At the latest, the publication of the Fourth Assesment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 revealed publicly what climate researchers have been long proclaiming: Climate change is a fact and presents one of the primary challenges of the 21st century. According to climate reports, the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide rose 35% between 1750 and 2005. The present level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the greatest it has been in the last 650,000 years. Seventy-eight percent of the increase can be traced to the usage of fossil fuels and 22% to changes in land usage (e.g. forest clearing). The concentration of greenhouse gases today has already reached a critical level that could result in irreversible climate damage. This level is estimated worldwide to be approximately 4 tonnes per capita annually. Energy-hungry states already lie distinctly over this considerable dose, such as Germany with approximately 10 tonnes and Qatar with as much as 61 tonnes per capita annually. An increasing world population and the steep growth rate of many emerging countries like China, India and Brazil exacerbate this imbalance yearly.
The warming of the Earth’s atmosphere is directly connected to this development. Eleven of the last twelve years were the warmest since the beginning of their recording and the temperature increase in the last fifty years was twice as much as that of the last 100 years. According to the German economist Claudia Kemfert, the Fourth Assesment Report comes to the point: we will experience, with great probability, frequent heat waves, fewer colder days and a high number of extreme rainfalls.
Extreme weather conditions and their consequences, including storms, flooding, droughts, reduced harvests, forest fires, etc., have already resulted in high costs. Nicholas Stern, the former Head Economist of the World Bank released a study in October 2006 - better known as the “Stern Report
” - in which he contrasted the consequential costs of climate change to those that would be needed for stabilising the climate. Accordingly, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2035 may have already reached double those from their pre-industrial level, which would mean an average temperature increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius, if nothing is done to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. The costs of climate change would entail the loss of at least 5% of the global gross domestic product.
The complex system “Environment” is sensitive and, at the same time, slow-acting. Now is the time to take action since worldwide procrastination burdens future aggregate income considerably.