Science

Updated Climate Change 101 Series Released

Kicking off the new year, we released an update of its Climate Change 101 series. Climate Change 101: Understanding and Responding to Global Climate Change is made up of brief reports on climate science and impacts; adaptation measures; technological and business solutions; and international, U.S Federal, State, and local action. Last released in January of 2009, the updated reports highlight the significance of the global negotiations, climate-related national security risks, local efforts to address climate change, the most recent predictions on global temperature changes, and more.

Updated Website, Climate Change 101 Series Deliver Credible Information to Advance Climate Action

Press Release
March 3, 2011

Contact: Rebecca Matulka, 703-516-4146

 

WEBSITE, SERIES DELIVER CREDIBLE INFORMATION TO ADVANCE CLIMATE ACTION
Pew Center Updates Website and Climate Change 101 Series

WASHINGTON, DC – Public opinion continues to be divided on climate change and its causes, and as a result, public access to credible, digestible information about climate change is more critical than ever. To help advance a constructive dialogue that leads to climate action, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change refreshed its website and updated its landmark Climate Change 101 report series.

“Now more than ever, the public needs straight answers about climate change,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “The Pew Center is continuing its work to demystify the issue, and our updated website and report series present straightforward and useful climate change information.”

With a fresh new design and easy-to-navigate organization, the Pew Center’s website provides access to the center’s first-rate analyses and publications of key climate issues. One new website feature is the publications library, which allows users to search for and order free copies of Pew Center reports. The website puts the Center’s Climate Compass blog front and center, and presents timely ideas and insights from science and policy experts on topics critical to the climate debate.

The fast-reading Climate Change 101: Understanding and Responding to Global Climate Change includes nine brief reports and helps inform the climate dialogue by providing a reliable and understandable introduction to global climate change. The updated reports highlight the significance of the global negotiations, climate-related national security risks, local efforts to address climate change, the most recent predictions on global temperature changes, and more.

For more information about global climate change and the activities of the Pew Center, visit www.c2es.org.

# # #

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established in May 1998 as a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Sixth Independent Investigation Clears "Climategate" Scientists

In late 2009, more than 1,000 emails belonging to the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom were disclosed without authorization by an unknown party. The contents of a relatively small number of the email messages became the basis for the controversy commonly known as “Climategate.”

Prior to any investigations, my initial read of the emails found some unbecoming behavior by a few individual scientists but no indication of scientific misconduct, like hiding data or suppressing scientific debate.

In the course of 2010, five investigations—three in the U.K. and two in the United States—cleared scientists working for the CRU and an American scientist working at Penn State University of any scientific wrongdoing.

Hearing on the Energy Tax Prevention Act: Truth vs. Fiction

Last Wednesday’s House Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing on the Energy Tax Prevention Act lived up to its billing as being the first clash between the new majority and minority on the committee. For eight hours, the Members opposing regulation argued that EPA was overstepping its authority in regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They asserted that such action would kill jobs and harm the economy. Members supporting regulations argued that EPA is required to act and is doing so in the interest of public health.

The Energy Tax Prevention Act, a draft proposal jointly released by Rep. Upton (R-MI), Rep. Whitfield (R-KY), and Sen. Inhofe (R-OK), would prevent EPA from regulating GHGs, remove GHGs from the Clean Air Act, and specifically repeal all actions related to climate change, including the scientific Endangerment Finding, the Tailoring RuleNew Source Review regulations, reporting requirements for GHG emissions, and proposed New Source Performance Standards. The lone exemption is the Clean Car rule, which would remain untouched.

Climate & Energy Cutbacks Pose Costly Impacts

It’s instructive to look at the funding levels recently proposed by the House leadership for the remainder of this fiscal year in light of the eight hour hearing on climate change held last week before the House Energy and Power subcommittee. 

At the risk of oversimplification, the key messages from the Members who organized the hearing were that the science behind and risks associated with climate change are uncertain, EPA regulations will impose substantial costs and result in job losses, and U.S. industry needs regulatory certainty in order to invest in new facilities here in the United States.

Degrees of Risk: Defining a Risk Management Framework for Climate Security

February 2011

By E3G

Authors: Nick Mabey, Jay Gulledge, Bernard Finel and Katherine Silverthorne

Download the Executive summary (pdf)

Download this report (pdf)

Press Release

  

Blog Post

Video Briefing

  

 

Executive Summary:

There is a growing consensus in the security community that climate change presents significant risks to the delivery of national, regional and global security goals. Through sea level rise, shortages of food and water and severe weather events, climate change will have significant impacts on all countries, which in turn could affect their social stability and economic security. In the coming decades such impacts will increase the likelihood of conflict in fragile countries and regions. Peaceful management of even moderate climatic changes will require investment in increased resilience in national and international security and governance systems.

Security analysis has mainly examined the implications of climate change over the coming two decades. These are largely unavoidable under all plausible greenhouse gas emissions reduction scenarios, given the inertia in energy infrastructure and the global climate system. However, if immediate action is not taken to reduce the steady rise in global emissions, there will be a rapid increase in the risk of far more severe impacts, resulting in security challenges that are much more significant than current estimates indicate.

But climate change is not currently well-managed. Agreements at the most recent UN climate negotiations in Cancun in 2010 included a goal of limiting climate change to, at most, a 2°C average global temperature rise. However, the emissions reductions pledged by countries at the same conference would actually result in a 50 percent chance of global temperatures rising by 3-4°C. Fragile areas such as Southern Africa could experience 50 percent more warming than the global rate. If countries failed to deliver on their emissions pledges, or if we have underestimated climate sensitivity, increases of up to 7°C are also possible. But the risks are not symmetrical. There is a ‘long tail’ on the probability distribution which makes more severe outcomes much more likely than more benign ones. In addition, above 3°C of warming the probability of breaching thresholds for “tipping elements” in the climate system rises sharply. For example, events such as a major die-back of the Amazon rain forest or release of methane from the Arctic tundra would further increase global warming levels.

E3G is an independent not-for-profit organization that works to accelerate the global transition to sustainable development. Visit E3G's website at www.e3g.org

Jay Gulledge
0

Take a page from the military: Risk management could reboot climate change debate

Co-authored by Nick Mabey and originally appeared in The Hill's Congress blog

Once a serious issue becomes politicized and turns into a virtual weapon in the culture wars, it can seem impossible to move beyond partisan bickering and identify a reasonable and responsible course of action. But as those whose job is protecting national security have shown us time and again, it is important to chart a path forward --despite political battles-- when a situation is dangerous and the future is in doubt.


Defending the nation routinely requires making weighty decisions despite uncertainty, incomplete information, and limited resources. To do its job in these difficult situations, the military routinely uses an approach known as risk management. Risk management provides a systematic way to consider threats and vulnerabilities, “knowns and unknowns”, and to take steps to minimize risk.

Security Experts Advance New Frame for Climate-Energy Debate

Press Release                                        
February 10, 2011

Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, 703-516-4146

Security Experts Advance New Frame for Climate-Energy Debate
Pew Center Scientist Co-Authors E3G Study on Risk Management Strategy for Climate Change

WASHINGTON, D.C.– An approach familiar to the national security community and the military could offer a common-sense approach to tackle climate and energy policy, according to a new report issued today.

Degrees of Risk: Defining a Risk Management Framework for Climate Security, produced by the non-profit organization E3G, is the result of a series of closed-door meetings with national and international security, intelligence, and defense officials. The report, co-authored by Jay Gulledge of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, recommends using a risk management approach to break logjams and tackle climate change.

“The scientific evidence that the climate is likely to change significantly in the next few decades is far more solid than the evidence that usually underpins security decisions in other areas, like nuclear proliferation or the actions of rogue states,” said Gulledge, who directs the Pew Center’s Science and Impacts Program and is a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “Scientific uncertainty is not a state of unknowing. It is quantitative information that should be used to make risk management decisions, and this is especially true for climate change.”

“The risk-management approach makes sense even if you have questions about the effects of climate change,” said E3G Chief Executive Nick Mabey. “It comes down to how much risk are we willing to take?”

Risk management is an approach that must be tailored by decision-makers, but as a starting point, Degrees of Risk proposes a three-tier approach to planning:

  • Aim to stay below 2° C (3.6 °F) of warming,which is the target committed to by the world’s major economies
  • Build and budget assuming 3-4° C (5.4-7.2° F) of warming,which is what current international agreements would allow
  • Make contingency plans for 5-7° C (9-12.6° F) of warming, which remains a real possibility, in part because international agreements are not binding

Within that framework, Degrees of Risk recommends specific steps for launching a risk management strategy, ranging from independent national climate security risk assessments, to explicit and sufficient goal-setting by countries, to a transparent and resilient system for international cooperation on climate change.

The report’s authors are:

  • E3G Chief Executive Nick Mabey, who as senior advisor in the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit led work on energy, climate change, and countries at risk of instability.
  • Jay Gulledge, PhD, Director, Science and Impacts Program, Pew  Center on Global Climate Change; and Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security 
  • Bernard I. Finel, Senior Fellow, American Security Project. He has taught national security strategy at the National War College and served as executive director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University.
  • Katherine Silverthorne, program lead on U.S. Climate Change, heads the Climate Security Program at E3G.

E3G is an independent not-for-profit organization that works to accelerate the global transition to sustainable development.

The report can be accessed at http://www.c2es.org/publications/degrees-risk-defining-risk-management-framework-climate-security.

###

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established in May 1998 as a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Food & Climate Risks: Potential Consequences of Disruptions in Agricultural Productivity

Last week the British Government published a report on The Future of Food and Farming in which the role of a changing climate is appropriately highlighted as a major impediment to maintaining consistent and predictable food supplies for the world’s growing population. The timing of this report is excellent; food prices have been rising recently (see chart) and have caused significant hardship for some of the most globally vulnerable populations. These vulnerable populations live in some of the most politically unstable regions, and continued food inflation could exacerbate existing social and economic issues with potentially unpredictable consequences.

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Unfortunately as the global climate changes and agricultural productivity shifts, these sort of price rises in basic foods are likely to become more commonplace for the economically sensitive populations in these politically unstable regions – like Southeast Asia, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. This is not to imply that recent increases in food prices were caused by climate change; it is not possible to attribute a single event such as this latest spike in food prices to the long-term trends we expect to experience from our changing climate. It is, however, instructive to identify that the sort of impacts that we expect from climate change can have serious social and political implications.

Recent work shows that several of the world's most important crops could be near climactic thresholds that will seriously impair agricultural yields.Several of these crops (like corn, rice, soybeans and wheat - the source of 75% of global calorie consumption) appear to be sensitive to increases in temperature variation, especially to the occurrence of a particularly hot day in the middle of the growing season. Increases in temperature variation and the prevalence of what are historically unusually hot days is exactly what our best models of the future climate predict. Even if global yields are able to remain fairly constant due to human adaptation to the shifting regions of agricultural productivity (e.g., northward from the U.S. Plains to Canada and Siberia), the temporary economic dislocation will certainly be difficult for today's farmers and for the people who are dependent on the food that they produce.

Other research suggests that increasing temperatures could cause major difficulties for farmers in Southeast Asia who produce a large fraction of global rice output, an important staple in the region. This research recognizes that the human body simply cannot perform the hard manual labor (like that needed to tend to rice paddies) at the temperatures climate models predict. By 2050, these temperatures are expected to be commonplace for the region – potentially resulting in a huge loss of agricultural output.

While agricultural contributions to overall GDP in the rich world may seem relatively minor, it is important to remember that GDP is only a measure of economic activity and not a measure of well-being. The well-being that food provides is not necessarily proportionate to its market price. A common example used to illustrate this point is a comparison of the price of diamonds to the price of water. Water is much less expensive but is an absolute necessity. Staple foods are similar. If the price of diamonds increases, people (in aggregate) can choose to purchase less. If the price of water or food increases however, there is little flexibility (elasticity, in economic terms) in terms of how much less people can choose to buy.  

If food prices rise in the rich world, consumers will spend more of their income on food and forgo other consumption options. In developing nations this trade-off may not be possible – creating a situation where political unrest could become more likely. According to World Bank data, over 50% of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. Obviously for these populations, even small increases in the prices of staples can cause real difficulties since a large fraction of their income is already spent on food. Some of the regions that have the highest concentrations of the global poor are also the regions that tend to be among the most politically volatile. Though it is unlikely that food prices would directly cause conflict or instability in these regions, it is more likely that the stress caused by higher (or more volatile) food prices will worsen existing socio-economic pressures. 

The resulting consequences will be difficult to predict; and by their nature will create difficulties in creating an effective adaptive response. Though it will likely never be clear which future conflicts could have been avoided in the absence of climate change, we do know that proactive policy effort taken now can reduce the eventual impact of future food price pressures.

Russell Meyer is the Senior Fellow for Economics and Policy

Extreme Weather

Image: 
Text: 
With recent extreme weather events, many people are asking about the connection between single events and climate change. Our new extreme weather web page explains the connection between these events and climate change and explains how they teach us about our individual and societal vulnerabilities and the real costs of climate change.
Text Location: 
Bottom
Syndicate content