Shaping climate-resilient development – A framework for decision-making
Climate adaptation is an urgent priority for the custodians of national and local economies, such as finance ministers and mayors. Such decision-makers ask: What is the potential climate-related loss to our economies and societies over the coming decades? How much of that loss can we avert, with what measures? What investment will be required to fund those measures – and will the benefits of that investment outweigh the costs?
The aim of this report is to provide decision-makers with a systematic way of answering these questions. Focusing specifically on the economic aspects of adaptation, it outlines a fact-based risk management approach that national and local leaders can use to understand the impact of climate on their economies – and identify actions to minimize that impact at the lowest cost to society.
GRL: Detecting the effect of climate change on Canadian forest fires Geophysical Research Letters, VOL. 31, L18211, doi:10.1029/ (pdf)
The area burned by forest fires in Canada has increased over the past four decades, at the same time as summer season temperatures have warmed. Here we use output from a coupled climate model to demonstrate that human emissions of greenhouse gases and sulfate aerosol have made a detectable contribution to this warming. We further show that human-induced climate change has had a detectable influence on the area burned by forest fire in Canada over recent decades. This increase in area burned is likely to have important implications for terrestrial emissions of carbon dioxide and for forest ecosystems.
U.S. Global Change Research Program: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States
This web page will introduce and lead you through the content of the most comprehensive and authoritative report of its kind. The report summarizes the science and the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. It focuses on climate change impacts in different regions of the U.S. and on various aspects of society and the economy such as energy, water, agriculture, and health. It’s also a report written in plain language, with the goal of better informing public and private decision making at all levels.
In addition to discussing the impacts of climate change in the U.S., the report also highlights the choices we face in response to human-induced climate change. It is clear that impacts in the United States are already occurring and are projected to increase in the future, particularly if the concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues to rise. So, choices about how we manage greenhouse gas emissions will have far-reaching consequences for climate change impacts. Similarly, there are choices to be made about adaptation strategies than can help to reduce or avoid some of the undesirable impacts of climate change. This report provides many of the scientific underpinnings for effective decisions to be made – at the national and at the regional level.
Key Findings from the USGCRP report Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States (13MB pdf)
1. Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.
2. Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow.
3. Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase.
4. Climate change will stress water resources.
5. Crop and livestock production will be increasingly challenged.
6. Coastal areas are at increasing risk from sea-level rise and storm surge.
7. Risks to human health will increase.
8. Climate change will interact with many social and environmental stresses.
9. Thresholds will be crossed, leading to large changes in climate and ecosystems.
10. Future climate change and its impacts depend on choices made today.
The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis (pdf, 3.3 MB)
The Geneva-based “Global Humanitarian Forum” (no longer operating) has published a comprehensive report documenting the global impact of climate change on human society today.
Climate Change is here. It has a human face. This report details the silent crisis occurring around the world today as a result of a global climate change. It is a comprehensive account of the key impacts of climate change on human society. Long regarded as a distant, environmental or future problem, climate change is already today a major constraint on all human efforts. It has been creeping up on the world for years, doing its deadly work in the dark by aggravating a host of other major problems affecting society, such as malnutrition, malaria and poverty. This report aims at breaking the silent suffering of millions. Its findings indicate that the impacts of climate change are each year responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths with hundreds of millions of lives affected. Climate change is a serious threat to close to three quarters of the world population. Half a billion people are at extreme risk. Worst affected are the world´s poorest groups, who lack any responsibility for causing climate change.
Climate change: The biggest global-health threat of the 21st century
Click on the link above to see links to the full report, including a video.
14 May 2009 – A major report on managing the health effects of climate change, launched jointly by ‘The Lancet’ and UCL today, says that climate change is the biggest global-health threat of the 21st century.
Lead author Professor Anthony Costello (UCL Institute for Global Health) says that failure to act will result in an intergenerational injustice, with our children and grandchildren scorning our generation for ignoring the climate change threat – with moral outrage similar to how we today look back on those who brought in and did nothing to stop slavery.
‘Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change’ is the work of UCL academics from many disciplines across the university – including health, anthropology, geography, engineering, economics, law and philosophy. Professor Costello says that this climate-change project brought down the traditional interdisciplinary barriers common at all universities, and hopes it could act as a model for global governance bodies to work together.
The UCL team focused on key areas: patterns of disease and mortality, food security, water and sanitation, shelter and human settlements, extreme events, and population migration.
Professor Costello says: “The big message of this report is that climate change is a health issue affecting billions of people, not just an environmental issue about polar bears and deforestation. The impacts will be felt not just in the UK, but all around the world – and not just in some distant future but in our lifetimes and those of our children.”
Health Canada has published their promised climate change report and you can order it here. I have received the report which you can download as a single pdf file here (pdf, 11.8 MB). The report can be reproduced:
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Health, 2008
This publication may be reproduced without permission provided the source is fully acknowledged.
HC Pub.: 4038
Addressing the Health Impacts of Climate Change: Family Physicians are Key
Ontario College of Family Physicians (pdf)
The earth’s climate has changed, and will continue to change. The earth has warmed and global temperatures will continue to rise. This has led to complex changes in the climate, in Canada and across the world, that are expected to continue and escalate. The scientific evidence for this is sound and now widely accepted. The accumulation of human-made carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere is responsible for these changes (anthropogenic climate change). These changes have led to great concern among Canadians, and have generated political debate about how to address these problems.
Physicians and the healthcare sector in general have not been prominent in this debate, although it is clear that climate change will have significant adverse health impacts both in Canada and globally. This report is a review of the health effects from climate change, and a call to action for the medical community.
From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007 reflects the advances made in understanding Canada’s vulnerability to climate change during the past decade. Through a primarily regional approach, this assessment discusses current and future risks and opportunities that climate change presents to Canada, with a focus on human and managed systems. It is based on a critical analysis of existing knowledge, drawn from the published scientific and technical literature and from expert knowledge. The current state of understanding is presented, and key knowledge gaps are identified. Advances in understanding adaptation, as well as examples of recent and ongoing adaptation initiatives, are highlighted throughout the report.
Warming of the Indian Ocean threatens eastern and southern African food security but could be mitigated by agricultural development Since 1980, the number of undernourished people in eastern and southern Africa has more than doubled. … late 20th-century anthropogenic Indian Ocean warming has probably already produced societally dangerous climate change by creating drought and social disruption in some of the world’s most fragile food economies. … Investing in agricultural development can help mitigate climate change while decreasing rural poverty and vulnerability.
PNAS August 12, 2008 vol. 105 no. 32 11081-11086 – Full Text – PDF
Purdue study projects weakened monsoon season in South Asia 2009-02-26
The South Asian summer monsoon – critical to agriculture in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan – could be weakened and delayed due to rising temperatures in the future, according to a recent climate modeling study.
Noah Diffenbaugh, whose research group led the study, said the summer monsoon affects water resources, agriculture, economics, ecosystems and human health throughout South Asia.
“Almost half of the world’s population lives in areas affected by these monsoons, and even slight deviations from the normal monsoon pattern can have great impact,” said Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and interim director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. “Agricultural production, water availability and hydroelectric power generation could be substantially affected by delayed monsoon onset and reduced surface runoff. Alternatively, the model projects increases in precipitation over some areas, including Bangladesh, which could exacerbate seasonal flood risks.”
We used a high-resolution nested climate modeling system to investigate the response of South Asian summer monsoon dynamics to anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gas concentrations. The simulated dynamical features of the summer monsoon compared well with reanalysis data and observations. Further, we found that enhanced greenhouse forcing resulted in overall suppression of summer precipitation, a delay in monsoon onset, and an increase in the occurrence of monsoon break periods. Weakening of the large-scale monsoon flow and suppression of the dominant intraseasonal oscillatory modes were instrumental in the overall weakening of the South Asian summer monsoon. Such changes in monsoon dynamics could have substantial impacts by decreasing summer precipitation in key areas of South Asia. Citation: Ashfaq, M., Y. Shi, W.-w. Tung, R. J. Trapp, X. Gao, J. S. Pal, and N. S. Diffenbaugh (2009), Suppression of south Asian summer monsoon precipitation in the 21st century, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L01704, doi:10.1029/2008GL036500.
Water conservation in irrigation can increase water use (PDF)
Climate change, water supply limits, and continued population growth have intensified the search for measures to conserve water in irrigated agriculture, the world’s largest water user. Policy measures that encourage adoption of water-conserving irrigation technologies are widely believed to make more water available for cities and the environment. … Adoption of more efficient irrigation technologies reduces valuable return flows and limits aquifer recharge. Policies aimed at reducing water applications can actually increase water depletions. Achieving real water savings requires designing institutional, technical, and accounting measures that accurately track and economically reward reduced water depletions. Conservation programs that target reduced water diversions or applications provide no guarantee of saving water.
PNAS November 17, 2008 vol. 105 no. 47 18215–18220 – PDF
Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, The Royal Society 2005, ISBN 0 85403 617 2
The oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and this is causing chemical changes by making them more acidic (that is, decreasing the pH of the oceans). In the past 200 years the oceans have absorbed approximately half of the CO2 produced by fossil fuel burning and cement production. Calculations based on measurements of the surface oceans and our knowledge of ocean chemistry indicate that this uptake of CO2 has led to a reduction of the pH of surface seawater of 0.1 units, equivalent to a 30% increase in the concentration of hydrogen ions.
If global emissions of CO2 from human activities continue to rise on current trends then the average pH of the oceans could fall by 0.5 units (equivalent to a three fold increase in the concentration of hydrogen ions) by the year 2100. This pH is probably lower than has been experienced for hundreds of millennia and, critically, this rate of change is probably one hundred times greater than at any time over this period. The scale of the changes may vary regionally, which will affect the magnitude of the biological effects.
From Cameron McNaughton: Soot on Snow (Click for pdf)
Recent reductions in sea ice thickness, the disintegration of Arctic and Antarctic iceshelves, and widespread melting of permanent snow and ice has been attributed to rising global temperature; the consequence of humanity releasing heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere. However, the burning of fossil fuels releases not only greenhouse gases, but also particulate matter or aerosols. Microscopic “soot” aerosol are ~0.01 – 0.1 μm in diameter and contain light absorbing “black carbon”. Since aerosol are the “seeds” upon which cloud droplets and ice crystals form, these light absorbing aerosol are incorporated into rain and snow and deposited to the Earth’s surface. When they fall onto sea-ice, ice caps, and glaciers, these microscopic soot particles absorb a small percentage of the Earth’s incoming solar radiation and enhance melting. Thus two independent effects, rising temperature and the deposition of soot, which have the same cause, the combustion of fossil fuels, are altering the Earth’s hydrological cycle by accelerating the melting of the Earth’s permanent snow and ice.
What’s at Stake – Highlights several of Earth’s beautiful landscapes whose permanent snow and ice are threatened by climate change. As you view these images, please ask yourself, “How will these ecosystems change as a result of our action, or inaction?”
Natural Processes – Contains photographs of naturally occurring boreal forest fires, which release both greenhouse gases and soot to the atmosphere. Created and extinguished by ordinary weather patterns, boreal forest fires in Canada and Siberia are usually intense, but short-lived, and represent a natural cycle of forest regeneration.
Man’s Influence – Includes photographs of atmospheric pollution, which can be transported long-range to locations where there is little or no local pollution, e.g. the high Arctic. Unless suitable energy alternatives can be found, carbon based fuels will continue to produce greenhouses gases and light-absorbing black carbon.
About the Photographer and the Photographs
Dr. Cameron S. McNaughton is an Assistant Researcher at the University of Hawaii. During and after his PhD he has logged more than 700 hours aboard NASA and NSF research aircraft as a flight scientist specializing in-situ measurements of the microphysical, optical, and chemical properties of atmospheric aerosols. The direct and indirect effects of aerosol on climate were identified by both the 2001 and 2007 IPCC reports as the single largest source of uncertainty in humanity’s efforts to model the Earth’s radiation balance. These photographs were taken during a series of international scientific experiments generously funded by the following organizations.
Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide : Hansen et al, 1981
The global temperature rose by 0.2°C between the middle 1960’s and 1980, yielding a warming of 0.4°C in the past century. This temperature increase is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect due to measured increases of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Variations of volcanic aerosols and possibly solar luminosity appear to be primary causes of observed fluctuations about the mean trend of increasing temperature. It is shown that the anthropogenic carbon dioxide warming should emerge from the noise level of natural climate variability by the end of the century, and there is a high probability of warming in the 1980’s. Potential effects on climate in the 21st century include the creation of drought-prone regions in North America and central Asia as part of a shifting of climatic zones, erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet with a consequent worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage.
U.S. Climate Change Science Program: Abrupt Climate Change , Dec. 2008 report to the President and Congress
This report considers progress in understanding four types of abrupt change in the paleoclimatic record that stand out as being so rapid and large in their impact that if they were to recur, they would pose clear risks to society in terms of our ability to adapt: (1) rapid change in glaciers, ice sheets, and hence sea level; (2) widespread and sustained changes to the hydrologic cycle; (3) abrupt change in the northward flow of warm, salty water in the upper layers of the Atlantic Ocean associated with the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC); and (4) rapid release to the atmosphere of methane trapped in permafrost and on continental margins.
At first global warming sounded like a good idea, especially to people in Northern climes. But starting in the 1960s, scientists recognized long-range problems, concentrating at first on sea-level rise and a threat to food supplies. New items were gradually added to the list, ranging from the degradation of ecosystems to threats to human health. Experts in fields from forestry to economics, even national security experts, pitched in to assess the range of possible consequences. It was impossible to make solid predictions given the complexity of the global system, the differences from one region to another, and the ways human society itself might try to adapt to the changes. But by the start of the 21st century, it was clear that climate change would bring serious harm to many regions — some more than others. Indeed many kinds of damage were already beginning to appear.
U.S. Climate Change Science Program:
Analyses of the Effects of Global Change on Human Health and Welfare and Human Systems , July 2008 (PDF)
Climate change, interacting with changes in land use and demographics, will affect important human dimensions in the United States, especially those related to human health, settlements and welfare. The challenges presented by population growth, an aging population, migration patterns, and urban and coastal development will be affected by changes in temperature, precipitation, and extreme climate-related events. In the future, with continued global warming, heat waves and heavy downpours are very likely to further increase in frequency and intensity. Cold days and cold nights are very likely to become much less frequent over North America. Substantial areas of North America are likely to have more frequent droughts of greater severity. Hurricane wind speeds, rainfall intensity, and storm surge levels are likely to increase. Other changes include measurable sea-level rise and increases in the occurrence of coastal and riverine flooding. The United States is certainly capable of adapting to the collective impacts of climate change. However, there will still be certain individuals and locations where the adaptive capacity is less and these individuals and their communities will be disproportionally impacted by climate change.
This report – the Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.6 (SAP 4.6) – focuses on impacts of global climate change, especially impacts on three broad dimensions of the human condition: human health, human settlements, and human welfare. The SAP 4.6 has been prepared by a team of experts from academia, government, and the private sector in response to the mandate of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program’s Strategic Plan (2003). The assessment examines potential impacts of climate change on human society, opportunities for adaptation, and associated recommendations for addressing data gaps and near- and long-term research goals.
During the first two weeks of December of 2008 in Poznan, Poland, international negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) considered various proposals for replacing the Kyoto Protocol with a new climate change regime. This was done because the Kyoto Protocol ends by its own terms in 2012. …
Although little progress was made in Poznan on the architecture of a new second commitment period, various proposals were considered by the international community in discussions about a vision statement to guide future negotiations and in Poznan side-events sponsored by governments and NGOs. …
In the next few months, ClimateEthics.org will post ethical analyses of issues raised by specific proposed climate change frameworks being considered to replace the Kyoto Protocol. In doing this analysis, ClimateEthics.org will focus on proposals that are getting serious attention by the international community.
In summer 2003, more than 52,000 Europeans died from heat-related ills, 30,000 in France alone, during an unrelenting heat wave that featured temperatures 6.5 degrees Fahrenheit (3.6 degrees Celsius) higher than normal. Crops also suffered, with corn production down by 30 percent and wheat by 21 percent, among other foodstuffs. And a similar hot spell in Ukraine in 1972 led to a wheat shortage that prompted that staple’s prices to more than triple by 1974. But even without record-breaking heat, recent years have seen food riots from Bangladesh to Haiti as world agriculture was pushed to the breaking point by a combination of greater demand for food, biofuels and poor weather.
Such disruptions in the world’s food supply may become even more the norm by the end of this century, according to a new analysis published today in Science. Climate modeler David Battisti of the University of Washington in Seattle and food security expert Rosamond Naylor of Stanford University used the results of 23 climate models to determine that there is a more than 90 percent chance—in other words, it is very likely—that the lowest growing season temperatures in the tropics and subtropics by the end of the century will be higher than the highest temperatures at present. …
PNAS 2009-02-03: Wildfire responses to abrupt climate change in North America doi: 10.1073/pnas.0808212106
It is widely accepted, based on data from the last few decades and on model simulations, that anthropogenic climate change will cause increased fire activity. However, less attention has been paid to the relationship between abrupt climate changes and heightened fire activity in the paleorecord. We use 35 charcoal and pollen records to assess how fire regimes in North America changed during the last glacial–interglacial transition (15 to 10 ka), a time of large and rapid climate changes. …
The timing of changes in fire is not coincident with changes in human population density or the timing of the extinction of the megafauna. Although these factors could have contributed to fire-regime changes at individual sites or at specific times, the charcoal data indicate an important role for climate, and particularly rapid climate change, in determining broad-scale levels of fire activity.
MIT News 2009-03-13: As planet warms, poor nations face economic chill
Climate change may widen gap between rich and poor, study finds
A rising tide is said to lift all boats. Rising global temperatures, however, may lead to increased disparities between rich and poor countries, according to a recent MIT economic analysis of the impact of climate change on growth.
After examining worldwide climate and economic data from 1950 to 2003, Benjamin A. Olken, associate professor in the Department of Economics, concludes that a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature in a given year reduces economic growth by an average of 1.1 percentage points in the world’s poor countries but has no measurable effect in rich countries.
Olken says his research suggests higher temperatures will be disproportionately bad for the economic growth of poor countries compared to rich countries. …
Rising temperatures may also have political consequences, the authors found. A one-degree rise in temperature in poor countries raises the likelihood of a so-called irregular leader transition (i.e., a coup) by 3.9 percentage points.
Olken acknowledges that the long-term impact of temperature change might be different from the short-term effect since countries may adapt to a particular climate over time. But his research found no such adaptation over a 10-year time horizon.
Should the future effects mirror recent history, world policy makers should be prepared for a widening gap between rich and poor countries as the globe continues to warm, he says.
SciAm 2009-02-27: Risks of Global Warming Rising: Is It Too Late to Reverse Course?
The negative impacts of climate change are beginning to appear–and we may soon cross a threshold of significant damage
The risk of catastrophic climate change is getting worse, according to a new study from scientists involved with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Threats—ranging from the destruction of coral reefs to more extreme weather events like hurricanes, droughts and floods—are becoming more likely at the temperature change already underway: as little as 1.8 degree Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) of warming in global average temperatures.
Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [United Nations (1992) Accessed February 9, 2009] commits signatory nations to stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that “would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference (DAI) with the climate system.” … we describe revisions of the sensitivities of the RFCs [reasons for concern] to increases in GMT [global mean temperature] and a more thorough understanding of the concept of vulnerability that has evolved over the past 8 years. This is based on our expert judgment about new findings in the growing literature since the publication of the TAR in 2001, including literature that was assessed in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), as well as additional research published since AR4. Compared with results reported in the TAR, smaller increases in GMT are now estimated to lead to significant or substantial consequences in the framework of the 5 “reasons for concern.”
SciAm: Climate Change Refugees
Human-induced climate and hydrologic change is likely to make many parts of the world uninhabitable, or at least uneconomic. Even if there are some “winners” from climate change—perhaps farmers in high-latitude farm regions where the growing season will be extended by warmer temperatures—there will also be large numbers of undeniable losers. Over the course of a few decades, if not sooner, hundreds of millions of people may be compelled to relocate because of environmental pressures. …
SciAm: Climate Change Makes Refugees in Bangladesh
Bangladesh and countries like it are on the frontline of mass migrations as a result of global warming
The first in a series of stories on Bangladesh and climate migration.
SciAm: How Climate Change Is Making Refugees in Bangladesh
The second in a series of stories on Bangladesh and climate migration.
SciAm: Cities Swell with Climate Migrants
Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka is struggling to absorb migrants from the countryside forced to move by environmental change. The third in a series of stories on Bangladesh and climate migration.
SciAm: How Will Climate Refugees Impact National Security?
The border between Bangladesh and India may offer a preview of how climate change could destabilize national borders. The fourth in a series of stories on Bangladesh and climate migration.
UN News Centre: Migration spurred by climate change could displace millions
Climate change has already caused displacement and migration, and could uproot millions more in the future, warns a new UN-supported report.
The publication, launched at the UN climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, said displacement will get worse “unless vulnerable populations, especially the poorest, are assisted in building climate-resilient livelihoods.”
Researchers interviewed more than 2,000 migrants in various parts of the world and mapped climate change in Central America, the Sahel, glacier zones, the Ganges, Nile and Mekong deltas, Tuvalu and the Maldives, among other areas.
PNAS: Contingencies and compounded rare perturbations dictate sudden distributional shifts during periods of gradual climate change : doi: 10.1073/pnas.0904946106
Ecological responses to climate change may occur gradually with changing conditions, or they may occur rapidly once some threshold or “tipping point” has been reached. Here, we use a high-resolution, 30-year data set on the upper vertical limit of a high intertidal alga to demonstrate that distributional shifts in this species do not keep pace with gradual trends in air temperature or sea level, but rather occur in sudden, discrete steps. …
PRAISE FOR THE PLAN B SERIES
“A great blueprint for combatting climate change.” —Brian Walsh, Time
“[Brown’s] ability to make a complicated subject accessible to the general reader is remarkable…” —Katherine Salant, Washington Post
“In this impressively researched manifesto for change, Brown bluntly sets out the challenges and offers an achievable road map for solving the climate change crisis.” —The Guardian
“4.0 is the best yet! If there are planetary heroes, you are top of my list.” —David Orr, Oberlin College
“It’s the best summation of humanity’s converging ecological problems and the best roadmap to solving them, all in one compact package.” —David Roberts, Grist
“If you want to know the future of Planet Earth, there is one good place to look. It is a book entitled ‘Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to save Civilization.‘” —Bill Boyne, Post-Bulletin
“It is great to see how some gifted people can condense a very broad and diverse area into easy to swallow, but tremendously important bits.” —Harry B. Davis, Ph.D
“Dr. Lester Brown is one of the most important voices in the world, regarding the creation of a new conscience of humanity toward a sustainable society.” —Jose Jaime Maussan