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Climate Change Economics

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Our glaciers are shrinking

2 Fast 2 Furious

By Barry Piacenza

November 22, 2014

Educational Purposes only

The reason for this paper came from the release of the AR5 by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Approved Summary for Policymakers. The government of the United States also released their paper from the Third National Climate Assessment, Climate Change Impacts in the United States. The juxtaposition of these two important papers is the reason for this editorial.


The IPCC clearly shows that humans are the reason the Earth has become a planet whose climate has detrimentally changed. The human influence on climate change has grown since the release of the AR-4. It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcing together.1

Worldwide glacial retreats have increased and melting of Greenland’s ice sheet has increased since 1993. There have been substantial increases in global upper ocean heat from 1979 and the mean sea level rise observed since the early 1970s, many species have shifted their migration routes and seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances, and specie interactions are in response to climate change. There have also been negative impacts on crop yields and extreme weather events have been more common since 1950.

The number of cold days and nights has decreased in a number of warm days and nights has increased. Heat waves have increased in parts of Europe, Asia and Australia. Continued emissions of greenhouse gases, which will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system. There is an increasing likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.

There are been continued emissions of greenhouse gases these will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system. Increases in likelihood of more severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.

The release of greenhouse gases on a global basis will mean increased surface warming by late 21st century and beyond. Moreover, surface temperatures are likely to rise over the 21st century. Since the IPCC release of the AR-4 there are been increases in understanding and projection of sea level change there will continue during the 21st century and very likely at a faster rate than observed from 1971 to 2010 these will affect 95% of the oceans. Climate change will amplify the existing risks and create new risks for natural and human systems.

Climate change is projected to undermine food security. Food security will also increase the level of migrations and nation state failures particularly in weaker nation states. Climate change is projected to increase displacement of people. Populations that lack the resources will experience migration experience higher exposure to extreme weather events, particularly in developing countries with low income. Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.2 A large fraction of anthropogenic climate change resulting from CO2 emissions is irreversible on a multiple to millennial timescale, except in the case of a large net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere for century over a sustained period.3

It means that humans are going to cause incredible suffering, starvation, migration of humans from one place to another in large numbers and the fact that CO2 emissions are irreversible they can never be stopped over 1000 years we will be enduring the outcomes from 20th-century CO2 emissions. A reduction in permafrost extent is virtually certain with the continued rise in global temperatures. One of the outcomes of the continued melting of the permafrost is release of methane gas in very large quantities, which will further continue multiple forcing of climate change capabilities.

Cooperative responses through international cooperation are required to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions. There are five reasons for concern:
  • unique and threatened systems
  • extreme weather events
  • distribution of impacts
  • global aggregate impacts
  • large-scale singular events4
If humankind does not adapt mitigating systems, the outcomes are detrimental. The risk associated with temperatures at or above 4°C includes substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, consequential constraints on common human activities, and limited potential for adaption in some cases. Some risks of climate change such as risk to unique threatened systems and risks associated with extreme weather events are moderate to high at temperatures 1 to 2° above preindustrial levels.5

Characteristics of Mitigation Pathways

There are multiple mitigation pathways that are likely to limit warming to below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels. These pathways would require substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades and near zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived GHGs by the end of the century. Implementing such reductions poses substantial technological, economic, social, and institutional challenges, which increase with delays in additional mitigation and if key technologies are not available. Limiting warming to lower or higher levels involves similar challenges, but on different timescales.6

If we do not increase immediately reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, mean surface temperature increases in 2100 will range from 3.7 to 4.8°C above average for 1850 to 1900 for a median climate response. They range from 2.5°C to 7.8°C when including climate uncertainty 5th and 95th percentile range with high confidence.7

Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally (high confidence). Mitigation involves some level of co-benefits and of risks due to adverse side-effects, but these risks do not involve the same possibility of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts as risks from climate change, increasing the benefits from near-term mitigation efforts. {3.2, 3.4}8

If we wait until 2030, we will substantially increase the challenges associated with limiting warming over the 21st century to below 2°C relative to preindustrial levels. It will require substantially higher rates of emission reductions from 2030 to 2050 a much more rapid scale up of low carbon energy over this. A larger reliance on CDR (carbon dioxide removal) in the long term; the higher transitional and long-term economic impacts will occur. Estimated global emissions levels in 2020 based on the Cancún Pledges are not consistent with cost-effective mitigation trajectories that are at least about as likely as not to limit warming to below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels, but they do not preclude the option to meet this goal. 9


If we wait until the year 2030, we will substantially increase the challenges associated with limiting warming over the 21st century to below 2°C. Therefore, the likelihood of cost increases and major perturbations are after the year 2030. The IEA had suggested 2017 as the year before we see substantial challenges and non-cost-effective capabilities relative to mitigation.

Both reports are scientifically solid. However, there is one striking difference the report from the United States concludes that climate change is with us now. What is new over the last decade is that we know with increasing certainty that climate change is happening now. Climate change once considered an issue for a distant future has moved firmly into the present. The IPCC takes a more leisurely approach saying that items must be completed by 2100.

The reality is that climate change is 2 Fast and 2 Furious it is happening much faster than the scientific studies are concluding. The planet is currently undergoing serious perturbations when it comes to climate change. Not just in storms, groundwater, temperature changes, sea level rise, greenhouse gas levels and measurable factors. The multipliers involved in forcing are operational at a much faster rate and integrated level than we fully understand. Therefore it is the conclusion that all operational parties business communities and entities worldwide large and small, national governments, international organizations, cross national trade areas, economics zones, regional governments, municipalities and cities must all coordinate their efforts cooperate immediately and implement operational tactics to reduce greenhouse gases immediately. Some of the governments and regional entities have already taken upon themselves some substantial changes to prevent storm events from inundating their cities. These are laudable outcomes however they are a small percentage on a global basis of the tactical’s that need to be implemented.

As this report was being written, the International Energy Agency released its World Energy Outlook for 2014. From their perspective the point of departure for climate change negotiations due to reach a climax in 2015, is not encouraging: a continued rise in global greenhouse debt gas emissions and stifling air pollution and many of the world’s fastest growing cities.10 The report goes on to state – policy choices in market developments that bring the share of fossil fuels in primary energy demand down to just under three quarters in 2040 are not enough to stem the rise in energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which grow by 1/5. This puts the world in a path consistent with the long-term global average temperature increase of 3.6°C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that in order to limit this temperature increase to 2°C – the internationally agreed upon goal to avert the most severe and widespread implications of climate change – the world cannot emit more than 1000 Gt of CO2 from 2014 onwards. This entire budget will be used up by 2040 in our central scenario. Since emissions are not going to drop suddenly to zero once this point is reached, it is clear that the 2% centigrade objective requires urgent action to steer the energy system onto a safer path. This will be the focus of a WEO special report, to be released in mid-2015 in advance of the critical UN climate talks in Paris. 11

In the beginning of the climate change considerations there were those Dr. Hansen among others who said that what we needed was a Manhattan Project. I would wholeheartedly agree it hast to be implemented immediately. The United States and China have just agreed upon a set of approaches, which is an excellent starting point. However if these outcomes are to be mitigated speed is of the essence.

Hence 2 fast 2 furious.

Endnote – the author has been absent due to substantial spinal surgery and is now returning slowly to the Scribner’s desk.


1 Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report IPCC, page 5

2 Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report IPCC, page 11

3 Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report IPCC, page 11

4 Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report IPCC, page13

5 Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report IPCC, page13

6 Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report IPCC, page15

7 Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report IPCC, page15

8 Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report IPCC, page13

9 Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report IPCC, page16

10 International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2014, page 1

11 International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2014, page 2