Swift action by politicians is the single most important factor in limiting global warming, an analysis finds. The costs of political delays outweigh any possible benefits of waiting for more research into the mechanisms of climate change.
The results, published today in Nature1, contradict claims that governments should delay action on climate change until scientific certainty further improves. They also imply that speeding up action could lead to significant cost savings.
Joeri Rogelj, a climate-policy analyst at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, and his colleagues assessed the relative importance of four major sources of uncertainty in limiting the rise in global average temperatures. These were political uncertainty regarding when a coordinated global climate policy might be achieved; scientific uncertainty over how much the Earth will warm in response to emissions; social uncertainty about future energy demand; and technological uncertainty regarding the availability of emissions-reduction technologies.