Technical solutions alone can't fix climate change: scientists
PARIS: Dealing with climate change and its risks will require not only technical responses like drought-resilient crops and higher sea walls but also reshaping economic and political incentives that are driving global warming, scientists said on Wednesday.
"The biggest risk of all that we face is that we're addressing the wrong problem," University of Oslo sociologist Karen O'Brien told a week-long conference of climate researchers in Paris.
Using more renewable energy and setting up crop insurance schemes and early warning systems is important, she said. But climate change "is more than a technical challenge".
Finding genuine solutions will have to involve "looking at who has power and how that might need to change", she said.
The rush to secure oil drilling rights in the Arctic, for instance, is painted by some analysts as the potential start of a new Cold War, as countries compete to gain access to some of the planet's last large untapped oil deposits in pursuit of profit and energy security, she said.
But it is happening despite science that shows a third of the world's already discovered oil reserves - as well as half of gas reserves and 80 percent of coal reserves - must stay in the ground to avoid runaway climate change that could see food supplies collapse, O'Brien and other experts said.
Climate risks will not be tackled effectively unless such contradictions are dealt with, O'Brien said. One way to achieve that could be through people stepping up to try and change the way governments and institutions behave.
"Small changes can make big differences, and individuals, especially when working together, can generate big social change," she said.
Bending political and economic power to solve climate problems will be difficult, but "we are transforming either way", O'Brien said, as a world 4 degrees Celsius warmer - the current trajectory for 2100 - would reshape life on Earth.
Adapting to some of the accompanying problems, including a rise in deaths from extreme heat in South Asia, would be largely impossible, she said.