UN panel warns against halting climate change, but time is short

But the cost of inaction is great, too, in terms of deaths, displacement and damage. In the United States last year, damages from floods, wildfires, droughts and other weather and climate-related disasters totaled about $145 billion, According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency said “extremely high” levels of disasters had become the “new normal”.

“Significantly cutting emissions is much less painful than you think, and may be beneficial in the short term,” said Glenn Peters of the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway, who contributed to the report.

The new report examines dozens of strategies that scientists and energy experts have proposed to help countries make the transition.

First, countries will need to clean up nearly all of the power plants around the world that generate electricity for homes and factories. This means relying more on energy sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal or hydro. Most coal and natural gas plants in the world will need to either shut down or install carbon capture technology It can trap emissions and bury them underground. This technology has been slow to take off due to its high costs.

The next step will be to reshape transportation, industry, and other sectors of the global economy to run on clean electricity rather than fossil fuels. Gasoline cars can be replaced by electric vehicles charged with low-carbon grids. Gas-burning ovens in homes can be replaced with electric heat pumps. Instead of burning coal, steel mills can switch to electric furnaces that smelt scrap.

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At the same time, countries can take steps to reduce overall energy demand. This could entail expanding public transportation, upgrading insulation so homes use less energy, recycling more raw materials, and making factories more energy efficient. The report notes that such demand-side policies could help reduce emissions in key sectors by up to 40 to 70 percent by 2050.

But many economic activities cannot be easily electrified. Batteries are still too heavy for most aircraft. Many industries, such as cement and glass, require intense heat and currently burn coal or gas. For those emissions, governments and companies will have to develop new fuels and industrial processes, the report said.

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