Friday, January 24, 2014

Is 2 deg C the Most Effective Goal to Control Climate Warming?

The difficult, the dangerous and the catastrophic:Managing the spectrum of climate risks (14 page pdf, Amy L. Luers, Leonard S. Sklar, Earth’s Future, Nov. 17, 2013)

Today we review an article that examines the challenges that exist with adopting a single goal for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions- which currently has been accepted as a 2C warming of the global surface tenmperature. The authors point out that this single goal is seen as a far off line separating the difficult from the catastrophic, thus becoming an obstacle because of the need to define “catastrophic” according to the needs and interests of individual and diverse countries. It also puts the focus mainly or solely on the mitigation of emissions without a balancing effort to adapt to the coming climate changes which may become the most important aspect. A different framework is presented which presents the major impacts of climate change (which vary from one user to another with differing conditions and interests and varying interpretations of risk ) from the present to the far future as one axis and the degree of impact as a second axis while adaptation and mitigation are presented with the same axes. This risk management framework may be applied to any one country or situation- or to the world at large. mitigation vs adaptation  

Key Quotes:

“the focus on a single target has now become an obstacle because it reinforces three key problems:
  • it frames climate change as a distant abstract threat - “This focus is amplified by a popular narrative that the threshold is a ‘red line’ separating difficult impacts from the truly catastrophic”
  • it impedes integration of mitigation and adaptation - “the single dangerous threshold has impeded integration of efforts to reduce the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gasses (mitigation) with efforts to adjust to the changing climate (adaptation), because it has focused the climate discourse narrowly on policies and technical solutions for reducing emissions to greenhouse gases.”
  • it fails to recognize the diversity of values and risk perceptions of people around the globe - “One stakeholder may value species threatened with extinction more than another stakeholder, and thus judge their loss as more severe. Stakeholders also perceive the likelihood of future events differently, especially when scientific estimates of the probability have large uncertainties”
“The substantial uncertainty about what will happen if temperatures rise by2°C ……combined with the diversity of stakeholder priorities, has contributed to the “climate change collective action problem,” in which countries would be better off collectively reducing emissions but perceived self‐interest compels them to continue emitting at high levels “

“we present a climate risk space defined by the severity of potential impacts and the time scale over which impacts may be realized with rising temperatures.”

“The single dangerous threshold focuses on the upper right portion of this space. Yet the differing values and risk perceptions of global society require consideration of the full space.”

“Because of the warming already committed to by past and present emissions, and the inertia of our biophysical and social systems, mitigation policies implemented today will not have a significant influence on the climate for decades “
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