2013-03-12 Climate change - the problem.docx

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Department
Political Science
Course
Political Science 2137
Professor
Cameron Harrington
Semester
Fall

Description
Climate change: the problem March 12, 2013 -climate change: most important issue in environmental politics today -also the most contentious issue The Frontlines of Climate Change –Island Nations “Climate change is an international crisis too big for any country to tackle alone. We will succeed together or we will fail together...” “If the UN was created for anything, it was to respond to this…” “The temptation is great to focus on our perceived national interests and turn inwards…We reject this conception of the world, because history has shown that it leads to tragedy…” -Pres. Dabwido, Nauru Durban, SA(COP 17), Dec 6, 2011 -Pres. Dabwido of Pacific Island of Nauru: bloc of countries he represents (Association of Pacific Island States)important in climate change politics -these nations are on the frontline of climate change -the appeals that leaders fromAssociation of Pacific Island States are really the human concerns related to climate change -when we talk about it, we refer to graphs, scenarios, etc. – they are abstract in a lot of ways -difficult to see climate change in a day-to-day basis -for people in Nauru, climate change is a daily reality; it affects absolutely everything that they do Kiribati: The Front Lines of Climate Change -Video -the man in the video had to move three times -raises sovereignty question: will the country still be considered a country in 50 years? -some relocate from their ancestral land -related to climatic effects and changes to nature caused by humans -some think that going forward, we see a slow change in international politics dealing with environment and climate change in general -idea of fairness: yes we will survive, but at what cost? Who will pay for it? -regardless of whether or not it’s money or recognition, who should pay for it? -some have gone forward and purchased land -whether or not integration of new countries go smoothly? Hard to say -is it just or fair for them to deal with it? -policies are reflecting a shift towards adaptation -two broad approaches to climate change: 1. mitigation; 2. adaptation -1. mitigation: policies and approaches that try to stop or curtail or lessen the problem or the effects of the problem -e.g. Lowering emissions, creating standards, converting to green economy, alternative renewable energy – mitigating climate change -try to cut back on CO2 st -2. adaptation: climate change, no matter what we do today, is going to continue well into 21 century -will have major effects and we suddenly convert to a different economy, we still have to deal with it -we have to create policy of adaption; change our society and infrastructure to adapt to these changes -we will still have to deal with the problem in 50 years (in the future) -drastic effects/actions are adaptations -How much do we talk about mitigation and how much do we talk about adaptation? Introduction Anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is occurring  How much?  How fast?  When? -almost all scientists and researchers of climate change believe that 20 century marked major departure from what should be considered natural climate operation -climate change occurring naturally over -for the past 150 years: we see signs of anthropogenic/human cause climate change is unmistakable -can be measured in a lot of different ways -sea surface, temperature rises, sea level rises, observing glacial melt -these types of phenomenon are occurring -we can see them and we can measure them -climates are changing very rapidly -critical questions: how much, how fast, and when -most important body is Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -projected that over the next century: we will see between 1 to 5 degrees Celsius increase over several years -they have to make range of possible outcomes -1000s of scientists are accumulating knowledge; trying to avoid controversy and trying to have broad consensus on what we see -graph: illustrates a range of scenarios of where they envision the world is heading -high growth: 4 degrees increase -if we have zero emissions, we are heading to the constant CO2 line (not going to drop in the next century) -not realistic th -graph from 2007 from the last IPCC report (4 report) -we’ve seen some preliminary updates to their data -even with high growth projections, over the past 6 years updates show we are going even further (than high growth) -didn’t emphasize changes/effects enough -low growth scenario: we don’t have high population growth -countries like China and India are able to convert to renewable style energy -one way to measure emissions is the amount of carbon in the atmosphere: since beginning of human civilization, there was roughly 275 ppm -today, we’re at 392 ppm -most scientific projections say that if we want to avoid 2 degrees of warming (benchmark), we have to lower that to 350ppm -since 1980s: climate change has moved from something that’s relatively minor (subset of environmental science) to becoming one of the most prominent issues in all of international politics -major concern amongst all levels of governments, subnational governments, regionals, NGOs, businesses -extremely prominent in media and public discourse -everyone knows about it but again and again, we’ve seen responses fall short of what scientific community has states ScientificAssessments of Climate Change  Climate Change: “changes in climate and their consequences resulting from warming” • No longer a future problem. • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) created in 1988 • Fourth Assessment Report (2007): “Very high confidence the global average net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming.” -over past two to three decades, we have radically improved our understanding of causes and consequences of global warming -global warming: warming of atmosphere related to GHG building up -IPCC: was created in 1988 -panel of experts (100s if not 1000s of scientists studying climate change) -they’ve concluded that “There is very high confidence that the net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming” -it’s almost without question, high confidence, that the warming world is a consequence of human activities -result of GHG being emitted into the atmosphere -most common GHG: carbon dioxide (most influential) -it’s created through the burning of fossil fuels -coal, oil, natural gas = fossil fuels -burning fossil fuels release CO2 to atmosphere and result in warming of world -human-induced climate change is something that has been accepted or observed and has a few decades -this is not a future problem anymore -ongoing climatic changes we see and measuring is a result of global warming -climatic changes are going to have huge effects on natural ecosystems, human societies and their economies, which could be potentially severe -especially vulnerable parts of the world that lack institution and capacity to deal with the problem -related to politics: climate change had to be seen as a reflection of our choices (it’s human induced and anthropogenic) -as a result, we have to look at ourselves to see both the causes and cures  Since 1970: Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions up 70%  CO2 in atmosphere was measured at 280 PPM before the Industrial Revolution. Today it stands at 392 PPM  Global Warming causes feedback loop (inhibits ability of plants/oceans to absorb CO2 = more warming) -last major report was released in 2007: called ImpactAssessment -since 1970, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased to 70%, with carbon dioxide increasing to 80% since 1970 -vast majority of 80% increase has come from 1995 onwards -atmosphere of concentration of CO2 and methane in 2005 exceeded by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years -concentration right now is 392 PPM, before Industrial Revolution, it was around 280PPM -IPCC had to deal with climate skeptics -to counteract the influence of climate skeptics, they declared that the warming of climate system is unequivocal -there’s no evidence and observation in average air…. -there’s no other way to describe it to counter the rapid amounts of changes we see -graph: tells us where we’re headed Effects of Climate Change  Droughts  Increased extreme weather events  Heavy precipitation  Tropical cyclones  High sea levels Impacts on physical/biological systems:  Melting glaciers  Warming of lakes/rivers  Seasonal changes  Impacts on migration/marine ecosystems/acidification of oceans -proportion of Earth that has to deal with droughts has increased -last summer, parts of US was engulfed with drought conditions at a scale that has never been measured before -frequency and intensity of droughts increased -heavy precipitation, heavy cyclones, high sea levels, heat waves, frequency of cold days -these types of changes have noticeable impacts on physical and biological systems of the Earth -early advents of spring - associated with climate -changes that are brought by climate change are changes that cannot be localized -when we talk about warming of lakes/rivers and seasonal changes, these have effects across the board -they’re not just emblematic of changes, but they themselves cause further changes (feedback loops) Effects of Climate Change  Global temperatures projected to rise 1.4-5.8 degrees  Effects of climate change going to get worse  “The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, disturbances, and other global change drives.” (IPCC 48)  20-30% plant/animal extinction  Food/ available water supplies diminishing  Human health effects  “Increases in malnutrition; increased deaths, diseases and injury due to extreme weather events; increased burden of diarrheal diseases; increased frequency of cardio-respiratory diseases due to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone in urban areas related to climate change; and the altered spatial distribution of some infectious diseases.” (IPCC 48) -IPCC 2007: looked at sustainable development policy -findings they have aren’t optimistic -even if we follow pledges we made, we will still see rise of GHG in the short term and in the long term as well -as a result, global temperatures will rise 1.4-5.8 degrees -as first details are emerging, it doesn’t look like things are getting any better -21 century is going to look different from 20 century from climate change perspective -the effects (from previous slide) will be larger going forward -much larger than what we saw -we’re going to see higher temperatures, higher land, higher latitudes, reduce snow cover, sea level rise, more frequent heat waves, heavy precipitations, etc. -that’s going to happen no matter what we do today -as a consequence of that, “The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, disturbances, and other global change drives.” (IPCC 48) -part of the reason why we see these things occurring is positive feedback -positive feedback: idea that planets help absorb a lot of CO2, planets can’t survive when temperatures rise -as temperatures rises 2 degrees, it has major effects on plant life and ecosystem around the world -it sort of feeds that; makes things worse -integrated systems: difficult but we have to try to conquer that -when we talk about global environment, we talk about interconnected, integrated systems -there’s likelihood that 20-30% of plants and animals will be extinct, based on 2.5 degrees warmer -all changes we see in past related to biodiversity and changes in ecosystem will be exacerbated -with increase in sea level rise, land degradation and coastal erosion and flooding will occur -have major human health effects -IPCC: heath of millions of people will be adversely affected -we see Canada and US being able to adapt to these effects -but, there are going to be some people (mostly poor and elderly) will be sick and suffer these risks more acutely -overall net effect from human health standpoint: more people projected to be harmed than benefited -global warming is going to happen no matter what we do today -reason: GHG stay in atmosphere for a long period of time -even if emissions stopped today, GHG are going to increase and remain how it is today for at least the next 100 years in the future -all negative effects of climate change are likely to occur, going forward -temperature is still going to rise -ocean takes decades to respond to the changes in the atmosphere Climate Change Diplomacy  Framework Convention on Climate Change (Rio, 1992):  “Stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”  Conference of the Parties (COP) is the convention’s overriding authority – meetings every year (COP 1, COP 2…COP 19 this year) -IPCC created in 1988 -it was the foremost expert body and helped raise the profile of climate change to an international level -climate change has been infused with politics ever since -Climate Change Proponency: a world at its own -climate change was acknowledged in 1980s, but it was a smaller subset of environmental studies -there was a world climate summit in 1979, but nowhere near the level we see in 1990s -1992: pivotal moment; climate change -Agenda 21; Rio also saw founding of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) -UNFCCC: convention that is looking to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” -ensure food production not threatened…. -calls world’s most economic developed state to reduce emissions of GHG -1992: emissions are a problem; rising CO2 problems a problem because it contributes to global warming -recommend that developed countries have to reduce their GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2000 -didn’t happen; d
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