The conference last week in Exeter on “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change” grew out of a speech by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. He asked “What level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is self-evidently too much?” and “What options do we have to avoid such levels?”. The first question is very interesting, but also very difficult. As Roger Pielke has noted the conference organisers actually choose three “key questions”:
- For different levels of climate change what are the key impacts, for different regions and sectors, and for the world as a whole?
- What would such levels of climate change imply in terms of greenhouse gas stabilisation concentrations and emission pathways required to achieve such levels?
- What technological options are there for achieving stabilisation of greenhouse gases at different stabilisation concentrations in the atmosphere, taking into account costs and uncertainties?
It is worth thinking about the difference between the initial aim and the “key questions” chosen. Question 1 is essentially IPCC WGII impacts); question 2 is firmly WGI (how-much-climate-change); question 3 is fairly WG III (mitigation, including technical options). I guess they switched questions 1 and 2 round to avoid making the identification too obvious. The conference steering committee report makes it very clear that they are building on the IPCC TAR foundation.