Understanding Climate Risk

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Archive for the ‘Development’ Category

Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2012

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The Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2nd Edition, released today, reveals that climate change has already held back global development and inaction is a leading global cause of death. Harm is most acute for poor and vulnerable groups but no country is spared either the costs of inaction or the benefits of an alternative path.

Key findings include estimates that carbon-intensive economies and associated climate change are responsible for five million deaths a year, 90 per cent of them related to air pollution, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

“Failure to act on climate change already costs the world economy 1.6 per cent of global GDP amounting to $US1.2 trillion ($A1.16 trillion) in forgone prosperity a year,” said the report, produced by the DARA research centre and released at the Asia Society in New York.

In addition, “rapidly escalating temperatures and carbon-related pollution will double costs to 3.2 per cent of world GDP by 2030.”

According to the report, “unprecedented harm” is being inflicted on humanity.

However, tackling climate change’s causes would bring “significant economic benefits for world, major economies and poor nations alike,” the report said.

The report was published by DARA, and compiled by the World Vulnerability Forum. 45 Mb download of the entire report is here and the page where parts of the report can be downloaded is here – data can be downloaded as well.

It contains complex information and graphics, so is not easy to decipher. Hopefully, I’ll have time to digest the main points and summarise them here. Hat-tip Rob Gell.


Food Security and Climate Change

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An excellent briefing from Paul Rogers of the Oxford Research Group on food security and climate change is updating the current global  situation with respect to recent climate events (Hat tip to Jamie Doughney). I’ll reproduce it below after making a few comments.

Most of the briefing concentrates on the conditions of the 1974 food crisis to add a historical perspective. Globally, the US and North America is in the second year of drought, looking at greatly reduced maize production and other other crops. The southwest Indian monsoon is somewhat late and currently at 17% below the 50-year average after a poor year last year. The Horn of Africa is in a delicate recovery stage after last year’s disaster, and efforts to build resilience in the region are ongoing. A recent report from scientists at the UK’s Met Office and the USA’s National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the number of below average rainy seasons in East Africa could have been attributable to warming in the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans.

Rogers states that economic growth has been patchy, so that the proportion of people under food stress has not changed greatly since the 1970s. This time around though, he nominates climate change as making a significant contribution to that stress. I agree. One part of that is the asymmetric impact of warming on land affecting drier regions. This is pretty well known. The other is that he suggests climate change is accelerating:

The loss of Arctic sea in recent summers has exceeded forecasts using climate modelling and some recent events have been startling in their intensity, including the extent of the thawing of surface layers of the Greenland ice cap during the early part of July.

This is because climate change is strongly non-linear, and there is increasing evidence that the world, or at least much of the  northern hemisphere, is in a warming episode similar to that experienced in 1997-98. The idea that extremes should change gradually on a smoothly changing mean climate is seriously wrong, and if the world continues to adapt based on that assumption, millions of people will continue to be at risk through insufficient adaptation efforts.

I’m champing at the bit to get back to this research because I use different methods to those of mainstream climate science (but also have a truckload of other work to do). However, both lines of research are pointing to a strong climate change signal in recent extreme events, thereby increasing scientific confidence in its conclusions.

Rogers’ briefing is reproduced below.

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PUP (Planet Under Pressure 2012) Statement

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The Planet Under Pressure 2012 Conference has just finished in London and released a statement as these things are wont to do. The conference itself is a biggie and is setting out the science (in a broad sense)  in the run-up to the UN Rio+20 conference. It was  co-convened by Lidia Brito and Australia’s own Mark Stafford-Smith and sponsored by the big international research collaborations IGBP, Diversitas, IHDP, WCRP and ICSU.  The recommendations in the statement have been passed onto the D-G of the UN Ban Ki-Moon who has agreed to take them on board.

Before commenting on the statement, I’ll do a gap assessment. Instead of seeing who was present – who was absent? Present were over 3,000 attendees and many more on-line.  The peak global change research organisations were represented. The patrons of the conference were mostly blokes and mostly western, despite a very different mix of interested parties at the ground level. The supporter of the conference included scientific, aid and development organisations. So development interests, gender, poverty and other issues straddling society and environment were present. Absent were the Davos types, miners, OECD, IMF. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

March 31, 2012 at 11:57 am

Naomi Klein: Capitalism vs climate

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Naomi Klein writing in The Nation (November 28) has said out loud what many think but won’t repeat in public:

The deniers did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system.

In a 10,000 word essay, she covers the last Heartlands conference, recent American polling on climate change, the rejection of climate science by the mainstream Republican Party and its supporters, the Republican presidential primaries, the lack of a solid narrative in progressive politics to articulate a vision to transform to an equitable, low carbon economy, the rush to invest in oil shale, coal seam gas and coal developments, and the recent emergence of occupy X as a broad-based source of discontent with the status quo. Read the rest of this entry »

75 Gigatonnes and counting

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Late last year Andrew Revkin of the New York Times blog DotEarth got in touch with a few people to ask their view of Australia’s carbon legislation. He followed up with a question asking whether the legislation was any good if Australia’s large coal exports weren’t included. Can the  US and Australia slake China’s coal thirst and still claim CO2 progress? He got views both pro and con. I ended up writing a post that was glass half  empty – glass half full.

One of the most vocal critics of the domestic policy was Guy Pearse, author of Quarry Vision and High and Dry, an essay and book about the relationship between Australia’s mining industry, politics, and climate policy. I was interested in how much CO2 Australia was likely to export, but had come up high and dry. So I asked Guy what the numbers were. Coincidently he was putting together estimates for current and future projects for a talk at the Woodford Folk Festival, so I offered to have a look at the temperature and CO2 budget effects. Guy’s estimate is that Australia will export about 75 Gigatonnes CO2 conservatively between now and 2050.  That’s 10% of the total budget estimated by the German agency WBGU (pdf) that can be emitted from 2008 to give a 2 in 3 chance of avoiding 2°C.

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Written by Roger Jones

January 6, 2012 at 1:12 am

IPCC SREX released

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The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) for the IPCC Special Report Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) was released late last night our time. The final plenary was held in Kampala Uganda, finishing on the 17th before the release yesterday. As usual, it is gone through line by line by IPCC country member representatives and the co-ordinating lead authors to craft a document that contains key policy messages while retaining true to the science in the report.

The SPM is complex and has already been given a number of interpretations in the press. The ABC news says extreme weather to worsen with climate change. The Australian focuses on the uncertainty Climate change effects unknown: IPCC report. A quick survey of Google news suggests that most outlets are focusing on extremes to worsen, or the qualified some extremes to worsen.

The Australian is different. Its header says:

GREAT uncertainty remains about how much of an impact climate change will have on future extreme weather events, the world’s leading climate scientists have found.

While there has been an increase in warm days and a decrease in cold nights, the likely impact on future weather events would not be evident for decades because of natural variability, the scientists say in a key review prepared for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This completely ignores the thrust of the report, which is to address the risks of extreme climate-related events and disasters and manage changing risk through adaptation. The great value of the report is not so much in its headline findings, which are complex but are in bringing the climate, adaptation and disaster communities together. These two communities had a hard time of it in the writing of the report bringing together different language, concepts, views of risk and methods of assessing vulnerability and adaptation. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

November 19, 2011 at 7:59 pm