Don't wait for Copenhagen deal, says Nobel winner

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Individuals should not wait for world leaders to agree on measures to fight climate change, but should start taking actions themselves, the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for economics said on Monday.

The comments by Elinor Ostrom came as politicians meet in Copenhagen to agree a plan to head off the floods, droughts and rising sea levels predicted by scientists if global temperatures continue to rise.

“I am very concerned that we not presume ... that the international negotiations are the only thing that can happen and we just sit around and wait,” Ostrom, the first woman to win the economics prize, said at a news conference in Stockholm.

“There are a very large number of things that people can be doing at a small scale ... so that in addition to waiting for the big guys up there to take their decision we can take action. Because if we wait too long, it may be disastrous.”

Indiana University’s Ostrom won a half share of the 10 million crown ($1.43 million) prize this year for showing that communities can be better managers of common resources than the state.

Ostrom, who said after the prizes were announced in October she hoped her work would encourage a sense of power among individuals, did not underestimate the difficulty in solving the climate change issue.

“If you want to stop war, it’s tough. But solving a problem that is biological, chemical and human altogether, is a much greater challenge,” she said.

An agreement in Copenhagen aims to lead to cuts in harmful greenhouse gas emissions that will limit the rise in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels within 2 degrees Celsius. That would mean halving emissions by 2050 compared with current levels.

The Nobel prize winners are in Stockholm to receive their awards. After a series of press conferences and lectures, the prizes will be handed out on December 10 with the traditional Nobel banquet later the same day.