Climate change is not only about the polar bear or arctic ice. The consequences will be and are just over the corner and they are getting expensive. Some experts are using this argument convincingly. This was also the clearest message in Tony Blair‘s decided climate change action. Insurance companies are repeatedly showing their opinion about climate change risk assessment. And the consequences in some sectors are starting to be economically noticeable as last California’s water crisis affecting beer production. Or two from las winter: winter sports and destructive storms.
There will be more and more, attributions will grow at the same pace and some will realize that the economic cost of a low carbon economy (real, no doubt, in my opinion) is small compared to the cost of inaction. The problem is that the first one is short term and measurable, the former medium-long-term and more difficult to measure precisely. It is not again about environment and economy it is about short term and long term, and mainly about the well being of our descendants in one, two or three generations and so on.
Of course these kind of consequences will be secondary compared to sea level rise, extreme weather food security triangle. Yet, they are important for many people, and many jobs. In this case the effects are getting visible even now and reflect the huge economic effect climate change will have in many sectors. For example in the regions living from winter sports, are they conscious enough? I don’t think so, with climate change many times happens that we are somehow aware of it but not to the extent of thinking about the possible consequences or implications, it is like a nightmare we expect to wake of.
The problem is that it will not disapear alone, the good news is that we can do a lot to reduce it.
Photo from Aizkorri beach close to Bilbao
One of the fastest consequences of climate change are the strong storms. The equation is simple: the more heat in the ocean the stronger the storms, helped by the small but noticeable increase of sea level rise. In fact, the first news of the sea level rise,
The beginning of the year has been particularly violent in the cost around here with many strong storms and one really impressive. This link
provides some pictures from the beautiful city of San Sebastian. The damage of last storm was important (even more in some other towns/cities) and economic impact is greater than direct repairing works in a city getting high income from tourism.
The media have not been extensive in the comments regarding climate change link, though it was mentioned in some cases. But I was quite happy to hear some clear words from some colleagues not involved in these discussions.
Of course, it is important to be cautious with attribution as climate and weather are not the same thing and being too emotional can enforce the type of discussion that helps skeptics. I think that wise comments accompanied by account of economic effects are much better in the crucial discussion of what is more expensive? To start carbon emission decrease (mitigation)? Or pay the effects?
Three months ago I finished my first Cousera course. I was new to this learning platform and even to the concept itself (the MOOCs), nevertheless my experience was great, sometimes more demanding than I previously thought but at the same time very satisfactory. In fact there were many courses in Coursera about or around climate change and this is a significant data itself and perfect subject for another post. Concretely, the one I did was Global Warming: The Science of Climate Change by David Archer.
The basic data about the course: It is 8 weeks long, with quizzes, activities, (small problems), optional number crunchers (longer and more numeric problems) and a term project (not long, not determinant in the final grade and interesting). A good part of the problems was related with several web models about aspects of climate change that allowed a lot of play from the students. And the temperature data for the term project are really interesting. But the most important thing for me were the lectures, they were short, clear and well focused. So, this course offered me a good overview of the climate change problem, starting for the science of the whole carbon cycle and arriving to the consequences depending on several emission scenarios.
As an extremely short summary three paragraphs (not literal):
- In the long term the deep earth carbon cycle (a geological cycle) will stabilize the CO2 and the climate again. But it will need a million years so we cannot wait for it. In the short term there are many uncertainties but we are facing the alternative of reducing our emissions clearly to approach a 2ºC warming or continuing in the business as usual scenario towards the 4ºC or more.
- The important parameter is how much carbon we burn, the total amount and we have burnt half of what is considered “safe”. (David Archer has some doubts about the complete safety of the 2ºC target). All fossil fuels are important and even land use but Coal is the most dangerous because is cheap and there is a lot to burn.
- As the total carbon budget is the key the earlier we start reducing the smaller the effort. If we start too late we will be at risk of arriving to unknown scenarios.
- The consequences are not crystal clear but it is clear that can be very dangerous in the long-term for more than 2ºC. Sea level rise, water scarcity, extreme weathers among others can make our life difficult and our societies unstable.
Next month a new edition will start, very advisable for anyone with interest in this important subject, more considering the flexibility of MOOCs, you can participate actively or just watch some lectures to learn about particular aspects.
This year I am enjoying my summer holidays in this beautiful coastal place called Sukarrieta. The summer up to date has been better than usual, and here this is definitively positive but I don’t intend to start a weather description typical of any skeptical blog. I just imagine for short periods of time how it will be the summer period for the people living or just spending holidays here.
And I imagine that many actions and enjoyments that are part of the everyday summer life here will have to adapt or disappear, as the small boat trips, the funny children swimming competition, the small or big beaches that form with the tides,…
Certainly, this town should have the potential to adapt to climate change. Maybe the whole wonderful area of Urdaibai will loose a lot of charm and biodiversity, and some more unpredictable things. Is everyone more or less conscious of this? I don’t think so.
However other places that live more from the weather based turism, and or that will become hardly enjoyable in summer will suffer much more and are as conscious.
Carbon Bubble concept is a very interesting one, clearly supported by most climate hawks but somehow questioned too in other cases as: “Carbon Bubbles — Who’s Kidding Who?“. The concept is a translation from financial or housing bubbles. Bubbles are wonderful, the grow and grow until they explode, it is a very well-known concept in the south of Europe recently and in many other places along history.
So, what would be a carbon bubble? It is simple, even if the estimations of fossil fuel reserves are correct a great part of them should not be used if we do not want to enter in a really catastrophic climate change, so they should be useless and the companies that own them not so worthy.
Yet, this idea is not mainstream in any stock market or society and the oil or gas deposit continue to be considered as valuable as ever or more. This is a contradiction for many as climate change is widely recognized (even for oil companies) as a threat, the question is that most uf us in OCDE theoretically recognise climate change as a scientific fact but do not go further to consider it a vital challenge of our generation, and this is the problem. While this problem persists the carbon bubble will remain wandering harmless and several people will have to insist in the need of urgent action..
This study published in Nature is very interesting because makes numbers about emission targets, the peak emission year and the consequences up to 2100. The study recognizes the great grade of uncertainty in some aspects as the absolute amount of consequences and this in my opinion gives it more credibility.
On the other hand it states clearly than the date and the amount of the peak of emission is more important than the later reduction rate. It says that even if it very difficult to know what will happen exactly the proportion of it will be much lower if we peak our emissions fast.
I find this result interesting, important and encouraging at the same time. Because it would not be so difficult to peak world emissions:
- Most European nations and maybe the USA have done so
- The BRICS, concretely China and India had better add new power by renewables than coal, it makes sense in many aspects.
- The poorest countries do not have much influence in the decisions nor in the emissions, but for them too renewables with help of richer countries make more sense.
Going further to the 80% reduction from current emissions as the final target seems much more difficult but this study finds we have some extra time for that. So let’s start with the first step: the world emissions peak.