This May 30, 2012 image provided by Ian Joughin shows an iceberg in or just outside the Ilulissat fjord, that likely calved from Jakobshavn Isbrae, the fastest glacier in west Greenland.
Ian Joughin/AP Photo

Will the ‘wake-up call’ go ignored?

It’s not too late to address the climate crisis. But the point of no return isn’t that far away, either.
It’s still possible to keep the global temperature at a manageable level, a new U.N. report on climate change concludes. But only if the world embarks quickly on an intense effort over the next 15 years.
The report, released Sunday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading world organization monitoring the issue, also found that climate change can be addressed without affecting living standards, and with only a tiny reduction in economic growth.
The report is online here.
In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday, “We’ve already had wake-up call after wake-up call about climate science. This report is a wake-up call about global economic opportunity we can seize today as we lead on climate change.”
As terrifying as the climate crisis may be, the report actually highlights some reason for encouragement.
The New York Times’ report noted that the “good news” is that “ambitious action is becoming more affordable.”
It is increasingly clear that measures like tougher building codes and efficiency standards for cars and trucks can save energy and reduce emissions without harming people’s quality of life, the panel found. And the costs of renewable energy like wind and solar power are falling so fast that its deployment on a large scale is becoming practical, the report said.
Moreover, since the intergovernmental panel issued its last major report in 2007, far more countries, states and cities have adopted climate plans, a measure of the growing political interest in tackling the problem. They include China and the United States, which are doing more domestically than they have been willing to commit to in international treaty negotiations.
And then there’s the bad news.
Yet the report found that the emissions problem is still outrunning the determination to tackle it, with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rising almost twice as fast in the first decade of this century as they did in the last decades of the 20th century. That reflects a huge rush to use coal-fired power plants in developing countries that are climbing up the income scale, especially China, while rich countries are making only slow progress in cutting their high emissions, the report said.
The report is likely to increase the pressure to secure an ambitious new global climate treaty that is supposed to be completed in late 2015 and take effect in 2020. But the divisions between wealthy countries and poorer countries that have long bedeviled international climate talks were on display yet again in Berlin.
Doing nothing is not a credible option. Neither, by the way, is to follow the lead of roughly half the members of Congress who are content to see the crisis as a hoax and a socialistic conspiracy intended to undermine free enterprise.
History will not be kind.