Climate change is a ‘near and present danger’ and all countries should commit to ‘net-zero’, says IMF

The world is getting warmer. Even up here in the Alps it’s being felt. Above Davos, across Europe, glaciers are in retreat.

Even if global warming can be limited to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, scientists warn that they will probably be lost.

The International Monetary Fund’s job is to spot the economic dangers that lie ahead.

It believes that climate change is one of them and it’s calling for governments to respond more urgently to the threat it poses.

“Governments should do more. They need to recognise that they cannot kick the can down the road. Climate change is a near and present danger for the global economy and it must be addressed,” said Gita Gopinath, the IMF’s chief economist.

Hundreds of climate protesters who are on a three-day protest march from Landquart to Davos pass the city of Klosters, Switzerland. Credit: AP

“We think this is an existential risk, and the risks [of inaction] are off the charts.“

The IMF believes the natural disasters we have witnessed around the world in the last year, from the bushfires in Australia to the flooding in Mozambique, were in part man-made.

It insists the science on climate change is unequivocal and advises governments to pledge to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

But few governments have. Among them the big polluters, India, China and the United States.

President Trump arrives here on Tuesday. Before he became president, Donald Trump once described climate change as a hoax.

The Davos Congress Centre plays host to the World Economic Forum once a year. Credit: AP

He has since backed away from that comment, but the White House recently described the Paris Agreement on climate change as “fraudulent”. The US is in the process of withdrawing from it on grounds it will damage the economy.

As it stands the US has no targets at all for reducing its carbon emissions.

Climate activists are hoping they will be heard in Davos. They are marching up the mountains demanding countries and companies change their behaviour.

Campaigners insist progress can be made even if President Trump seems to disbelieve the science.

“President Trump is irresponsible,” says Christiana Figueres, the former head of the UN’s climate negotiations.

World Economic Forum is welcoming the global elite in Davos. Credit: AP

“But it doesn’t mean that the world is paralysed, it doesn’t mean that at all. Other countries are moving forward, the private sector is moving forward, above all 65% of the US economy is decarbonising purely out of self-interest”.

The World Economic Forum is welcoming the global elite, many of whom will have burned a lot of carbon just getting to this ski resort.

The message is clear, but there’s a need for action as well as words if disastrous levels of global warming are to be avoided.