCAL VAN YPERSELE: Well it's a participation in a global effort to reduce emissions progressively to zero well before the end of the century. What the atmosphere understands is the language of total number, of global numbers, and what the IPCC report has shown is that, if we want to stay below a warming, a global warming of two degrees, we need to reduce global emissions to zero well before the end of the century.
Now what each country has to ask itself is whether its efforts are compatible with the pathway leading global emissions to zero before the end of the century.
JAKE STURMER: What does the science say will happen if emissions don't reach zero by the end of the century? Because that seems very unrealistic at this stage.
JEAN-PASCAL VAN YPERSELE: Well I'd like to correct you on your last statement, if I may, because the IPCC assessment is that it is possible to reduce emissions to zero well before the end of the century by putting together, with sufficient political will, the existing options that are known today in the area of energy efficiency, for example.
Wasting energy costs actually a lot of money, in addition to causing a lot of useless greenhouse gas emissions. Using more renewable energy and all the options to produce energy with lower emissions than today can deliver many benefits.
So it is possible, by putting together all the existing technologies, the existing economic policies, changes in behaviour, etcetera, to achieve that zero emissions target; it is possible; it's a very important message of the last report.
JAKE STURMER: So can it be done without harming or reducing the coal industry?
JEAN-PASCAL VAN YPERSELE: Well, the coal industry is of course related to fossil fuels and it is now understood that fossil fuels, the usage of fossil fuels, if it is not associated with capture for the CO2 that's released, helps climate to warm, so ultimately humanity needs to stop using fossil fuels before the end of the century, and the coal industry will have to be part of that evolution towards a world which progressively gets to zero emissions.
But each country has to organise that in the best manner of course.
JAKE STURMER: Each nation's commitments are likely to be scrutinised in the lead up to the Paris climate summit; do you expect that there will need to be some negotiation and some movement on each of the nation's targets, say the US, Australia's, the EU's, do you expect those to need to shift?
JEAN-PASCAL VAN YPERSELE: Well that's what negotiations are for, isn't it? I mean certainly that's one aspect of the negotiations. If it's realised before Paris, or during the Paris conference, that the total contributions announced are not enough to stay under two degrees, which is the target decided by international policy makers five years ago already, more than five years ago, they'll have to do something about it.
It means something has to move.
ELEANOR HALL: That's IPCC scientist Jean-Pascal van Ypersele speaking to our environment reporter Jake Sturmer.http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2015/s4291877.htm