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Smoke billows from the chimneys of the Belchatow Power Station, Europe Smoke billows from the chimneys of the Belchatow Power Station, Europe's largest coal-fired power plant, in Belchatow Oct. 31, 2013. (REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)  

UN says the world needs cap-and-trade, carbon taxes

A new United Nations report urges countries to tax carbon emissions to stem the rise of global temperatures.

In order to keep global temperatures from rising above two degrees Celsius by 2100, the world needs to lower its use of fossil fuels, like coal and oil, between 40 percent and 70 percent. This can be done by acting immediately and putting a global price on carbon dioxide emissions, either through a tax or cap-and-trade system, according to the UN.

The UN says that under such assumptions, the cost of mitigating global warming would only be 0.06 percent of annual global consumption growth. Without any immediate mitigation, the UN says that global consumption losses would be up to 37 percent higher between 2050 and 2100.

The report, by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stressed the need for a worldwide solution to global warming, saying that individual action to curb greenhouse gas emissions would not be enough to avert climate catastrophe.

“Climate policies in line with the two degrees Celsius goal need to aim for substantial emission reductions,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the three co-chairs on the working group tasked with writing the report. “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.”

“Climate change is a global commons problem,” said Edenhofer. “International cooperation is key for achieving mitigation goals. Putting in place the international institutions needed for cooperation is a challenge in itself.”

But while the UN urges immediate action to mitigate global warming, the report fails to mention the fact that global temperatures have not been significantly warming since the late 1990s — for a pause that has lasted more than 17 years.

Climate studies show that the world has already warmed about 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1900, but that warming has stopped and some scientists even argue that the world has cooled slightly since then.

“Attention in the public debate seems to be moving away from the 15-17 year ‘pause’ to the cooling since 2002,” climate scientist Dr. Judith Curry with the Georgia Institute of Technology said last year. “This shift and the subsequent slight cooling trend provides a rationale for inferring a slight cooling trend over the next decade or so, rather than a flat trend from the 15 yr ‘pause.’”

Furthermore, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggests that winters in particular have been getting colder for the past 20 years — at a rate of 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit per century.

German scientists also found that declining solar activity and cooling ocean oscillation could mean decades of cooling is ahead for the planet.

“Through [the de Vries solar cycle's] influence the temperature will decrease until 2100 to a value like the one of the last ‘Little Ice Age’ 1870,” the scientists wrote.

“The empirical evidence continues to build within the climate science community that the world is experiencing some type of global cooling phase as a result of natural climate change forces,” according to the science blog C3 Headlines.

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