HomeBlogsBlogsMenu Climate Thinkers Blog Behind the scenes About the blogs Blog Paving the road to COP15: Adaptation and outreach Climate Change brings remarkable modifications in weather events and climate, the last tending to a new climate geography. Should greenhouse emission rates continue to increase, society, which is already affected by climate change, will suffer these changes more severely. Osvaldo F. Canziani, Doctor of Meteorology and former Co-Chairman of IPCC Working Group II 16/03/2009 15:30 The failure of the current policies and mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emisions and the IPCC’s conclusions make it clear that the still unattained stabilization of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere brings hazards and risks, which already affect the water, food and physical security. In this regard, the increasing world population – UN estimations bring the world population to 9.1 billion people about 2050 – and the fact that developing countries need to further progress, mean that GHG emissions will continue to increase. An additional word of warning arises from the fact that the quality of fossil fuels is decreasing and the return to dirty coal, replacing natural gas, is an adverse fact in many countries. This causes GHG emissions to build up, with the disadvantage of acid precipitations. The crude economic interests, aiming at better living standards in every country, would continue reducing the possibilities of the COP to develop an operational UNFCCC protocol for a prompt reduction of GHG emissions. As such, a logical approach for COP15 is to devote time to activate adaptation actions and promote appropriate outreach. This suggestion does not mean that we leave out the mitigation issue. Since the entire human population will increasingly suffer the growing effects of the anthropogenic Earth’s warming, the present situation urges the adoption of adaptation strategies. In developing regions, these must practically start from scratch. In this regard, in 1930, Niels Bohr stated that without observations there is no science. The current reduced availability of basic geophysical information, the lack of economic and social data, including health statistics, related to the climate impacts, as well as the faulty or inexistant monitoring of environmental processes, put many developing countries quite far from being able to react to climate change. Their capacity to know about their climate and climatic regions, to learn about their natural resources and services and to provide early warnings for adverse weather and climate events, cannot be viable without data. Therefore, the immediate step, just in line with the concepts lay down in the UNFCCC, is to bring the Parties of the Convention to implement in every detail UNFCCC Articles 4, 5 and 6. At this moment and time, this suggestion may seem ridiculous to people regularly engaged in the scientific and political discussion related to the global environmental change. However, they are quite blind with respect to realities in developing countries. Experience gathered in many developing countries and the fact that objectives, like those stated in the UN Conventions, shall be basically implemented by society as a whole, make valid the principle that old people’s lack of consciousness about protecting the environment may be mitigated by an educated and informed young population. This implies that we should carry out outreach efforts at all levels of education, most probably also including the university and tertiary levels. Furthermore, the lack of sound and reliable information put in serious doubt some estimated climate projections. This is heavily impacted by unrealistic future economic scenarios and the recent global financial crisis. They will need revision, which cannot be as quick as necessary because of the abovementioned shortcomings. This need puts more pressure on the UN bodies and, in particular COP15 and the developed countries to enhance the observation systems, implementing the three basic dominions: atmospheric, terestrial and oceanic, and building the necessary socio-economic information, as stated in the UNFCCC Article 5. Osvaldo F. Canziani is a Doctor of Meteorology and former Co-Chairman of IPCC Working Group II. Login to submit a commentNew userComments Erik van Erne 19/03/2009 11:21 I guess Earth Hour 2009 with over 1000 cities in the world involved will be a great signal for all leaders at COP 15. Mr. Ban Ki-moon just announced the UN is involved and joined Earth Hour 2009 and he is kindly asking to follow this exeample. http://www.stichtingmilieunet.nl/andersbekekenblog/?p=7050 George Brech 20/03/2009 06:11 George Brech The lack of reference to the Earth's population in the discussion papers and comments posted here, other than Dr. Canziani's, is both alarming and disappointing. Instead of focusing on carbon emissions as public enemy number one, maybe we should take a wider view of solutions to environmental degradation, pressure on resources and the effects of climate change. Human population is clearly the underlying cause of environmental degradation and pressure on natural resources throughout the world. The link now shown to exist between human activity, carbon emissions and climate change indicates that at least part of the current climate change is being driven by the surge in population. The potential threats to the world's population now being foreshadowed as a result of the predicted rise in sea level and looming water shortages are mind boggling. Hundreds of millions of people could be affected and the chances of conflict will undoubtedly increase. Humans inhabit almost every part of the planet except the polar regions, and consequently have become a stressed species with respect to population movement in response to environmental change, in much the same way that many other species have become stressed and threatened as a result of our own activities. The obvious solution is a reduction in the number of human beings. Unfortunately , current population pressure and future growth are rarely cited or given priority in discussion of causes and solutions regarding climate change or other environmental issues. There appears to be a deafening silence on the subject of overpopulation in the scientific community, and with government and non-government organizations. The silence is understandable. The current world economic system of continuous growth is structured around population growth and consumerism. Short term human greed feeds on the system. The present global financial crisis has galvanized world leaders like never before; a lightning response compared with what climate change received post Kyoto. Demographers and others who are capable of promoting a reduction in world population should now stand up and be counted. They should share centre stage with the climate change scientists and the economic reformers. Tim Ridgers 20/03/2009 21:35 I absolutely agree with you George, we also need to address over-population. Let all countries put in place the same rules as in China, only one child per family, now ! But we also need urgent policy changes on climate, and let's not lessen the stress on this point. Population stabilisation is going to take a lot of time and global warming also. I do not want leaders to deflect their attention from climate by discussions on population, although ultimately both are to be adressed. The strategy needs to go along the following lines - get the world leaders to accept the facts and reality that human activity has caused irreversible climate change and this means acting now. Acting now will be very painful for everyone, without exception. Therefore a huge population re-education will need to be undertaken. Within this context, once every body finally gets the message and accepts the major shifts in lifestyle, we can imagine instigating single children families. Finally by this time we will at last understand that consumerism, growth and capitalism are the root evil cause of this self-seeking selfish unmeaningful life we lead, and we can imagine putting in place a new and just society built on other more fundamental values than the perpetual search for more money. Tim Ridgers
Editorial Comment: George Brech and Tim Ridgers - - - pretty radical thinking, but clearly based on empirical observations. Without very substantial changes in our lifestyles, there does not appear to be a viable alternative.