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Coping with climate change in the next half-century

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  • UserCharles Kennel, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Sustainability Solutions Institute (Previous Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 1998-2006) (University of California)
  • ClockFriday 21 February 2014, 14:00-15:00
  • HouseBritish Antarctic Survey, conference room.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Victoria Hamilton-Morris.

If external to BAS, please email the organiser in advance to gain access to the building

Charles F. Kennel (a), V. Ramanathan (b), and David G. Victor ( c) University of California San Diego

Greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations are trending far off the path needed to avoid dangerous interference in the climate system, and nations are making little progress in the diplomacy to cut their emissions. Reducing Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels is the only course of action that stabilizes the climate beyond the year 2100; a recent analysis of California’s energy systems illustrates how difficult it will be over the next few decades to put the planet on the path to stabilization. While there is cause for optimism that CO2 emission controls could have effect after 2050, in the interim the world must prepare for at least twice as much human-caused warming in 2050 as we have seen thus far.

There is a way to moderate the impacts of climate change between now and later in the century when CO2 mitigation could become effective. Action on short-lived climate warming pollutants such as methane and black carbon can have a fast climate response and reduce the near-term costs of adaptation. The technologies and regional regulatory forums are in place and the co-benefits are huge; controls on short-lived pollutants, such as soot, can save millions of lives through reductions in local pollution while also lessening the loss of crops. Focusing on pollutants with large co-benefits could make countries more likely to want to act. Working on issues where short-term success is possible could also make international climate change diplomacy more credible, which would greatly aid in completing the more difficult task of reducing CO2 emissions.

Nonetheless, significant climate warming now appears unavoidable, so it is also urgent to prepare to adapt. We propose that reduction in short-lived climate pollutants go hand-in-hand with local and regional adaptation efforts. Unlike much of climate change science, which looks globally, adaptation is an intrinsically local affair. Successful adaptation will require new institutions, including climate change assessment networks that directly support local mitigation and adaptation efforts worldwide, and a knowledge-dense cyber-infrastructure that supports them.

a: Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Sustainability Solutions Institute b: Scripps Institution of Oceanography c: School of International Relations and Pacific Studies

This talk is part of the British Antarctic Survey series.

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