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Paper 3: Climate Change Adaptation for Neophytes - UPEI Projects

Paper 3: Climate Change Adaptation for Neophytes - UPEI Projects

LINKING CLIMATE MODELS

LINKING CLIMATE MODELS TO POLICY AND DECISION-MAKINGof large-scale singularities. AR4 concludes that the reasons for concerns areassessed as ‘stronger’ than they were with TAR, in that many of the risks areidentified with higher confidence, some are larger than projected or are to occurat lower temperatures. Additionally, understanding the relationship betweenimpacts (the basis for “reasons for concern” in the TAR) and vulnerability (thatincludes the ability to adapt to impacts) has improved.In terms of (1) risks to unique and vulnerable systems, there is new and strongerevidence of observed impacts on systems such as polar and high mountaincommunities and ecosystems. Also the risk of species extinction is projected tohave increased; 20-30% of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely tobe at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperatureexceed 1.5-2.58°C over 1980-1999 levels. Society has been found to be morevulnerable to extreme weather events (2) than was revealed in TAR. There is alsohigher confidence in the projected increases in droughts, heatwaves, and floodsas well as their adverse impacts.There have been differences (3) across regions and their ability to respond toimpacts. Those in the weakest economic positions, such as low-latitude and lessdeveloped,or elderly or poor, in either developed or developing countries arefound to be most vulnerable to climate change. In terms of (4) aggregateimpacts, older estimates of net market-based benefits are now projected to peakat a lower magnitude of warming, while damages would be higher for largermagnitudes of warming. Finally, (5) there is new evidence of impacts from largescale singularities. Sea level rise is project with high confidence to increase fromthermal expansion alone, with further risks coming from increases from theGreenland and possibly Antarctic ice sheets. Associated impacts are naturallyexpected to increase as a result.Given this litany of potentially negative impacts, the authors of AR4 attempt topaint a picture of possibilities in this final Topic. In Table SPM.6 and FigureSPM.11, required emission levels are summarized for different groups of GHGstabilisation concentrations, and the accompanying equilibrium global warmingtemperatures and sea level rise. So for example (Table SPM-6), there are sixcategories of stabilisation that represent carbon concentrations, a stabilisationlevel of 485 – 570 ppm in the atmosphere (Category IV), is associated with apeaking year in terms of emissions around 2020 – 2060. This represents a 10 to60% increase by year 2050 over year 2000 concentrations, and is associatedwith a global average temperature increase of 3.2 – 4.0°C, and a sea level rise of0.6 – 2.4 m. Economic costs (Table SPM-7) of this category (categories are not48

PAPER 3 CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION FOR NEOPHYTESperfectly consistent between the two tables) could be anywhere from 3 to 5%GDP with a reduction in average growth rates of less than 0.12%.The IPCC conclusions appear self-evident: the sooner we attempt to achievestabilisation, the easier it will be to achieve. Delayed emission reductionsconstrain the opportunities to achieve lower stabilisation levels and increase therisk of more severe climate change impacts. Stabilisation levels will be achievedthrough a portfolio of technologies that are either currently available orexpected to be commercialised in coming decades. But this will requireappropriate and effective incentives for their development, acquisition,deployment and diffusion and addressing related barriers. Any strategy will alsoinclude both adaptation and mitigation which can complement each other toreduce the risks of climate change. Such strategies must also take into accountclimate change damages, co-benefits, sustainability, equity, and attitudes to risk.Summary of Synthesis: The IPCC report makes it clear that climate change hasalready occurred in the form of increased global warming, increased oceantemperatures, increased regional precipitation, widespread melting of snow andice, and rising global sea levels. Alterations in human systems have beenconsistent with these climatic changes (i.e. in the form of adaptations), as areecosystems responses (i.e. terrestrial, marine, hydrological and cryosphericalterations and species migrations). These modifications of the climate are alsoconsistent with our theoretical understanding of how human activities haveinfluenced the atmosphere (i.e. most notably through the emissions of greenhouses gases).Projecting our theoretical understanding of atmospheric behaviour into thefuture over a standard set of socioeconomic scenarios (SRES) and accompanyingemissions profiles, modellers suggest that we can expect a warming of about0.2°C per decade, without any mitigative effort. Warming will be greatest overland and most high northern latitudes and least over the Southern and NorthAtlantic Ocean. There will continue to be a contraction of snow cover area,increases in thaw depth over most permafrost regions, and a decrease in sea iceextent. There will also be an increase in the frequency of hot extremes, heatwaves, and heavy precipitation. The tundra, the boreal, the tropical rainforest,montane regions, mediterranean-type ecosystems, coastal and marine systems(the extent of sea-ice) will be most affected. In terms of human systems, thosemost affected will be agriculturalists in low-latitudes areas, inhabitants of lowlyingcoastal systems, and in regions such as the Arctic, Africa, small oceanicislands and Asian and African megadeltas.49

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