Climate Adaptation

CLIMATE ADAPTATION

I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.


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Day One of the UN Climate Conference, Warsaw, Poland

COP 19

Day  Calendar of side events
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British Council climate champion, Jelena Kiselova, summarises the achievements of COP 18 and highlights the key issues for attention over the coming two weeks of COP 19.
 
 
 ‘Nudge’ insights could prove useful when negotiating the legal architecture for the 2015 climate agreement argues Joy Hyvarinen from FIELD.
 
Benito Müller and Niklas Höhne present the benefits of taking a staged approach to negotiating new mitigation commitments under the Durban Platform processes.
Athena Ballesteros from WRI summarises key messages from the UNFCCC’s work-programme on long-term finance and discusses their significance for COP 19
 
A global approach to emissions trading is needed to successfully tackle the carbon emissions from the aviation and shipping industries, argues Rafael Leal-Arcas from Queen Mary University of London.
Anette Friis from Danish Agriculture and Food Council explains how a new resource hopes to help COP 19 participants better understand the relationship between climate change and agriculture.
 
UNDP India’s Dhanapal G reveals the connection between India’s increasing energy efficiency and growth in renewables, and UNFCCC financial mechanisms.
YOUNGO Focal Points Liang-Yi Chang and Jamie Peters recall the events of last week’s Conference of Youth, which saw hundreds of young people gather to prepare for COP 19.
Perceived timings of economic crisis and climate change prevent action

Surprisingly bold call for adapting to climate change by Chiemi Hayashi of the WEF. She calls for heavy investments in climate adaptation now while leaders figure out how to tackle the current economic crisis.

She doesn’t quiet say it, but Hayashi implies that efforts to reduce carbon emissions have failed. And since those efforts have failed, we have to deal with two crises that are sneaking up on us right now: an economic crisis and a disaster management crisis.

Climate change threats are being neglected to tackle short term economic stresses but it would be wise to invest in climate change adaptation now.

The world is facing an unprecedented dual crisis. But with economic and environmental stresses playing out over different timeframes, deep-rooted biases in the way we judge risks may mean we are too preoccupied with firefighting short-term economic problems to tackle longer-term climate threats.

That is one of the key messages to emerge from the Global Risks 2013 report, published by the World Economic Forum. The report is based on an annual survey in which experts share their perceptions of how global risks may unfold over a 10-year time horizon.

Highlighted concerns left no doubt that the continuing fallout from the financial crisis of five years ago is likely to dominate leaders’ attention over the coming decade. Growth prospects remain relatively weak, and intense pressure on public finances is set to continue.

Meanwhile, experts rated the systemically most important environmental risk to be failure to adapt to climate change – in contrast to last year, when rising greenhouse gas emissions topped the results. This reflects a wider shift in recent conversation on climate change, from the question of whether our climate is changing to “by how much” and “how quickly”.

The transition can be seen in a spate of recent reports on climate adaptation efforts. Examples of adaptation initiatives include flood defences for coastal cities, strengthening the capacity of critical infrastructure to survive freak weather events, and researching crop varieties which are more able to withstand swings between extremes of drought and flood.

While the numbers involved vary widely according to different climate change scenarios, it is clear that the costs of investing in adaptation measures and curtailing greenhouse gas emissions are greatly outweighed by the likely future costs of failing to do so. One recent report by Mercer estimates the economic costs of climate change as likely to fall between $2tn and $4tn and (£1.25tn and £2.5tn) by 2030. In addition, we are observing nascent trends of climate change-related litigations, which could compound the cost of climate change significantly.

Logic dictates that it would be wise to bear the costs of investing in climate change adaptation now, rather than shouldering the greater future costs of climate-related disasters. However, humans suffer from several well-established cognitive biases which may hold us back from doing so.

The term “hyperbolic discounting” refers to the tendency to give immediate costs and benefits disproportionately more weight than delayed ones. Researchers have also found that we place too much emphasis on recent personal experience when estimating the future likelihood of a given risk occurring – for instance, taking out flood insurance immediately after a flood, and letting it lapse after a few years without a flood.

The cumulative effect of such cognitive biases is that we tend to find reasons to persuade ourselves that it is not necessary to focus on risks which are perceived to be long term, creeping and relatively uncertain. And while some degree of climate change is now inevitable, there remains great uncertainty about its likely extent and local manifestations.

The latter is especially significant, as climate adaptation is inherently local.

This is a great article. Honest and clear-eyed. I highly recommend my followers to take some time to read it. Via The Guardian

Kyoto climate change treaty sputters to a sorry end

Kyoto Protocol aimed for 5% cut in carbon emissions — instead, we got a 58% increase

The controversial and ineffective Kyoto Protocol’s first stage comes to an end today, leaving the world with 58 per cent more greenhouse gases than in 1990, as opposed to the five per cent reduction its signatories sought.

From the beginning, the treaty that was adopted in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, was problematic. Opponents denied the science of climate change and claimed the treaty was a socialist plot. Environmentalists decried the lack of ambition in Kyoto and warned of dire consequences for future generations.

But the goal of the treaty was simple.

"We hoped that we would be able to reduce greenhouse gases substantially, but that it was a first step," explained Christine Stewart, the Liberal environment minister who negotiated in Kyoto on Canada’s behalf.

The Kyoto Protocol was an initiative that came out of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It recognized that climate change was a result of greenhouse gases created by human industrial activity. The idea was that rich nations, which had already benefited from industrialization, would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the first part of the treaty and developing nations would join in later.

Although the protocol was adopted in 1997, it didn’t to come into force until 2005. In the intervening eight years, countries set reduction targets for themselves and ratified the agreement.

"At the time we didn’t realize how complicated it would be to get the Kyoto Protocol ratified and for it to enter into force internationally," said Steven Guilbeault, co-founder of Equiterre, a Montreal-based environmental charity.

Problems from the beginning

Right off the bat, there were problems. The U.S., the world’s biggest emitter at the time, signed up but never ratified…

Via CBC

Canadians got what they voted for… 

Canada rejects new Kyoto commitment despite Chinese concessions

Canada will not renew its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol once it expires in 2012 despite China suggesting Monday it could considering joining a global climate pact after 2020.

Environment Minister has Peter Kent confirmed in Durban, South Africa, that Canada will not join the second commitment of Kyoto which runs from 2013 to 2017.

For my Scandinavian friends: Villy Søvndal Vader

Terence Corcoran: Closing the door on Kyoto
On the eve of the Dustbin in Durban, an apt nickname for the doomed UN Framework climate talks that opened Monday in South Africa, it looks like the Kyoto Protocol will not go gently into the night, at least not for Canada.

UN Climate Chief: Salvaging the Kyoto Protocol impossible

"Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), pointed to the enormity of the task amid escalating demands from developing countries and green campaigners to save the only legally binding treaty to cut greenhouse gases.

Taking place against an ever-grimmer backdrop, the talks drew appeals on Sunday from the Catholic and Anglican churches to cut carbon emissions and help poor countries facing worsening drought, flood, storms and rising seas.

Kyoto’s first round of emissions pledges by rich countries expires next year, but only the European Union (EU) - which accounts for barely 11 per cent of global CO2 emissions - has said it might renew its vows.

JAPAN, RUSSIA, US DEFECT

Defectors such as Japan and Russia, along with the United States, which never ratified Kyoto, are eyeing a parallel forum in the 194-nation UNFCCC that focuses on voluntary emissions curbs.

Determining Kyoto’s survival while at the same time pursuing this second track “is a tall order for governments”, Figueres said at a news conference in Durban on Sunday.

"This conversation (between the two tracks), from a political level, is the most difficult issue facing this conference."

A breakthrough - if there is one - will come in the last days of the November 28-December 9 talks when ministers arrive in Durban to try to push through a final compromise, she said.

Developing countries are lobbying hard for Kyoto to be kept alive, and some campaigners have warned of angry protests.”

Source: World News Australia

COP17 Primer:"W[h]ither the Kyoto Protocol? Durban and Beyond"

"What will happen when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period expires at the end of next year?

This paper for the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements analyzes the options going forward, including adoption of a legally-binding second commitment period, a “political” second commitment period, or no new commitment period.

It considers the legal implications of a gap between the end of Kyoto’s first commitment period and the adoption of a new legal regime to limit emissions, the prospects for the Clean Development Mechanism in the absence of a second Kyoto commitment period, and the relationship between the Kyoto Protocol negotiations and the emerging regime under the Cancun Agreements.

It concludes that a transitional regime, involving a second commitment period that is politically but not legally binding, represents a possible middle ground that could complement efforts under the Cancun Agreements to develop a flexible, evolutionary framework of climate governance.”

Source: SSRN

Update: The Kyoto Protocol is set to expire in 2012. Will countries sign again at the COP17?

Shakes Magic 8-Ball “Outlook not so good.” In a devastating policy outlook update, Derek Spence of the IISD, offers perspective on the upcoming COP17, which will be held this December in Durban, South Africa.

Recall that recent climate commitments achieved at the COP15 in Copenhagen, and the COP16 in Cancun were discussed just a few weeks ago at the Bonn Climate Conference held in Germany (a summary of the Bonn conference is here).

The COP17 is seen as the end point for the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997 by 191 of the world’s 193 countries. Recall the US refused to sign Kyoto.

Spence writes that countries are more than reluctant to re-up on Kyoto. This is interesting, since many countries have agreed to dedicate billions to various emissions reduction and adaptation projects that were finalized at the previous COP15 and COP16. Are world leaders experiencing a sort of moral hazard, or false sense of security as a result? In other words, since these policies are in place, perhaps leaders do not see the need to re-up on Kyoto. (Note: A summary of the commitments are in the article.)

Still, Spence is clear that his pessimism lies in the suspicion that developed countries are not serious about their emissions reductions commitments: 

Prospects for agreement in Durban: Poor.

Can Durban Seal a Comprehensive New Deal?

Even an ambitious second commitment period under Kyoto will not deliver the type of emissions reductions needed to keep the lid on climate change. Some industrialized countries have been vocal in calling for a comprehensive global agreement that includes all major emitters. Only an ambitious treaty covering all key players could possibly limit global temperature rise to 2°C or less.

The concern on the part of developing countries is that such a treaty could blur the lines between the obligations of developed and developing countries. Under Kyoto, developed countries undertook to take the lead in combating climate change. This is a condition the South wants honored, and explains why they continue to press hard for a second commitment period.

Source: IISD Policy Update, “What Can a Deal in Durban Deliver?

Former VP Al Gore Faults Obama on Global Warming Action

On the heals of COP17 in Durban

In a 7,000-word essay for Rolling Stone magazine that will be published Friday, Gore says Obama has failed to stand up for “bold action” on global warming and has made little progress on the problem since the days of Republican President George W. Bush. Bush infuriated environmentalists for resisting mandatory controls on the pollution blamed for climate change, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that the burning of fossil fuels is responsible.

While Gore credits Obama’s political appointees with making hundreds of changes that have helped move the country “forward slightly” on the climate issue, and acknowledges Obama has been dealing with many other problems, he says the president “has simply not made the case for action.”

“President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis,” Gore says. “He has not defended the science against the ongoing withering and dishonest attacks. Nor has he provided a presidential venue for the scientific community … to bring the reality of the science before the public.”

(Read more)

(via mohandasgandhi)

IPCC ‘considering sending mirrors to space to tackle climate change’

Apologies for the misleading headline. The IPCC is a group of super smart scientists who research climate and write reports, rather than send shiny things into space. The IPCC is preparing to publish its 5th assessment of the state of climate change. Pieces of the report are leaking to the press, which, true-to-form, is spectacularizing findings.

The IPCC does not endorse sending mirrors into space. The technology doesn’t exist, cannot be tested, and is completely speculative. Geo-engineering is a name for various proposals to combat climate change. Mirrors in space is one such method of geo-engineering that would mess with the earth’s climate. It’s a powerful concept. A group of countries would pay for the technology to make mirrors, send them into a certain orbit, and the mirror would deflect radiation away from the earth, thereby making a cooling effect to counteract global warming. Sounds a bit crack pot.

So, why did the IPCC write about mirrors and other geo-engineering techniques? Frankly, it’s an admission that the political process has failed. The COP meetings have failed to renew Kyoto. And Kyoto itself has failed to reduce emissions. Cap and trade schemes are also sketchy, demonstrating that a quasi-free market approach won’t work either. So, the alternative is to look to ways to manipulate the earth’s climate with technology. Note that the IPCC dismisses using any such technologies, and that’s where these ‘sunsational’ headlines creep in. 

The IPCC has, by the way, has published on geo-engineering in the past, including a review of mirrors… Some of my previous, rather grouchy, posts on geo-engineering are here (w/free articles), here (an advert for a geo degree), and here (pro-geoengineering arguments). 

Experts suggested that the documents, leaked from inside the IPPC to The Guardian, show how the UN and other developed countries are “despairing” about reaching agreement by consensus at the global climate change talks.

But the newspaper reported that scientists admit that even if the ideas theoretically work, they could cause irreversible consequences.  

Source: Telegraph

World Leaders prepare for COP17. Watch live interviews around the world.

Climate Change TV is a web channel devoted to following world leaders as they renegotiate the Kyoto Protocol. CCTV conducts exclusive interviews with world leaders and influential figures involved in the climate change negotiations. Click the map to watch interviews with leaders from dozens of countries. 

For example, here is an interview with John Ashe, UN’s ambassador to the Kyoto Protocol negotiations team. In the interview, he basically says that his group wants all countries to lower emissions by 25%. (Quick notes: He throws around some jargon. Ignore it. All you need to know is that “AWG-KP" is the name of Ashe’s team. "AWG" stands for Ad hoc Working Group. Basically, an AWG is comprised of a committee of experts, and they’re charged with completing certain tasks. Ashe’s team, the AWG-KP, is tasked with getting all the world’s 196 countries to cut a deal on extending the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.)