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Climate Change. The Scientific Consensus International Treaties. The greenhouse effect. Large molecules allow solar radiation in, but not out Understood since 19 th century Goldilocks phenomenon: Earth is “just right” Greenhouse gases

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climate change

Climate Change

The Scientific Consensus

International Treaties

POLS 422

the greenhouse effect
The greenhouse effect
  • Large molecules allow solar radiation in, but not out
    • Understood since 19th century
    • Goldilocks phenomenon: Earth is “just right”
  • Greenhouse gases
    • CO2, H2O, CH4, O3 (natural and anthropogenic)
    • CFCs, N2O (anthropogenic)
  • Difference between warm intervals & ice ages: 6°C

POLS 422

fundamental climate questions
Fundamental Climate Questions
  • Are CO2 concentrations increasing?
    • Yes.
      • Short-term measurements
      • Long-term: ice core samples
  • Is this caused by humans?
    • Yes. 180-280 ppm is natural
      • Since industrialization, increased to 380 ppm
  • Is climate changing?
    • Prior to FCCC, unclear
    • Since 1996, IPCC consensus is yes.
    • More dramatically than models predict

POLS 422

slide4
IPCC
  • Background: From UNEP & WMO to UNGA
  • Predictions
    • 1995: "The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on the global climate.” [+1.0-3.5 ° C]
    • 2001: "There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” [+1.4-5.8 °C]
    • 2007: “There is very high confidence that the net effect of human activities has been one of warming. Evidence shows that natural systems are being affected.” [+1.4-8.6 °C]

POLS 422

ipcc predictions
IPCC predictions
  • CO2 doubling this century >> 1.5°- 8.6° C warming
  • Sea level rise: + 40-80 cm in 21st C
    • Could be much larger if Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets melt
  • More frequent and intense tropical storms
    • Katrina as indicator of the future
  • “Climate surprises” inevitable
    • Ex: Ocean’s thermohaline circulation system

POLS 422

fccc 1992
FCCC (1992)
  • Objective: “stabilize atmospheric concentrations of GHGs at safe levels”
  • Principles
    • “Common but differentiated responsibility”
    • Precautionary principle
    • Cost-effectiveness
  • Obligations
    • Annual GHG Inventories
    • Annex I (IC’s): return GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2000 (nonbinding)
    • Annex II (western IC’s): financial assistance to DCs

POLS 422

kyoto protocol 1997
Kyoto Protocol (1997)
  • 6 GHGs covered: CO2, CH4, N2O, PFCs, HFCs, SF6
  • Annex I: differentiated GHG reductions totaling 5% from 1990 levels by 2008-12
    • U.S. - 7%; EU -8% Aus, Iceland +10%
  • 5 ways to meet obligations
    • Simply reduce GHG emissions
    • Enhance sinks (forests)
    • Emissions trading among Annex I parties
    • Joint implementation in Annex I parties
    • Clean Development Mechanism (DCs)

POLS 422

what kyoto means 3 versions
What Kyoto means: 3 versions
  • Meaningful action
    • Annex I emissions projected to rise 30% by 2010 over 1990 levels
  • Symbolic politics
    • Loopholes will prevent real cuts in GHGs
    • Stage is set for deeper reductions
  • Meaningless gesture
    • To stabilize GHG concentrations, an immediate 70% reduction in GHG emissions is required
      • …or 90% by 2030

POLS 422

after kyoto
After Kyoto
  • 2001: U.S. withdrawal
  • Bonn surprise (July 2001)
    • Bush withdrawal galvanized action
    • Decisions on capacity building in DCs & E. Europe, tech. transfer, joint implementation
    • Adaptation fund pledged by EU & other ICs
      • $410 million/year
  • Russia ratified, bringing Kyoto into force in 2005
  • Current negotiations: post-2012 reductions

POLS 422

beyond international law
Beyond International Law
  • Voluntary initiatives
    • Pew Center: Business Environmental Leadership Council
    • Public utilities: Seattle City Light
    • Individuals: Carbon offsetting
  • Local initiatives
    • ICLEI: 500+ cities & counties in 67 countries, representing 300 million people
      • U.S. cities: Nickels’ initiative > 50 million
    • US governors suit against utilities thrown out
    • CA: 1990 levels by 2020; 80% below by 2050
      • Emissions trading with U.K.

POLS 422

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