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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Getting Real on Climate Change

Martin Parry, Jean Palutikof, Clair Hanson & Jason Lowe issued a challenge of sorts in the latest edition of Nature Reports Climate Change: "Both emissions reduction and adaptation will need to be much stronger than currently planned if dangerous global impacts of climate change are to be avoided. "

The quartet argue that knowledge of the marginal damages associated with warming is now sufficient to support robust emissions reductions target setting. This seems a bit of a stretch, given large uncertainties persist with respect to the responses of natural and human systems to climate change, not to mention the fact that marginal damages is not the only criterion upon which targets are likely to be based. Nevertheless, Parry et al. argue for an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 based upon their reading of potential damages. While this progressive tightening of targets reflects the consequences of delay in actually achieving reductions, increasingly ambitious targets will do nothing to reduce risk if they aren't actually achieved (or achievable).

Hence, for our purposes, what is more important is the emphasis they place on the need for adaptation:

"However, even with an 80 per cent emissions cut, damages will be large: any impact that occurs below a temperature rise of 1 °C (Figs. 1 and 2) is likely to be unavoidable, even under the most stringent mitigative action. Residual damage will be great unless we invest in adaptation now. Much of the damage could be avoided by adaptation, but again, this would require a much larger effort than is currently planned."

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