A while back, the UN put together a group of 18 distinguished scientists from 11 countries and gave it the characteristically catchy name "Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Development." SEGCCSD, in the house! The panel was asked to come up with innovative ways to mitigate and/or adapt to climate change.

The panel just put out its report — "Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable." You can read all about it here, an executive summary here (PDF), the full 166-page report here (PDF), and good coverage in USA Today here.

There’s plenty to dig through. One thing in particular I want to call out is the stress on "win-win" solutions that serve both mitigation and adaptation, and save money to boot. They acknowledge we won’t get all the way there with such solutions — we’re going to have to spend big money eventually — but they can get us well-started.

The baseline the report recommends is holding temperature increases to 2-2.5°C above pre-industrial levels; that means GHG emissions need to stabilize at or just above current levels by 2020, and decline to about a third of that by 2100. That means, in turn, doubling or tripling worldwide research budgets to around $60 billion a year.

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On mitigation, they stress boosting fuel efficiency in the transportation sector, boosting energy efficiency in the building sector, changing destructive land-use practices, expanding the use of biofuels (oy), and building "only coal-fired power plants that will be capable of cost-effective and environmentally-sound retrofits for capture and sequestration of their carbon emissions."

Shockingly to no one, I’d prefer less emphasis on biofuels and coal and more on … well, this stuff. I think biofuels are a bridge at best, and there will never be any "cost-effective" IGCC+sequestration projects. But certainly these recommendations would constitute an improvement over the status quo.

On adaptation, they recommend improving preparedness and emergency response, helping the developing countries that are most vulnerable, "planning and building climate resilient cities," and getting international and national institutions ready for the coming chaos. Hard to argue with any of that.

As I said, there’s lots more good stuff in there, if you care to dig in.

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Hard to say what if any impact this report will have. I suspect little, but one can hope. I expect we’ll see many more like it in coming years.

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