Iconic Figure: An Integrated Framework: Mitigation and Adaptation
Iconic Figure: An Integrated Framework: Mitigation and Adaptation
In my class I have a set of figures that I call the "iconic figures" of climate change. There are only a handful of them, and they are the figures that I think all my students should be aware of and understand.
Figure 1: This figure from the 2001 IPCC Report introduces the terms “mitigation” and “adaptation” as the broadest areas of our decision to do something about climate change. The figure is discussed at length below.
This iconic figure shows the concepts that are used to discuss the climate change as a whole. It was originally called the integrated framework, and this version of the figure is taken from the IPCC 2001 report. This figure has been around in this basic form since at least the mid-1990s.
In the bottom left of the figure there is the oval labeled “Emissions and Concentrations.” This represents that the composition of the atmosphere is being changed through the addition of constituents that change the absorption and reflection of solar and infrared energy in the Earth’s atmosphere and at the Earth’s surface. These emissions are divided into two categories. The first category is greenhouse gases, which are long-lived enough that they are distributed throughout the atmosphere. What we are concerned with in human impacts on the planet are those emissions which come directly from activities that support human activities. The greenhouse gas emissions most directly related to human activities are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, the chlorofluorocarbons, and methane. The second category of emissions is aerosols, which are particulates in the atmosphere. In comparison with the greenhouse gases, aerosols are not evenly distributed throughout the atmosphere. Also, they do not stay in the atmosphere as long as the green house gases.
Through the changes in absorption and reflection of solar and infrared energy, the Earth’s temperature structure will change. Focusing only on the greenhouse gases, the addition of greenhouse gases will hold heat near the surface for a longer time before it is returned to space. The Earth’s surface will warm; the upper atmosphere will cool. This warming near the surface is the cause of “Climate Change;” the upper left oval. There are many consequences of warming the surface, but rising temperature, melting of ice on the land, and changes in the weather are all certain. The melting of ice on land will lead to more water in the ocean, and the sea encroaching on the land.
What to do? At the most basic level there are two choices. Do something or don’t do anything. It is reasonable to conclude that changes to climate of the magnitude that is predicted will be consequential; humans will be impacted; non-human ecosystems will be impacted. (The oval on the top right named, “Impacts on Human and Natural Systems.”) The impacts can be positive or negative. Most current analyses are that the sum total of the consequences will be negative. Therefore, many reach the conclusion to do something, and what to do falls into two large categories.
Mitigation is doing something to stop the increase of greenhouse gases. Adaptation is doing things to adapt to the particulars of climate change. With this simple split of responses, there are many paths of analysis that can be explored. There are, perhaps, philosophical paths. Until recently public discussion of adaptation was muted. Some maintained that if we allowed the possibility of adaptation, then we would forget about mitigation. There are paths that allow us to think about businesses: The impact of expenditures on adaptation strategies are relatively easily to evaluate. Because greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for many years, expenditures on mitigation are difficult to evaluate and their benefit is realized long into the future compared with lifetime investment planning, if not human lifetimes. There are political, environmental, economic, scientific, management, and more ways to think about mitigation and adaptation. It is safe to conclude that we will be compelled to adapt to climate change, and we have a responsibility for mitigation. Some would argue that our ultimate survival depends on mitigation.
What we do, our choices about mitigation and adaptation are represented in the square named “Socio-Economic Development Paths.” These socio-economic development paths range from “Business as Usual” to ideas of managing and engineering our pollutants, de facto our climate, through policy, economics, and technology.
There are two other terms that require definition at this level of looking at the problem. The first is “geo-engineering.” Some people consider geo-engineering to be adaptation. Some consider it a type of mitigation. In the same spirit that we did not talk about adaptation for a long time, geo-engineering has, until recently, been a muted topic of conversation. The argument would be that if we think that we can engineer the climate to our liking, then we will not be motivated to mitigate climate change. Opinion: Geo-engineering needs to be in our portfolio, especially if you count amongst geo-engineering strategies of the storage of carbon dioxide underground (sequestration) or removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The next term that is fundamental is “resilience.” Resilience is how well we are able to adapt. It is intuitive, mostly, that more technologically advanced societies are more resilient, better able to build seawalls, floating cities, and indoor environments. Increased resilience is also a possible planning or investment path.
These are basic definitions that are central to the discussion, argument, planning, and organization of climate change. Here is, once again, the link to the IPCC glossary which has more complete definitions and nuances on terms. Also here is a powerpoint presentation that I have put together on mitigation and adaptation. It might not be the most exciting, but it is, perhaps, useful.
Powerpoint (PPT) Mitigation and Adaptation
Updated: 21:31 GMT le 08 novembre 2009
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IPCC Synthesis Summary: Self Synthesis
IPCC Synthesis Summary: Self Synthesis
My blog on Weather Underground started with the release of the first part of the IPCC Report. This week is the release of the final part of it all; the synthesis report. The synthesis report looks across all of the reports, and it condenses and orders the information. Here is the link to the IPCC web site, and here is the link to the report (~7 Mbytes). The report summarizes the science and evidence of climate change, the impacts, and guidance on responses. The IPCC is not simply the voice of scientists, or the voice of one country, or one sector of society. It’s a document that arises out of scientific investigation, but that incorporates the interests and points of view of many communities that are not, first and foremost, anchored in the culture of science.
This process for the most part eliminates speculation, and the statements which are made with “high confidence” and that are labeled as “very likely” are about as close to bullet proof as information gets. While the process eliminates scientific speculation, it also subdues the research that is emerging, but has not reached a level of scientific consensus. There are many, including myself, who feel, therefore, that the message that comes from the IPCC is perhaps “safe” – safe in the sense of certainty that the information is bullet proof.
Writing this blog and reading the comments have been interesting and rewarding. My ultimate interest is advancing away from discussion, from simply education, out of the realm of argument, above the suspicion of hidden agendas, to the ability to develop plans for actions and to pursue those actions. I believe that all elements of society have a vested interest in the problem of climate change, that these elements of society contain communities, and that open community approaches to developing strategies and solutions will be critical to our success.
There are two places where writing this blog has helped my thinking evolve. The first is the role of population and consumption. Population and the consumption of fossil fuel by so many is fundamental to the discussion. And at the core of it all is our belief, our imperative, to consume more and more to sustain the economy or to advance development, to improve the quality of life. Even if one is at the top of the consumption pyramid, there is an imperative to consume more. As a student at a recent lecture of mine asked, “Sometime in 7th grade science, don’t people see this unsustainable?”
I am a person who believes that Bjorn Lomborg has a message that is worth listening to. (Here is a link to a Washington Post article on his book Chill Out.) Lomborg talks of prioritizing climate change relative to other problems facing society, and he weighs advantages and disadvantages of economic development. I don’t always agree with his analysis, and his evaluation of long and short term effects, but I think there is a lot of substance to be drawn from his thoughts. What struck me recently: There is an argument that economic development and education have been the most effective ways to reduce population growth. Therefore, development, followed by population management is at the key of it all. This argument is seductive, but there is the fact that the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the result of consumption by a relatively small population. Reduced population does not mean reduced consumption of fossil fuels. The reduction of consumption of energy is a much more difficult, much more fundamental problem than, even, the problem of moving to new sources of energy.
The second place that my thinking has evolved during the writing of this series of blogs has been clarification of the role of climate change in issues such as heat waves and water resources. There is an array of resource stresses that face society. Some of these are linked to large consumption by a small number of people; others are related to too many people for the available resources. Climate change amplifies many of these stresses; climate change is not the fundamental cause of these stresses. Often these problems can be addressed in a way that, in fact, consume more energy, likely fossil fuels, and hence, increase climate change risk.
The relationship of climate change to the array of problems that we face today, a time when many people thrive, and when many people suffer, is not straightforward. Often it appears that continuing to increase the risk to the climate is the way to address the problem at hand. I am certain that this will be the case. We are compelled to intertwine managing our climate, explicitly, with our addressing of these problems. It is not enough to defer the climate change problem until we get to it, until it emerges as the most critical problem. It is not adequate to assume that the climate change problem will be addressed as a consequence of solving, for example, the energy problem. This is a far deeper problem than government agencies, legislation, industrial process, or resource conservation; it is a problem at the very core of our behavior, our imperatives.
Some synthesis of my own ...
Updated: 20:46 GMT le 18 novembre 2007
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A few weeks ago I wrote a blog from a conference that I was attending on business and climate change. One of the messages that came from that conference was that businesses needed to start considering the potential cost of carbon dioxide abatement.
In the winter of 2007, four of my students did an interesting set of calculations. At that time, in Texas, there was a proposal to build several new coal-fired power plants. There was some urgency in the proposal because the existing power plants would soon not be able to meet peak power requirements. The group started their research following a report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. This report, by R. N. Eliot and co-authors, suggested a set of nine policies that they considered both effective and politically viable. Following those policies, which included both efficiency and renewable energy, the peak power demands could be met without any additional power plants. Further the cost of energy would be reduced. Here is the list of suggested policies:
1) Expanded Utility-Sector Energy Efficiency Improvement Program
2) New State-Level Appliance and Equipment Standards
3) More Stringent Building Energy Codes
4) Advanced Energy-Efficiency Building Program
5) Energy-Efficiency State and Municipal Building Program
6) Short-Term Public Education and Rate Incentives
7) Increased Demand Response Programs
8) Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Capacity Targets
9) Onsite Renewable Energy Policies
The students in my class, Jessica Drummond, Michelle Sargent, Shanna Shaked, Andrew Winkelman started from this study and calculated two additional types of cost. These were the costs associated with carbon dioxide abatement and the costs associated with diseases known to be caused or aggravated by emissions from burning coal. These costs nearly double the cost of electricity from the coal-fired power plants. When compared with the cost that comes from the nine policies listed above, the difference is even larger.
The Executive Summary of the report is below.
PDF of Executive Summary
PDF of Meeting Energy Demand in Texas: The Hidden Cost of Coal
Meeting Energy Demand in Texas:
The Hidden Cost of Coal
Jessica Drummond, Michelle Sargent, Shanna Shaked,
Andrew Winkelman, and Richard Rood
University of Michigan, August 2007
Based on current projections, the state of Texas will soon find it difficult to meet its peak load energy demand through current energy infrastructure. In order to address this shortfall, Texas has proposed building a host of new coal-fired power plants. However, coal plants include various environmental and health externalities that have not been factored into the cost of coal-fired power generation by the generating corporations or the government of the State of Texas. This paper includes an initial valuation of two of these associated costs: carbon emissions and public health.
Recent studies have asserted that coal-fired power is the cheapest option for Texas to meet its burgeoning peak load energy demand. However, a report released by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) challenges those claims. That study found that implementing a suite of programs to meet the state’s energy needs through increasing the efficiency of energy use and by investing in renewable energy would actually reduce current electricity costs in Texas by 50%, and provide a cheaper solution than new coal plants.
The proposed coal plants will incur high costs for their emissions. Based on current EPA regulations, the coal plants will incur a total cost of $5.5 billion for their sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury emissions from 2008 to 2023. This price does not include the potential increased cost of carbon dioxide resulting from federal climate change legislation that is likely to pass in the next few years. In sum, all nineteen proposed plants will emit 125 million tons of new carbon dioxide per year. Under three pricing scenarios based on projections from current legislation in Congress, resulting carbon costs to those plants will range from $3.9 Billion to $54 Billion for the fourteen year period of 2009 to 2023.
In addition to these costs, the state will also face costs due to the increased prevalence of diseases that the plants will cause. The accumulated health costs associated with the increased incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, and pediatric asthma will total $4.8 Billion from 2009 to 2023. When accounting for the mortality that these diseases will cause, the cost is $38 Billion, based on the current value of a statistical life.
It is possible that the state will decide not to build all nineteen of the proposed plants analyzed in this report. However, each kilowatt-hour generated from a coal-fired power plant will create a percentage of the external costs described above. When the highest projected costs resulting from carbon legislation are added to projected health costs with mortality defined above, they add 7.46 cents to every kilowatt-hour of coal power generated, which almost doubles its current retail price.
The analysis in this report confirms the conclusion of ACEEE highlighted above, and makes the cost savings of the ACEEE strategy even more apparent by revealing the additional carbon costs of $3.9 to $54 Billion, and public health costs of $4.8 to $38 Billion for the proposed plants. Total additional costs from the higher end of the estimates included in this report could total as much as $90 Billion. Texas legislators and political leaders should consider these costs when deciding whether to meet their energy needs through coal-fired power plants.
Updated: 21:32 GMT le 08 novembre 2009
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Definition of Climate: Average versus Accumulation
Definition of Climate: Average versus Accumulation:
Climate is often defined as the “average weather.” More complete definitions include not only the average, but statistical representations of variability. Because weather is not a measurable parameter, the definition of climate ultimately relies upon a set of more basic measures of, traditionally, the state of the atmosphere – temperature, wind, and moisture. Furthermore, the quantification of the climate relies upon the definition of the averaging period.
Climate, however, encompasses much more than the weather and the atmosphere. Therefore, the definition of climate is extended beyond measures of the atmosphere to include other components of the Earth system: cryosphere, ocean, land, and their chemical state. In addition, measures of the state of the Sun and the geological state of the Earth are potentially important. The specification of the averaging period is often anchored in the quality and completeness of the observational record. The World Meteorological Organization recognizes a 30 year averaging time as a standard. The study of weather is implicit in this choice of an averaging period because of the availability of global measurements which reliably sample the spatial and temporal scales of weather. As our data record is extended, we discover important modes of variability that are longer than 30 years. Also, the time scales in the non-atmospheric components of the Earth system are longer than those in the atmosphere; hence, the average states of these components are not represented by the same average that might yield an “average weather.”
The two extensions to the definition of climate listed above are scientific in nature and any deficiencies in the definition can be accounted for with quantitative rigor. A third challenge to the definition of climate follows from the exposure of scientific investigation of the climate to society as a whole. Climate science and predicted climate change become not solely the purview of the science community. If the knowledge of climate predictions is to become the foundation for decisions in energy policy, infrastructure investments, and adaptation strategies, then the definition of climate and climate variability needs to accommodate the requirements of these communities. This will nuance and extend the definition of climate.
The scientific definition of climate as spatial and temporal averages and deviations from that average impacts the way that information from the science community is provided to other communities. It impacts the way scientists analyze the results of climate models, and the strategies to develop more accurate and robust climate models. While a powerful and useful way to organize and quantify both observational and model data, the representation of the physical state of the climate as averages weakens the ability to investigate cause and effect in climate models. For example, how the change of a model component such as the convective parameterization impacts the average spatial pattern in the inter-tropical convergence zone is difficult to isolate.
This paper explores a nuance on the definition of climate. That is, rather than climate being defined as the average weather, weather is viewed as one of the elements of the climate system. In the climate system the role of weather is, fundamentally, to carry heat from the equator to the pole; it is a transport process. Weather is not the only dynamical transport mechanism. The ocean circulation serves the same purpose – the transport of heat from low to high latitudes. Also, in the atmosphere there are other scales of motion, planetary waves and gravity waves for instance, that are important dynamical features of the climate, but they are not the core focus of the study of weather and weather forecasting.
The transport of heat from the equator to the pole is the fundamental role of weather in the climate system. This role is complicated by the importance of water and the energy associated with the phase changes of water. Indeed, our notion of climate stability is anchored in the notion of a global-scale balance of the ice, liquid, and gas phases of water. The differential heating between the equation and the pole drives a circulation to reduce the temperature gradient. The dynamical systems that develop also transport water. The range of temperatures that are common to the atmosphere cause phase changes of water, which in turn significantly impact the spatial and temporal distribution of energy.
Weather is a subset of the dynamical systems that develop to transport energy and that respond to that transport of energy. The subset of dynamical systems that comprises the weather is especially important because weather is the most immediate and important way the climate impacts people and ecosystems. The accumulation of the transport associated with weather systems is the contribution of weather to climate. This nuanced definition of the role of weather in the climate system as an accumulated transport mechanism will be investigated in this paper.
(This is the draft of introduction of a paper I’m writing.)
Here is a list of links to basic definitions used in climate.
Arctic Climatology and Meteorology Glossary
Wikipedia Climate Definition
World Meteorological Organizations Climate Theme Page
Figure 1: A picture I took of the Tower of the Winds in the Roman Agora in Athens, Greece, 2004. The carvings show representations of the winds from different directions. This was a meteorological observatory a couple of millennia ago. Just thought it was a nice picture - and not irrelevant.
Updated: 21:33 GMT le 08 novembre 2009
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