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Impacts of Climate Change – Part 2 of the new IPCC Report has been approved

Filed under: — stefan @ 4 April 2014

The second part of the new IPCC Report has been approved – as usual after lengthy debates – by government delegations in Yokohama (Japan) and is now public. Perhaps the biggest news is this: the situation is no less serious than it was at the time of the previous report 2007. Nonetheless there is progress in many areas, such as a better understanding of observed impacts worldwide and of the specific situation of many developing countries. There is also a new assessment of “smart” options for adaptation to climate change. The report clearly shows that adaptation is an option only if efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions are strengthened substantially. Without mitigation, the impacts of climate change will be devastating.




Guest post by Wolfgang Cramer



On all continents and across the oceans

Impacts of anthropogenic climatic change are observed worldwide and have been linked to observed climate using rigorous methods. Such impacts have occurred in many ecosystems on land and in the ocean, in glaciers and rivers, and they concern food production and the livelihoods of people in developing countries. Many changes occur in combination with other environmental problems (such as urbanization, air pollution, biodiversity loss), but the role of climate change for them emerges more clearly than before.


Fig. 1 Observed impacts of climate change during the period since publication of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report 2007


During the presentation for approval of this map in Yokohama many delegates asked why there are not many more impacts on it. This is because authors only listed those cases where solid scientific analysis allowed attribution. An important implication of this is that absence of icons from the map may well be due to lacking data (such as in parts of Africa) – and certainly does not imply an absence of impacts in reality. Compared to the earlier report in 2007, a new element of these documented findings is that impacts on crop yields are now clearly identified in many regions, also in Europe. Improved irrigation and other technological advances have so far helped to avoid shrinking yields in many cases – but the increase normally expected from technological improvements is leveling off rapidly.


A future of increasing risks

More than previous IPCC reports, the new report deals with future risks. Among other things, it seeks to identify those situations where adaptation could become unfeasible and damages therefore become inevitable. A general finding is that “high” scenarios of climate change (those where global mean temperature reaches four degrees C or more above preindustrial conditions – a situation that is not at all unlikely according to part one of the report) will likely result in catastrophic impacts on most aspects of human life on the planet.


Fig. 2 Risks for various systems with high (blue) or low (red) efforts in climate change mitigation


These risks concern entire ecosystems, notably those of the Arctic and the corals of warm waters around the world (the latter being a crucial resource for fisheries in many developing countries), the global loss of biodiversity, but also the working conditions for many people in agriculture (the report offers many details from various regions). Limiting global warming to 1.5-2.0 degrees C through aggressive emission reductions would not avoid all of these damages, but the risks would be significantly lower (a similar chart has been shown in earlier reports, but the assessment of risks is now, based on the additional scientific knowledge available, more alarming than before, a point that is expressed most prominently by the deep red color in the first bar).


Food security increasingly at risk

In the short term, warming may improve agricultural yields in some cooler regions, but significant reductions are highly likely to dominate in later decades of the present century, particularly for wheat, rice and maize. The illustration is an example of the assessment of numerous studies in the scientific literature, showing that, from 2030 onwards, significant losses are to be expected. This should be seen in the context of already existing malnutrition in many regions, a growing problem also in the absence of climate change, due to growing populations, increasing economic disparities and the continuing shift of diet towards animal protein.


Fig. 3 Studies indicating increased crop yields (blue) or reduced crop yields (brown), accounting for various scenarios of climate change and technical adaptation


The situation for global fisheries is comparably bleak. While some regions, such as the North Atlantic, might allow larger catches, there is a loss of marine productivity to be expected in nearly all tropical waters, caused by warming and acidification. This affects poor countries in South-East Asia and the Pacific in particular. Many of these countries will also be affected disproportionately by the consequences of sea-level rise for coastal mega-cities.


Fig. 4 Change in maximum fish catch potential 2051-2060 compared to 2001-2010 for the climate change scenario SRES A1B


Urban areas in developing countries particularly affected

Nearly all developing countries experience significant growth in their mega-cities – but it is here that higher temperatures and limited potential for technical adaptation have the largest effect on people. Improved urban planning, focusing on the resilience of residential areas and transport systems of the poor, can deliver important contributions to adaptation. This would also have to include better preparation for the regionally rising risks from typhoons, heat waves and floods.


Conflicts in a warmer climate

It has been pointed out that no direct evidence is available to connect the occurrence of violent conflict to observed climate change. But recent research has shown that it is likely that dry and hot periods may have been contributing factors. Studies also show that the use of violence increases with high temperatures in some countries. The IPCC therefore concludes that enhanced global warming may significantly increase risks of future violent conflict.


Climate change and the economy

Studies estimate the impact of future climate change as around few percent of global income, but these numbers are considered hugely uncertain. More importantly, any economic losses will be most tangible for countries, regions and social groups already disadvantaged compared to others. It is therefore to be expected that economic impacts of climate change will push large additional numbers of people into poverty and the risk of malnutrition, due to various factors including increase in food prices.


Options for adaptation to the impacts of climate change

The report underlines that there is no globally acceptable “one-fits-all” concept for adaptation. Instead, one must seek context-specific solutions. Smart solutions can provide opportunities to enhance the quality of life and local economic development in many regions – this would then also reduce vulnerabilities to climate change. It is important that such measures account for cultural diversity and the interests of indigenous people. It also becomes increasingly clear that policies that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (e.g., by the application of more sustainable agriculture techniques or the avoidance of deforestation) need not be in conflict with adaptation to climate change. Both can improve significantly the livelihoods of people in developing countries, as well as their resilience to climate change.

It is beyond doubt that unabated climate change will exhaust the potential for adaptation in many regions – particularly for the coastal regions in developing countries where sea-level rise and ocean acidification cause major risks.

The summary of the report is found here. Also the entire report with all underlying chapters is online. Further there is a nicely crafted background video.

Wolfgang Cramer is scientific director of the Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d’Ecologie marine et continentale (IMBE) in Aix-en-Provence one of the authors of the IPCC  working group 2 report.

This article was translated from the German original at RC’s sister blog KlimaLounge.



Here is our summary of part 1 of the IPCC report.

177 Responses to “Impacts of Climate Change – Part 2 of the new IPCC Report has been approved”

  1. 1
    Chris Dudley says:

    I’m still very unclear on how figure 3 is constructed and what RCP or group of RCP’s it represents. If we knew it represents RCP8.5, we might be able to use figure 2 to estimate that RCP2.6 looks like the 2010-2029 bin, but if it a mashup, then RCP2.6 might end up looking like the 2030-2049 bin just from the effects of smearing.

    I am wondering also if the joint probability of heatwaves that wreck yields occurring on more than one continent over more than one season has been considered for RCP2.6. RCP2.6 is consistent with the goal in that the carbon dioxide concentration gets to 361 in 2300, but that is 200 to 300 years in which to run the risk of global famine if that joint probability in non-negligible. Is even RCP2.6 a dream of seven withered cows rising from the Nile simply because the draw down in concentration takes so long? Do we need to prepare to maintain a four or five year surplus in grains rather than our current four or five month surplus already?

    Whatever the averaging process in figure 3. it may conceal risks of consecutive extremes that have the most catastrophic consequences.

  2. 2
    pete best says:

    A recent document ( speaks of recent emissions in the USA from Gas and limiting Coal usage in the process which you would say is a good thing. However the analysis shows that in the short term gas will be worse than burning coal (cooling agents reduced) but in the long term no net gain in warming but now coal is being exported as the US uses less of it.

    Put into context in regard to this report and the need to avoid going over 2C with 1C being is safer still but unobtainable now due to the 0.6C of warming to come from the oceans (thermal lag of about 30 years)and hence 450 ppmv is the 2C limit. We need to do far more than we are actually talking about at these global meetings. 2C is becoming harder and harder to achieve and is almost out of reach now. Kevin Anderson states that emissions of the magnitude required is noting short of a large scale recession lasting a few decades and hence which politician wants that so we limp on.

  3. 3
    Chris Dudley says:

    Pete (#2),

    Your conception of lag is an artifact of an increasing concentration profile. If you compare figure 2 here with the concentrations you’ll see that temperature responds immediately to a change in forcing. It is drag, not lag, effectively. It goes away when you change direction.

  4. 4
    John McCormick says:

    How does civilization adapt to a moving target. Build a sea wall as the sea level rises???

  5. 5
    pete best says:

    Re #3 if we stop emitting carbon today we still get a few more decades of warming at 0.15C per decade don’t we?

  6. 6
    Chris Dudley says:

    Pete (#5),

    No, indeed, ending all emissions today causes the forcing to fall. The balance is reached quickly and any delayed rise would be lost in the annual noise. Later the carbon dioxide uptake by the oceans slows, but initially it is quite rapid. Cooling starts within about fifteen years or so. There is a bit of an issue that aerosols associated with emission would disappear too. But that is also a forcing, not drag.

  7. 7
    Chris Dudley says:

    Pete (#5),

    I should add that if we stabilize the concentration of carbon dioxide at today’s level (400 ppm) then there is continued warming for a few decades. But, to stabilize, you need to continue emissions, with an initial 50% cut then falling until 2150 or so if I recall. But that makes the continued warming a function of the future emissions, not the past. Basically, the climate is driven, it doesn’t really have momentum.

  8. 8
    Hank Roberts says:

    Pete, Chris, this has been discussed at some length, e.g.

    if we define the commitment as the consequence only of past emissions, then you should set future emissions to zero before you calculate it. This is a valid point, and the consequence of that is seen in the lower lines in the figure.

    CO2 concentrations would start to fall immediately since the ocean and terrestrial biosphere would continue to absorb more carbon than they release as long as the CO2 level in the atmosphere is higher than pre-industrial levels (approximately). And subsequent temperatures (depending slightly on the model you are using) would either be flat or slightly decreasing. With this definition then, there is no climate change commitment because of climate inertia. Instead, the reason for the likely continuation of the warming is that we can’t get to zero emissions any time soon because of societal, economic or technological inertia.

    That is an interesting reframing of an issue that comes up all the time in discussions of adaptation and mitigation. This is because it demonstrates that adaptation (over and above what is necessary to reduce vulnerabilities to current climate conditions) is unnecessary if mitigation is dramatic enough.

    However, the practical implication of this reframing is small. We are clearly not going to get to zero emissions any time soon, and even the 60-70% cuts required to stabilise concentrations initially seem a long way off. Thus as a practical matter, it doesn’t really matter whether the inertia is climatic or societal or technological or economic because the globe will continue to warm under all realistic scenarios (what we do have a possible control over is the magnitude of that warming). Thus further adaptation measures will still be needed.

    Committed climate warming
    H. Damon Matthews & Andrew J. Weaver (paywalled)
    Nature Geoscience 3, 142 – 143 (2010)

    which has subsequently been cited by at least 35 other papers going into the question further:

  9. 9
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS, you can limit the subseqeunt cites search to, e.g., since 2013 — which gets some interesting reading on the subject worth a look:,5&cites=2953701649732902185&scipsc=

  10. 10
    Jack Maloney says:

    “4.How does civilization adapt to a moving target. Build a sea wall as the sea level rises???”

    In a word, yes – but there are other answers as well. Sea level and climate change have been “moving targets” since time began, and always shall be. Historic seaports such as Bruges and Ephesus have become landlocked, and ancient cities in Greece, India and Japan have been inundated, as the earth continues to change. Rigid civilizations die, those which adapt survive.

  11. 11
    Hank Roberts says:

    Next-Generation Claims Handling: How Will the Property/Casualty Industry Respond to the Increasing Frequency and Severity of Weather-Related Events?

    U.S. insurers did not escape the impact of natural disasters. The fourth costliest catastrophe of 2011 was not one single event but a series of more than 330 severe storms and tornadoes that hit Joplin, Missouri, and other regions in the plains states over a week in late April. Hurricane Irene, the fifth costliest disaster of 2011, followed a few months later.

  12. 12
    DIOGENES says:

    Pete Best #5,

    “Re #3 if we stop emitting carbon today we still get a few more decades of warming at 0.15C per decade don’t we?”

    If we stop burning fossil fuels today, we will get peak temperatures within one or two decades anywhere from 1.2 C to near 2 C. Carbon emissions from the Permafrost (and perhaps other sources) that have been initiated already by global warming will impact how (and if) the temperature would decline after the peak, depending on how these emissions would increase with temperature.

  13. 13
    Windchaser says:

    #5 Pete,

    IIRC, if we completely stopped emissions today, warming would also basically stop, and the temperature would remain steady. Yah, there’s a thermal lag from the CO2 in the air today, but the ocean and biosphere would also be absorbing CO2, so atmospheric CO2 would start dropping immediately. The thermal lag and the dropping CO2 basically cancel out to mean temperature remains steady for a good half-century or so.

    On the other hand, if we were to start decreasing *emissions* now, then CO2 would keep increasing for a while, and so would temperature. Even if we just emitted enough to keep atmospheric CO2 steady, the temperature should also keep increasing at about 0.15C/decade, yeah.

  14. 14
  15. 15
    Jim says:

    #6 & #9,
    I think Pete (#5) is on the right track – although CO2 levels would stop rising, the global average temperature would continue to rise as the climate reaches equilibrium. It has been said that temperatures lag CO2 by as much as 40 years, so today’s warming is due to ’70’s or ’80’s CO2 level. If this is even close to being the case, then we would still have 30-40 years of warming to look forward to even with a total cessation of emissions right now.
    CO2 would start to fall, as natural processes gradually remove it from the atmosphere, but this is a long-term (~100’s of years) thing.

  16. 16

    #9–Now that sounds right–IIRC…

  17. 17
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Apr 2014 @ 10:45 AM, ~#8

    Don’t forget the part II sequel-


  18. 18
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#8),

    That is about right. The temperature over land starts dropping right away(modulo aerosols) and there is probably a period of increasing sea surface temperature, but not for long as the forcing decreases.

    The last paragraph though is not well thought through. While we may end up on a trajectory like RCP2.6, with everyone cutting emissions, we may not. If we end up on RCP4.5 because China and India insist on increasing their emissions, the consequence of how the climate behaves is that they are responsible, through intent, for the subsequent damage. These are legal issues that feed into such areas of international law as the GATT in which countries have already agreed that environmental tariffs may be imposed. Those who get to impose tariffs are those who are undertaking environmental protection domestically. See how intent comes is?

    So, if you prefer RCP2.6 over the other ones, China must be turned, and a legal means has to be found to do it. The science says that it is future emissions, not past emissions that are responsible for future warming. That seems to have immense practical implications. We don’t pay China to be good because we share the blame, we fine China for being bad because the blame in entirely theirs.

    When the fine gets large enough, they’ll turn. Their other option is to withdraw from the WTO, which gives them no recourse at all on tariffs.

  19. 19
    Thomas says:

    4 “How does civilization adapt to a moving target. Build a sea wall as the sea level rises?”
    To the extent that what we are protecting with that seawall is built environment, we can rely on the fact that built environment decays over time. So we build the seawall, and cutback on maintenence of the protected building, then by the time the seawall is overcome we are ready the abandon the now decrepid buildings. As long as the rate of SLR is small enough that we can protect the built environment for as long as its natural lifespan, we are OK.

  20. 20
    Sarah says:

    Hi everyone, I am an undergraduate student at McGill university, studying environmental sciences. I am participating to a contest organized by UNEP, promoting the World Environment Day and the issues related to climate change, if you can take a look at my video and give me some feedback, it would be greatly appreciated!
    Thank you for your time!

  21. 21
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Chris Dudley — 4 Apr 2014 @ 7:32 PM, ~#18

    It sounds like you are saying that even thought we (western nations) have emitted most of the pollution to date and we, as a group, still emit more than China, we should not assume a leadership role in reducing our CO2 emissions but, instead, require China ( to back off. Please tell me I am wrong.


  22. 22
    sidd says:

    “Climate Change 2014:Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability”

    seems to be the title. I don’t see “Mitigation” in there. Suggest that discussion of mitigation by punishment of noncompliant countries be moved to the diogenes tarpit.


  23. 23
    owl905 says:

    The temperature over land would abruptly spike as the emission halt would remove the cooling aerosols (for comparison, follow the spike in the 90s after the pollution-intense USSR-Comintern industrial base collapsed). The accrued warming potential would be minor and probably weather-swamped in a decade.
    Unfortunately CO2 levels will continue to rise, probably for about a decade. The pipeline through eco-systems into the ocean and back to the air will churn CO2 back into the atmosphere in the tropical areas. It may be supplemented by reservoirs on land – the same diffusion continuation as the oceans. We get a break if there are more La Nina’s, and we pay the piper longer if there are more El Ninos.

  24. 24
    Killian says:

    4John McCormick says: How does civilization adapt to a moving target. Build a sea wall as the sea level rises??

    It doesn’t. There are three different factors here: Where will we end up? Where do we want to end up? How do we do that?

    The first involves figuring out the worst case scenario with all-out mitigation efforts. Key elements of this are backcasting from a given, relatively discernible point in the future, probably 2100 or so, giving us 2 or three generations for the transition, but **hopefully** prior to unstoppable tipping points. This tells us what to design to for worst case scenario wrt adaptive actions.

    ** It is vital to understand, this is NOT the end point, nor is it where most deign will be guided by. This is more like the minimum necessary actions for survival at that future point from which we are backcasting. Also, this is a parameter that we actually are designing to avoid.

    We now have a baseline to design to for survival in a warmer world, but not out of control world.

    The second is really the question, how do we survive long-term? With a climate we clearly can overcome with our actions, a living, often dangerous planet, 9 billion people or more, and limited, rapidly depleting/depletable resources? Put more simply, what does sustainability look like? To answer this question, you cannot just ask, what are the issues with climate? You have to ask what the effects of exponential growth? What do we do when we run out of resources? How do we avoid using up resources?

    Consider, people talk about adaptation, but adaptation requires far, far more resource use than mitigation does. It involves ever more complex solutions to ever more complex problems. Basically, we end up with more of the last 800 years. This simple observation logically excludes adaptation as our primary response. It simply isn’t sustainable.

    What we want is a way of using our resources that allows us to keep being on this planet with a minimum level of sophistication, i.e. contentment and comfort, for so long as we and the planet may exist. Note this does not exclude being able to someday mine distant worlds, necessarily, and the resource budget, and what sustainability is, can be recalculated at such a time. However, you design to what might magically occur someday, you design to the resource inventory that is known and adjust it up and down as appropriate at future points.

    As of now, that level of resource use is a lot less than the US currently consumes, and without getting to deep into things, my best guess is maybe ten percent of current U.S. consumption.

    There are many, many implications that follow from this statement that many would consider ideological/moral/economic/political issues. This is a mistake. There is nothing sustainable about any of those systems. It would be like trying to breed a better orange from an apple. But let’s set aside these things and look at the gist of this: We must live simpler. Let that be whatever it needs to be in your mind, but understand it means serious deep-seated changes, though you could live a daily schedule and style that outwardly looks just like today, though with a very different veneer. Still, breakfast, work, break, lunch, work, dinner, hang out. Add in ball games, entertainment, family activities, music, whatever. Maybe even some computer time. Etc.Your homes will be comfortable, but new constructions will be different. You won’t have a car. Etc.

    How? The answer is above: Simplify, localize, consume a heck of a lot less, make choices based on the design of natural systems. Make decisions with the ecosystem as the first-level consideration. Localize. Massively distributed systems, inclusive: Energy, food, production, people. This also builds resilience.

    We want to be able to survive, but we have to stop imposing and start cooperating with the natural systems. IF we design sustainable communities, we solve climate, we solve energy, we solve economics, we solve politics.

    Think of a prairie. In many ways a larger ecosystem is a fractal. Take any two square meters of prairie within a reasonable distance of each other and they will contain many of the same biota. But it won’t be all the same. And destroying a patch of prairie affects the surrounding patches. (See wolves in Yellowstone.) Do it in a serious enough way, it changes forever, particularly if you alter large enough areas.

    The best model I know of is either the Iroquois federation or pre-Columbian Amazon society. There was a vast network of associated villages in the Amazon. Yet, they were so naturally integrated, for five hundred years we never knew they had existed at the time Columbus bumped into the place. Former estimates of around 5M people are now closer to 15M or 20M. They lived lightly.

    I am not suggesting copying these societies except in the principles of design and the patterns of use with modern knowledge applied to create a sustainability that fits today.

    Cities will not disappear, but they will greatly depopulate because…. they are completely unsustainable. But, we must think of bio-regions, not just localities. When taken as a bio-region, the exchange between cities and the rest of the bio-regions is one form of closed loop so long as the cities produce something needed.


    Key, we must and will localize. We must and will consume less. We must and will simplify. (If you haven’t read Tainter and Diamond yet, you very much need to do so.)

    If you don’t believe me, believe the climate scientist I heard say the other day that our energy system is unsustainable. ‘Bout danged time.

  25. 25
    Pete Best says:

    Skepticalscience say on the subject of ocean lag:

    The Thermal Inertia of the Oceans

    If we accept that greenhouse gases are warming the planet, the next concept that needs to be grasped is that it takes time, and we have not yet seen the full rise in temperature that will occur as a result of the CO2 we have already emitted. The Earth’s average surface temperature has already risen by 0.8 degrees C since 1900. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing at the rate of 2 ppm per year. Scientists tell us that even if CO2 was stabilized at its current level of 390 ppm, there is at least another 0.6 degrees “in the pipeline”. If findings from a recent study of Antarctic ice cores is confirmed, the last figure will prove to be conservative [ii]. The delayed response is known as climate lag.

    Current climate change is from emissions 40 years ago. Emissions are not going to stop tomorrow so 1.5C (0.6C extra) is already accounted for.

  26. 26
    Pete Best says:

    according to that chart in Fig 2 then 1C is the new 2C and hence the implications are not good.

  27. 27
    DIOGENES says:

    Hank Roberts #8,

    “And subsequent temperatures (depending slightly on the model you are using) would either be flat or slightly decreasing.”

    This is the only CO2 immediate emissions cessation study I have seen that draws this conclusion about temperature profile. Every other study I have seen has the temperature increasing for a decade or two after immediate emissions cessation, then declining slowly. For example, Armour and Roe (GRL, 2011) state: “Turning now to the case in which all anthropogenic emissions cease, there is an immediate unmasking of greenhouse gas forcing as aerosols are quickly washed from the atmosphere. The effect is an abrupt rise in climate forcing (Figure 1a) to a peak value of around 2.7 W m−2, which is relatively well constrained as it depends only on greenhouse gases. The response is a rapid warming (Figure 1b), with a transient commitment of up to 0.9°C above the modern temperature. Thereafter, forcing declines over the next few centuries as greenhouse gases are partially, but not completely, removed from the atmosphere. At the low end of the climate response, temperature falls to less than half of its peak value. At the high end, temperature continues to increase because the system has not yet attained equilibrium due to the long adjustment time scales of high sensitivity systems.”

    In their case, the temperature would increase to 1.6 C, then decline slowly. I have seen other computations where the range of the peak is from 1.2 C to ~2 C, with some higher outliers. Given that we have already triggered carbon emissions from other sources (e.g., Permafrost) due to climate change, even if all anthropogenic sources were to cease immediately, the triggered sources would keep generating, slowing the rate of temperature decline after the peak somewhat.

  28. 28

    “The science says that it is future emissions, not past emissions that are responsible for future warming.”

    No, Chris, it doesn’t. Science is entirely silent on concepts such as ‘responsibility.’ For that, you have to go to the study of ‘ethics.’ And your view on future responsibility is not generally accepted, either here, or in the corridors of power, where it really matters.

    And let me reiterate: China and India together are only about 30% of the problem.

  29. 29
    Chris Dudley says:

    Steve (#17),

    It is interesting that the sulphate aerosols have been scrubbed in a lot of developed countries. It may be that the warming from their absence would be localized to the Pacific North of the Equator. Cooling over land might occur fairly soon in the Southern Hemisphere and perhaps Europe.

  30. 30
    Hank Roberts says:

    China got messed with much like the USSR did. The USSR went broke trying to match the US in the arms race. China has gone broke getting rich with the 19th and 19th=century industrialization that the US tricked them into using in return for lots of dollars.

    If we’d exported democracy, unionization, the IWW, the Clean Air Act regulations and public health done to the mid-20th-Century criteria, China wouldn’t be a polluted mess with toxic soil, water, and air right now. They’d be much more of a threat politically, as they’d be healthy.

    So they have dollars and a poisoned environment.

    Very tricky, these Americans. Suckered them into a devastating ecological debt in return for paper dollars.

    Just my opinion. I’m sure the economists would tell you different.
    But if you want good economic advice, ask the ecologists. They don’t fool themselves.

  31. 31
    Susan Anderson says:

    re Jim @~15

    I would very much like to see a reconciliation of “It has been said that temperatures lag CO2 by as much as 40 years,” with Chris Dudley’s assertions, which appear knowledgeable to this lay reader.

    Talk about reduction often means only a lessening of rate of increase. A person wishing to reduce weight first needs to stop gaining before they can slow down, level off, or reduce. How much leveling or reduction in practical terms are we talking about (still a considerable increase in total quantity)?

  32. 32
    Susan Anderson says:

    I see Hank Roberts has as usual done the homework. I also found the Truthout piece (@2) useful. My point remains but part of practical query is answered. Another joker is the increased warm temperatures in areas of permafrost and snow/glaciers and other areas where potential for feedbacks are growing.

  33. 33
    SecularAnimist says:

    Chris Dudley wrote: “China must be turned, and a legal means has to be found to do it … When the fine gets large enough, they’ll turn.”

    First of all, China is already being “fined” for its fossil fuel use, by the huge economic costs of the pollution that is choking China’s cities, and by the rapidly escalating economic impacts of global warming on Chinese agriculture. Not to mention the economic cost of importing massive amounts of coal and oil.

    Which is exactly why China is already investing so much more in renewable energy and efficiency than the USA — in fact, China is adding more renewably-generated electricity (which directly replaces coal) than any other nation on Earth, with the International Energy Agency projecting that China will add more renewable electricity generating capacity by 2035 than the USA, Europe and Japan combined.

    The USA should not be concerned about “turning” China, it should be concerned about catching up with China in the race to lead the emerging global renewable energy economy.

    And if the USA does want to do something useful to “turn” China, a good start would be to end US coal exports, which are at an all-time high, much of it coming from the Obama administration’s expansion of coal mining on public lands.

    According to US EIA data, US coal exports to China have increased from just over one million tons in 2009 to over TEN million tons in 2012.

    Even worse, the US is exporting increasing amounts of petroleum coke, or petcoke, to China. Petcoke is a solid fuel derived from oil refining which when burned emits 10 percent MORE CO2 than coal for the same amount of energy. According to EIA data, US petcoke exports to China have increased from about 2 million barrels in 2008 to over 38 million barrels in 2013.

    So, what you are proposing is basically that the US should “fine” China for burning the fossil fuels that we are selling them.

  34. 34
    Killian says:

    So, if you prefer RCP2.6 over the other ones, China must be turned, and a legal means has to be found to do it.

    This makes little sense given China has already a national climate policy, far ahead of the U.S. in this regard. Many mistake momentum for lack of policy and intent.

    The science says that it is future emissions, not past emissions that are responsible for future warming.

    That’s not what the science says. First, there is the lag. Second, the cumulative effect upon which future emissions lie. Third, future effects of already-triggered feedbacks aren’t quantifiable.

  35. 35
    Rob Nicholls says:

    Chris Dudley, #18: “We don’t pay China to be good because we share the blame, we fine China for being bad because the blame in entirely theirs.”

    I think such fines are quite a way away (certainly in terms of the US or UK imposing fines).

    World Bank figures for per capita annual CO2 emissions (apologies these are from 2010, admittedly a little out of date):

    India: 1.7 Metric tons per capita
    China: 6.2 Metric tons per capita
    UK: 7.9 Metric tons per capita
    USA: 17.6 Metric tons per capita

    (I daresay this may have changed quite a bit since 2010 and will no doubt change a lot more in the coming years. Note also that I’m not sure whether this takes into account all the “outsourced” emissions – e.g. a lot of products consumed in the UK are made in China and the emissions from creating those products arguably ought to be included in UK’s emissions instead of China’s but I understand that this has often not happened).

    Also, I’m not convinced that historical emissions aren’t important (although I think I understand that if we could get to zero emissions then the concentration of CO2 would fall quite quickly, I’m not sure how likely this is to happen any time soon).

    Also, I’m not very comfortable with the idea that if nations that developed by burning a shed load of fossil fuel such as US and UK do somehow find a way to cut their emissions to virtually zero, that those same nations should necessarily fine other nations that are burning a lot of fossil fuel to develop. That doesn’t seem particularly fair to me.

  36. 36
    wili says:

    People don’t seem to have followed up on Hank’s suggestion (always a mistake) at 9 to look through some of the more recent research on the subject. Most earlier research leaves out carbon feedbacks from permafrost and other sources. Just adding (some) of the carbon feedback from permafrost to the equation at least offsets the uptake by oceans and by non-permafrost land sinks.

    Check out the third source there, MacDougal et al. Including just this one carbon feedback, warming continues even with immediate cessation of all further CO2 emissions.

    (I’d link and quote it further, but when I did, I got a warning that my post was flagged as spam.)

  37. 37

    #36–Yes, from Figure 3 it would appear that under 3C climate sensitivity, the permafrost feedback by itself is enough to maintain the atmospheric concentration at 400 ppm, even with the cessation of anthropogenic emissions:

    That would imply (to me, which may cast some doubt on the reliability of the conclusion!) that we’d still be seeing an energy imbalance at TOA, and therefore further warming to reach equilibrium.

    The quote from the abstract that Wili probably would have made says:

    We estimate that this feedback could result in an additional warming of 0.13–1.69 °C by 2300. We further show that the upper bound for the strength of the feedback is reached under the less intensive emissions pathways.

  38. 38
    Chris Dudley says:

    Steve (#21),

    You may not be aware that the US is cutting emission, and has a policy in place to cut them further. Many other western nations are doing the same. China plans to increase emissions. We can’t do RCP2.6 unless everyone cuts. So, the US has already taken on a leadership role and now has a responsibility to invoke the environmental provisions of the GATT to impose tariffs on countries, such as China, which are not cutting emissions.

  39. 39
    Chris Dudley says:

    Pete (#25),

    You have not understood what it means to stabilize. It means continuing to emit. If you want that pipeline warming, you are going to have to provide enough carbon dioxide to make it happen. If you fail to do that, the pipeline in gone. Past emissions don’t do it.

  40. 40
    Chris Dudley says:

    Kevin (#28),

    OK if you won’t grant a physics based use of the word responsible I’ll rephrase: The science that it is future emissions, not past emissions that cause future warming. There is really no doubt about that. Even folks invoking feedbacks are invoking future emission. And, it looks like China and India are about 80% of the problem:

  41. 41
    Chris Dudley says:

    Rob (#35),

    I find your concerns confusing. If you think emissions are being outsourced, what better policy than to invoke the environmental language in the GATT and impose tariffs. Do the manufacturing at home using clean energy.

    On the fairness question, The US and UK have to pay twice for their energy infrastructure. China can avoid that by going directly to clean energy. Should China not direct some of its savings on that towards assisting the US and UK with the their extra expenses? There are many ways to look at that. The way I look at is RCP2.6 is needed and we need effective policies to implement it. International relation are not usually fair. Burden sharing in NATO is pretty unbalanced, for example. The US has an interest in not seeing its agriculture decimated, so putting tariffs on imports from China seems like a good thing to try.

  42. 42
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Even folks invoking feedbacks

    Who isn’t?
    Why would anyone be discounting feedbacks?

  43. 43
    Chris Dudley says:

    Killian (#34),

    You’ve allowed yourself to be bamboozled by “energy intensity.” Just imagine Dick Cheney sitting on your shoulder whispering sweet nothings in your ear. That is China’s energy policy: increase emissions with a slight nod to efficiency. The US policy is to cut emissions by 17% by 2020 from 2005 emissions and continue cutting to reach a goal of 83% cut by 2050. China’s policy is to increase emissions out to 2040 and beyond.

    I would say also that you have misunderstood lag in the climate. Further, feedbacks, if they are not runaway, need to be driven, so ending the driver ends the feedback.

  44. 44
    Chris Dudley says:

    SA (#33),

    Bottom line in what you are saying, China is increasing fossil fuel use.

    My bottom line: We can’t do RCP2.6 if they do that.

    Supporting China’s goal to increase pollution is supporting mass extinction of species according to AR5. Give China all the kudos you want, but if they don’t cut emissions, the American Pika will be gone, along with a lot of its friends. Grain yields will be down and violence will be up. So, turning China around has to be a priority.

  45. 45
    Hank Roberts says:

    >China’s goal to increase pollution is supporting mass extinction of species

    It’s not the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.
    The fool who overloaded the camel tries that pathetic excuse.

  46. 46

    “You may not be aware that the US is cutting emission, and has a policy in place to cut them further.”

    And you may not be aware that US emissions rose last year–though I’ve already mentioned it once before.

    No, the US does not have such a policy. The current administration does, but much of what would be required to be sure that future US emissions do in fact decrease are beyond its jurisdiction. And there is no knowing what the next administration will choose to do–though we can certainly infer what Mr. Romney would have done, had he been elected.

    Perhaps relevantly, I note that the EIA projects comparatively little change in their projected US emissions for 2040:

    In the AEO2014 Reference case, total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2040 equal 5,599 million metric tons, 92 million metric tons (1.6%) lower than in AEO2013.

    (Though I expect that those emissions will in fact be lower than that, even without a radical policy change; the EIA consistently underestimates the growth of renewables.) I haven’t found another projection that has some authority, that is recent, and that runs out that far.

    I don’t understand why you are harping on China and India, Chris; emissions cuts on their part are necessary but not at all sufficient. As I keep saying, mitigation is a multilateral problem. In fact, the EIA report you cite shows that quite clearly. Though it’s true that developing nations are projected to increase more than developed, nevertheless, the latter–as sampled by today’s OECD grouping–is projected to increase nearly 10% by 2040.

    Nor does your statement that “China’s policy is to increase emissions out to 2040 and beyond,” seem to be supported. China does not officially report emissions, has no official projections of emissions, and couches its policy in terms of energy intensity. So ipso facto, no policy on emissions one way or the other.

    However, the probable results of current policies have been assessed by non-official source inside and outside China. As reported by this US congressional analyst:

    In the longer term, Chinese officials are signaling possible absolute reductions in China’s GHG emissions. As reported by the Xinhua news agency, a recent report by the Chinese Academy of Engineering concluded that China’s energy development is projected to experience a “historic transition” around 2030 when its consumption of coal becomes restrained, the emission of carbon dioxide reaches its peak and energy-saving capacities around the world reaches an advanced level. This conclusion is consistent with other analyses and official statements suggesting that 2030 could mark the high point of Chinese CO2 emissions if current policies continue.

    The EIA report, referred to above, is more pessimistic, but even it shows Chinese emissions peaking in 2038.

    Now, why do I keep arguing about this? Because it’s important: pinning the blame on China is an evasion of responsibility. We should pressure China to do better on emissions. But the best step toward doing so effectively would be getting our own act together. Manifestly, it is not–not when there is no national policy, no political consensus, and no mechanism for mitigation beyond EPA regulations that exist at the mercy of the next Presidential election. None of those needs will be addressed by pretending that the only problem we have is located in Beijing.

  47. 47
    Walter says:

    #44 “Bottom line in what you are saying, China is increasing fossil fuel use.”,ref2014er-d102413a

    USA CO2 emissions.

    2013 = 5421 million metric tonnes of CO2

    2040 = 5500 million metric tonnes of CO2

    2013 EIA report had it at 5691

    Chris Dudley, there’s an inconvenient Truth for you to swallow:-

    “Bottom line the USA is INCREASING fossil fuel use!”

    How much should the rest of the world FINE YOU for totally disregarding the urgency explained by the Science?

    REFRAMING your “beliefs” into the REAL World:

    “My bottom line: We can’t do RCP2.6 if they do that.”


    “Supporting the USA’s goal to increase pollution is supporting mass extinction of species according to AR5.”

    I Agree. True!

    “Give the USA all the kudos you want, but if they don’t CUT emissions DRASTICALLY, the American nation will be gone, along with a lot of its friends. Grain yields will be down and violence will be up. So, turning the USA around has to be a priority!”

    That’s true too!

    Go forward Chris Dudley …. turn your nation around, turn your own personal behaviour and your misinformed verbiage around too ….. NOW!

  48. 48
    Walter says:

    #43 “The US policy is to cut emissions by 17% by 2020 from 2005 emissions and continue cutting to reach a goal of 83% cut by 2050.”

    That is a NON-Policy that has no effective actions to back it up. In fact the “policy actions” are the complete opposite of such a “goal”.

    Furthermore, such a Goal is counter-productive and basically “spin” that looks nice on the surface because basing it on 2005 is a total cop out and a mis-direction.

    In order to get anywhere near RCP 2.6 what is required is a 90% cut to 1990 level emissions BEFORE 2050, and preferably by 2040.

    1990 Data is the ONLY Valid yardstick … it applies to the USA and to the globe equally.

    Under 10% of 1990 emissions is the ONLY Valid Goal, that “might” work.

    RCP 2.6 globally is NOT achievable under any rational potential changes in Carbon Energy use in the foreseeable future. None.

    RCP 8.5 IS the current real world trajectory – and the USA is feeding that as much as the rest of the world are.

    Why? Because there are NO policies, and no actions in place that show the USA is heading anywhere BUT towards RCP 8.5 by systemic increasing of it’s fossil fuel carbon emissions, concrete use, and land use effects.

  49. 49
    Tony Lynch says:

    Yes, we have them surrounded after all.

  50. 50
    wili says:

    @42 Hank asks:
    “> Even folks invoking feedbacks

    Who isn’t?
    Why would anyone be discounting feedbacks?”

    Apparently most models discount major carbon feedbacks. Why? I don’t know.

    From the third source from your link at #9:

    “these models have typically neglected the permafrost carbon pool, which has the potential to introduce an additional terrestrial source of carbon to the atmosphere.”

    And, yes Chris, they do include future CO2 emissions…just not human ones. Is that what you meant?