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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 TO POLICY AND DECISION-MAKINGconcentrations of CO 2 and CH 4 in 2005 far in excess of the natural range overthe last 650,000 years. CO 2 increases are primarily due to fossil fuel use, whileCH 4 increases are predominantly due to agriculture and fossil fuel use.Given these anthropogenic trends, the challenge for climate modellers has beento show the relative affect of these drivers upon the climate, in contrast to naturaldrivers. According to the literature, over the past 50 years, the sum of solar andvolcanic forcings would likely have produced cooling, not warming. Additionally,increases in GHGs tend to warm the surface while the net effect of increases inaerosols tends to cool it. But the net effect due to human activities since the preindustrialera is one of warming (+1.6 [+0.6 to +2.4]W/m 2 ), while solar irradianceare estimated to have caused only a small warming effect (+0.12 [+0.06 to+0.30]W/m 2 ). It is therefore concluded that the net effect of human activitiessince 1750 has been one of warming, changes in wind patterns, alteredprecipitation patterns and changes is extreme events.TOPIC 3 – Climate change & impacts under different scenarios: The purposeof this section is to report on the projected impacts of human-induced climatechange. As such, it represents one of the most critical sections of the IPCCreports given its direct relevance to decision and policy making. To determinethese impacts, a number of subtleties associated with predicative modeling haveto be taken into account. In an ideal sense, a single integrated model, itself theproduct of a thorough understanding of both natural and socio-economicsystems, would produce a series of possibilities from which an optimal pathwayfor human agency could be determined. This perfect ideal would take intoaccount all interactions and feedbacks between the natural and socio-economicsystems, as well as value assessments of various outcomes.In reality natural and socio-economic models are composed of numerous subsystems,each of which is inherently incomplete, and typically modeled inisolation despite important feedbacks among systems. Results are produced byvarious research groups, each with their own competing theories andaccompanying methodologies, as well as their own unique sets of initial andfuture input conditions. The more complex models are computationally heavy inthe sense that they take large amounts of time and resources to run, implyingthat they can only perform a limited series of runs or simulations. Hence theideal of optimality is typically abandoned in favour of producing a series of likelyor contrasting scenarios for consideration. The problem for the IPCC has beenthe lack of consistency among the scenarios used by various research teams.42

PAPER 3 CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION FOR NEOPHYTESIn the past modellers had used a range of emission scenarios as GCM inputs toexamine the impacts of elevated GHGs (e.g. doubling of CO 2 ). Aside from thelack of consistency, this was not very revealing in terms of the conditions thatwould have produced a doubling of CO 2 in the first place, nor did it take intoaccount the inherent circularity of the problem (i.e. humans affect theenvironment which in turn affects humans, etc.). Actual prediction of futureanthropogenic GHG emissions would require consideration of very complex, illunderstooddynamic systems, driven by forces such as population growth, socioeconomicdevelopment, technological progress (IPCC, 2001), and of courseclimate. Not only is such prediction impossible, but there are an infinite numberof alternative futures to explore given the ranges of future emissions and drivingforces (IPCC, 2001).The solution has been to effectively freeze the relationship between the climateand society into plausible storylines by developing a standard set of alternativeGHG emissions scenarios to analyze long-range developments of the socioeconomicsystem and corresponding emission sources. SRES refers to thesescenarios as described in the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (IPCC,2000). Scenarios cover a wide range of the driving forces of future emissions,including demographics, land use change, technology, economy, energy, andagriculture. They encompass different future developments that might influencegreenhouse gas (GHG) sources and sinks, such as alternative structures of energysystems and land-use changes. They do not address any future policyconsiderations (e.g. mitigation or adaptation) nor are they meant to infer policypreferences, or even suggest a business-as-usual scenario. They are based on an‘internally consistent and reproducible’ set of assumptions about the keyrelationships and driving forces of change, derived from an understanding ofhistory and the current situation (IPCC, 2001).Using this framework as a foundation, projected impacts of the individualscenarios were gleaned from the literature. Some of the results suggest thatacross the entire range of SRES emissions scenarios we can expect a minimumwarming of about 0.2°C per decade. In other words, without any activemitigative action, we are committed to climate warming. The report goes on tolist the actual range of climate impacts for each of the SRES scenarios (e.g. intabular and graphic form Figure SPM-5 and Table SPM.1). These ranges areconsistent with the previous IPCC report (TAR), but upper ranges are larger dueto the inclusion of stronger climate-carbon cycle feedbacks in some models (e.g.warming will reduce terrestrial and ocean uptake of atmospheric CO 2 , increasingthe fraction of anthropogenic emissions remaining in the atmosphere).43

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