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So Where Are We (The World) on This Climate Change Problem?. By Edward L. Miles Bloedel Professor of Marine Studies and Public Affairs, School of Marine Affairs, and Team Leader JISAO/SMA Climate Impacts Group Center for Science in the Earth System (CSES) University of Washington. Background.

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So where are we the world on this climate change problem

So Where Are We (The World) on This Climate Change Problem?

ByEdward L. MilesBloedel Professor of Marine Studies and Public Affairs, School of Marine Affairs, and Team LeaderJISAO/SMA Climate Impacts GroupCenter for Science in the Earth System (CSES)University of Washington



Why I Think What I Do

Scale i global

  • Why is the global warming problem so difficult for the world and the U.S. to deal with?

Characteristics of long time scale problems brooks 19 77
Characteristics of Long Time Scale Problems (Brooks 19 77 )

  • Intergenerational trade-offs intrinsic.

  • Predicted effects highly uncertain; uncertainty erodes consensus re action.

  • Uncertainties cascade and increase from physical and chemical effects (lowest), to biological/ecological, to social.

  • When effects long term & cumulative, costs of delay appear small compared to potential immediate econ. costs and social dislocations (see point 1).

  • Long term envir. probs. require sustained effort; this in conflict with short term crisis orientation of politics.

Typical human response to long wave threats dyson 2005
Typical Human Response to “Long Wave” Threats, (Dyson 2005)

  • Rapid advance in scientific understanding (cf. HIV/AIDS).

  • But overall societal response characterized by avoidance, denial, & reproach.

  •  little behavioral change until….

  • Evidence of damage plain.

Why are these two sets of physical characteristics important for policy development
Why are these two sets of physical characteristics important for policy development?

  • They demonstrate that:

    1. global climate change is a problem of long time scale;

    2. all policy measures will be indeterminate in their ultimate impacts;

    3. indeterminacy, when linked to issues of costs, changing lifestyles, and distributive inequities, creates large obstacles to significant short-run policy action;

    4. benefit-cost analytics tend to discount the future heavily beyond 2 decades.

Uncertainty international regime building
Uncertainty & International Regime Building for policy development?

  • Uncertainty about seriousness & causes of a problem & malign configuration of actor interests are separately major hurdles in international regime building. In combination, results often lethal.

  • Global climate change the ultimate collective action problem (large disparities between private & social costs) but the decision rules of int’l. law-making conferences stack the deck in favor of the least enthusiastic parties è the “Law of the Least Ambitious Program”.

Conditions under which international system responds effectively to global environmental problems
Conditions Under which International System Responds Effectively to Global Environmental Problems

  • Available evidence suggests two conditions: a). Disaster; b). Consensus that disaster on significant scale highly probable in short run.

  • So system propensity to respond is hyperdependent on rate of envir. change & immediacy of perceived effects.

Scale i global what do we know about the policy dynamics of long time scale environmental problems
SCALE I:GLOBAL Effectively to Global Environmental ProblemsWhat Do We Know About the Policy Dynamics of Long Time Scale Environmental Problems?

  • Distinguish between malign & benign problems.

  • Malign problems characterized by incongruity, where the cost-benefit calculus of individuals systematically biased in favor of either costs or benefits of particular courses of action.

  • Incongruities caused by either externalities or competition. Latter far more difficult to deal with politically.

  • Benign problems characterized by issues of coordination

    (synergy or contingency relationships).

  • Long time scale = decades to millennia.

Policy dynamics cont d
Policy Dynamics, cont’d. Effectively to Global Environmental Problems

  • Policy dynamics constitute a “prism”. Actions must be taken initially by gov’ts.  all global intergovernmental efforts re mitigation must be refracted through:

    • 1. dynamics of bureaucracy at nat’l. level;

    • 2. rates & magnitudes of envir. change;

    • 3. perceptions of winners & losers;

    • 4. differing discount rates;

    • 5. societal capacity to learn over timescales required.

Proposed standards

Proposed Standards Effectively to Global Environmental Problems

The Framework Convention on Climate Change(FCCC), Art. 2

The ultimate objective of this Convention …is to achieve…stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

Standards cont d
Standards, cont’d. Effectively to Global Environmental Problems

  • Informal settling on 2X pre-industrial ambient concentration as standard = 560ppmv. [Impacts presumed manageable and effect on world GNP calculated on order of 1%].

  • Rev.BAU projections of >2X CO2 world [575ppmv] by 2050 & >900ppmv by 2100,i.e., >3X CO2 world.

  • Current (2005) levels at 380ppmv. Note that between 1860 & 2005 anthropogenic inputs of CO2 now at max. level at onset of ice ages over last 420k yrs ( & maybe over last 20-22 million yrs.)

Implications of standards
Implications of Standards Effectively to Global Environmental Problems

  • To achieve stabilization level of 550ppmv by 2100, IPCC WGI (1994) calculating need to cut aggregate world emissions of CO2 by 30% by 2050 and another 30% by 2100.

  • Enormous economic pain and personal suffering would ensue.  not doable.

  • Amended Kyoto-Marrakesh Protocol requiring < 5% cut by 2012, followed by progressive re-negotiations.

So where are we at the global level
So Where Are We at the Global Level? Effectively to Global Environmental Problems

  • Gridlock--global negotiationscannot produce effective remedieson timescale required. Emissions likely to double by 2050 at present rate.

  • Global climate very sensitive to small changes in mean global T--1-2.5C.

  • Considerable uncertainty re magnitude, timing, type, and scale of impacts as result of warming.

  • Long time delays between action and consequences.

  • Need for collective action on global scale.

  • Severe distributive inequities, both present & intergenerational.

Ii why are e u u s ldc responses so different
II. Why are E.U., U.S., & LDC Responses so Different? Effectively to Global Environmental Problems

  • What is at stake for each set of players?

    • -For E.U. scale and urgency of problem combined with promise of tech. innovation & competition for new markets.

    • --For U.S. protection of fossil fuel economy and role of U.S. manufacturing in that. [e.g. Light trucks, aka SUVs, as route for reinvigorating auto industry]. While energy intensity of U.S. industry decreasing significantly, aggregate emissions growing rapidly. USEIA 1994 reporting that U.S. already 18% above their 1990 quota and projecting another 16% increase by 2010. So U.S. industry seeing their Kyoto Protocol penalty as 34%, not the original 7%.

What s at stake cont d
What’s at Stake?, cont’d. Effectively to Global Environmental Problems

  • LDCs split:

  • majority say those who caused the problem obligated to solve it & their development (based on fossil fuels) will not be sacrificed for the AICs benefit.

  • AOSIS wants deep cuts in emissions--pushing for 20% cut by 2010--because their lives and territories at stake.

  • Arabs want compensation for lost sales of petroleum as a consequence of int’l. regulation.

Iii implications of regional state and city initiatives in the u s
III. Implications of Regional, State and City Initiatives in the U.S.

  • While Fed. Gov’t. stalemated on GW action, snowballing stream of initiatives from States, cities, and regions now evident(Hassol & Udal. 2003). Initiatives triggered by:

  • scientific reports of IPCC & NAS.

  • direct evidence of earlier springs, glacier & sea ice melting, and consistent warming trend of last 20 years.

  • Major regional efforts by West Coast & East Coast states.

  • California the most systematic and comprehensive of all re control of emissions--automobiles, refrigerators, etc.

U s national developments 2005
U.S. National Developments, 2005 the U.S.

  • As expected, McCain-Lieberman Bill defeated in Senate, BUT major surprise in (largely symbolic) Sense of the Senate Res. White House strongly opposing but defeated.

  • Bush publicly acknowledging reality of GW, but U.S. not doing anything proactive about it.

  • Clear shift in arguments of skeptics--yes warming but magnitude within range of natural variability.

Iv so why am i now scared to death

IV. So Why Am I Now Scared To Death? the U.S.

Growing Evidence of “Slippery Slopes” and “Tipping Points”:Cumulative, Multiple Stresses and Changes Irreversible on Human Timescales

On thresholds and concentrations

On Thresholds and Concentrations the U.S.

Have we seriously underestimated both the magnitude & rate of change?

Targets thresholds communications janetos 2004
Targets, Thresholds, Communications (Janetos. 2004) the U.S.

Thinking About Targets and Thresholds

  • Different thresholds for different systems

  • Different thresholds for the same system in different places

  • Different ways of valuing by different actors

Questions posed at february 2005 u k meeting
Questions Posed at February 2005 U.K. Meeting the U.S.

  • Dangerous for whom?

  • Dangerous by when?

  • Can a global target represent dangers at the local level?

  • How much climate change is too much? (Tony Blair)

O neill and oppenheimer 2002 science vol 296 14 june
O the U.S.’Neill and Oppenheimer. 2002. SCIENCE, VOL. 296, (14 June)

  • Still a very influential source re targets via multiple thresholds: shut down of THC at 3°C over 100 yrs;

    WAIS disintegration at 2-4C; disintegration of Greenland ice sheet at 1C, along with widespread bleaching of coral reefs.

  • O & R recommending concentration target of 450ppmv even with uncertainties.

Alternative approaches
Alternative Approaches the U.S.

  • John Stone (Canadian Met Office) suggesting “global warming” not a good term since suggesting 1 variable & smooth change. More worried about discontinuous change, possibly rapid, high system risks, e.g., SLR, THC, acidification, change in ocean & terrestrial carbon sinks, etc. [YES! YES! YES!].

  • Lot of concern expressed by others re stability of sinks and consequences. Others also concerned about vulnerability of food systems & human health to climate change.

  • Meinhausen arguing that risk of very high warming cannot be completely excluded even for 350ppmv. Most likely value for climate sensitivity is 3.2°C. Stabilization at 550ppmv unlikely to meet a 2°C increase limit. Aim then not for stabilization but reversal--peak at 475ppmv & stabilize at 400. [YES again!! Why this current focus on 2.5-2.7C as most likely value for CS??].

But consider

  • At 380ppmv enormous increase in surface & sub-surface heat in ocean [14.7 x 1022J.Levitus et al., 2000,2005] & significant decreases in pH (Sabine et al., 2004, Feely et al. 2004)..

  • Both combine to dislocate marine ecosystems at almost all trophic levels & combine again with overfishing to deliver a triple whammy of multiple stresses.

  • Recent indications that both the oceanic (Feely et al., 2005) & terrestrial (Fung et al., 2005) carbon sinks slowing down rate of uptake. Under what conditions will large sinks become large sources over what timescales? And corals at great risk even < 1°C.

  • If uptake slows, then projections of maximum temperature increases by 2100 significantly understated.

  • Clearly doubling cannot be a sensible standard. Do we then have to keep ratcheting down over the next 200 years to a level again <300ppmv??

In addition

  • Re glacier disintegration, Hansen (2005) poses & explores the question whether anthropogenic GW can cause ice-sheet melting measured in meters on timescale of centuries. The dynamics seem to be more than plausible.

  • Re increases in hurricane intensity (not frequency), suggestive recent work by Emmanuel (2005) appears to establish positive correlation with tropical SST’s.

  • Impacts of both of above combined mean greater hazards for growing global coastal populations and higher destructive potential. [>30 mega-cities (>8 million people), most in Asia, projected by 2050).

But consider further

  • BAU facilitating econ. devel. for both AIC’s & LDC’s to 2100, but at a price of concentration levels above 560ppmv with further long term GW commitment.

  • And world pop. growth projected to stabilize at ~ 9 billion, most of which in LDC’s.

  • Does a strategy of severely constraining fossil fuel emissions over the long term condemn an even larger no. of people in LDC’s to continued poverty? (See Dyson 2005).

  • But not doing so also condemns them to pay the highest price that nature will extract.(See IPCC/TAR, Vol. II, 2001).

  • And what of our obligations to future generations?

Distributional issues
Distributional Issues the U.S.

Source: Cain, Hansen, et al. 2004

Distributional issues cont d
Distributional Issues, cont’d. the U.S.

Source:Cain, Hansen et al. 2004

Distributional issues cont d1
Distributional Issues, cont’d. the U.S.

Source: Cain, Hansen, et al .2004