Italian climatologist Claudia Tebaldi: Realistically, I think it will be easier to solve the problem of global warming with technology than by radically changing our lifestyle, as politics promises to do.
Claudia Tebaldi, an Italian climatologist in the US for years and co-author of the sixth report of the IPCC, goes against the tide. The researcher now hopes for the development of new technologies for capturing CO2 in the atmosphere: Realistically, I think it will be much easier to solve the problem of global warming in this way than by changing our way of life as radically as politics promises to do.
The G20 confirmed the goal suggested by the IPCC: not to exceed + 1.5C at the end of the century compared to the pre-industrial era. He does not believe it?
If emissions begin to decrease significantly and globally, we will have some chance of staying at 1.6-1.7 and perhaps with technology, in the second half of the century, reaching 1.5. The latest statistics on emissions, however, and also what has been promised so far take us to the maximum, and hopefully, to 2.1. Therefore, we must really raise these aspirations and above all make them concrete. Emissions continue to be higher than what nations have promised. Realistically, we will exceed the target by a few tenths of a degree.
What does that few tenths of a degree correspond to?
Let’s think about the climate of 30-40 years ago. Everyone realizes that the number and intensity of extreme events have increased. Back then, the temperatures were half a degree lower. The same difference between 1.5 – which is higher than the current 1.1 – and 2. We must expect extreme events that are increasingly frequent and harmful.
Can we adapt?
We are already doing it. If we compare what happened in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to the effects of Ida this summer, the difference in damage and death is enormous. As a civilization we have the ability to adapt to these events and lessen their impact. For it costs. That is why we scientists try to represent our projections so that politicians have the tools to balance both the costs of adaptation and the costs of reducing emissions. And make the right choices. Here in America, for example, the state of West Virginia has an economy entirely based on coal. If Biden’s policies are implemented, entire communities will lose their jobs.
The G20 reaffirmed the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities between countries. Can the 1.5C target be reached without China’s immediate commitment?
China has technological and financial capacities equal to those of developed countries by now, so it seems paradoxical to me to put it on the same level as developing economies. For the latter, it would also be acceptable to admit a possibility of delay, both because of the minimum quantities of CO2 they emit and because they have yet to develop. For China and India, the question is quite different.
So the good will shown, at least in words, by the European Union and the United States is not enough …
No, in absolute terms China is emitting the most so we cannot hope to offset that type of emissions with European and American action alone. If China does not align with these efforts, it will be utopian to achieve results.
On a scientific level, how is the relationship with Chinese and Indian colleagues?
Both Indians and Chinese participated in the work of the IPCC, which was a collective process. When you sign as the author, you also declare that you agree with everything written in the report. We are all “on board”, as they say here, all aboard. On the other hand, the IPCC is not unbalanced in terms of politics. From a scientific point of view, however, we all agree.
What do you expect from Cop26?
That there is no longer any doubt that climate change is an urgent issue to be addressed. In terms of concrete measures, I don’t really know what to expect, as even in Biden’s US it is quite difficult to be optimistic.
November 1, 2021 (change November 1, 2021 | 09:32)
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