Obama administration pressuring UN on global warming reports

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The British and U.S. governments have been lobbying the United Nations to lower its economic cost estimates for fighting global warming.

The Obama administration thinks that the UN’s estimate is too high and has been lobbying the international body to revise it.

The UN is set to release this week the latest installment of its ongoing climate assessment, which will go over the different policies countries can use to fight global warming. In a leaked draft of the report from January, UN says the costs of fighting global warming would be staggering — global consumption losses would be four percent by 2030, six percent by 2050 and 12 percent by the end of the century, according to the leaked report.

The White House thought these estimates were too “harsh” reports Bloomberg. The Obama administration was worried that the high costs could be used to undercut their plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions and push green energy.

“The discussion of the economic costs of mitigation is too narrow and does not incorporate co-benefits of action,” U.S. officials wrote to the UN in a document obtained by Bloomberg.

Bloomberg reports that the State Department is pressing the UN to factor in “improvements to public health and lower energy costs from increased efficiency that would happen if fossil fuels were limited.”

The UN report, however, never defines the term global consumption losses and doesn’t put a dollar value on the costs of fighting global warming. The U.S. was not the only government to fight for the UN to amend their costs estimates — Sweden and Norway also lobbied for such changes to be made.

The UK government also lobbied for the change, arguing that including high costs of action would only embolden global warming “skeptics” who are against cutting economic growth to fight the changing climate.

Global consumption losses “could easily be taken out of context by those opposed to climate action,” UK officials said in the document. “The fact that these figures do not include climate impacts only comes much later.”

This is not the first time UK officials have influenced how the UN reports on global warming. Just last week, the UK’s Daily Mail reported that the British government “sexed up” the UN’s last climate report release, by raising the costs of not doing anything to fight global warming.

But this is not the first time politics has played a role in the UN’s global warming assessments. Last year, The Obama administration and several European governments lobbied the UN to downplay and even omit data showing there had been no global warming since the late 1990s.

The Associated Press reports that the U.S. and Europe thought the UN should omit that “pause” in global warming that has now been going on for the last 17 years. The AP reports that “Germany called for the reference to the slowdown to be deleted, saying a time span of 10-15 years was misleading in the context of climate change, which is measured over decades and centuries.”

“The U.S. also urged the authors to include the ‘leading hypothesis’ that the reduction in warming is linked to more heat being transferred to the deep ocean,” the AP noted. “Belgium objected to using 1998 as a starting year for any statistics. … Using 1999 or 2000 as a starting year would yield a more upward-pointing curve. Hungary worried the report would provide ammunition for skeptics.”

The UN did downplay the “pause” in global warming, only briefly mentioning it in their comprehensive report released last September. The lobbying by western governments also comes ahead of the next major UN climate summit which is to happen in Paris in 2015. It is there that delegates are expected to ratify a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol which recently expired.

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