A Future Without Climate Policy

Press release by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research


4-degrees briefing for the World Bank:

The risks of a future without climate policy

Humankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases are breaking new records every year. Hence we’re on a path towards 4-degree global warming probably as soon as by the end of this century. This would mean a world of risks beyond the experience of our civilization – including heat waves, especially in the tropics, a sea-level rise affecting hundreds of millions of people, and regional yield failures impacting global food security. These are some of the results of a report for the World Bank, conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Climate Analytics in Berlin. The poorest in the world are those that will be hit hardest, making development without climate policy almost impossible, the researchers conclude.

 “The planetary machinery tends to be jumpy, this is to respond disproportionately to disruptions that come with the manmade greenhouse effect,” PIK’s director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber points out. “If we venture far beyond the 2-degree guardrail, towards 4 degrees, we risk crossing tipping points in the Earth system.” This could be the case with coral reefs which face collapse under unabated global warming, or with the Greenland ice sheet. To melt the ice sheet would take thousands of years, yet this might be an irreversible process that could start soon. “The only way to avoid this is to break with the fossil-fuel-age patterns of production and consumption,” says Schellnhuber.

Climate impacts: Heat waves, sea-level rise, yield failures

 Already today impacts of climate change are observed. The Russian heat wave in 2010, according to preliminary estimates, produced a death toll of several thousand, annual crop failure of about 25%, and economic losses of about US$15 billion. Extreme events like this at 4 degrees global warming would become “the new normal” in some parts of the world, according to the report. In the tropics, the coolest months at the end of the century are likely to be substantially warmer than the warmest months today.

Sea level, under this scenario, would rise by 50 to 100 centimeters within this century, and more so in coming centuries. The rate of rise varies from one region to the other, depending on sea currents and other factors. Projections suggest that sea-level rise will be strongest in countries like the Philippines, Mexico, and India.

Within economic sectors, too, tipping effects with rapidly increasing damages can occur, for instance in agriculture. Already, observations showed that important cereals are sensitive to temperature increases passing certain thresholds, resulting in large-scale yield failure. Changes in the water cycle can aggravate this, when droughts occur or flooding affects farmed land.

World Bank President Kim: “A 4-degree warmer world can, and must be, avoided”

“The report draws from the current state of science and delivers new analysis of heat waves and regional sea-level rise, so of course there remain some uncertainties,” says William Hare, co-founder of Climate Analytics in Berlin and guest scientist at PIK. “We work with that by defining risk as potential damage multiplied with the probability – a rather improbable event can be a great risk if its impacts are huge.”

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim who was nominated early this year by US President Barack Obama and assumed his new position in July, has personally been briefed on the 4-degrees report by Schellnhuber some weeks ago in Washington D.C.. “A 4-degree warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2 degrees,” President Kim now said in a statement. “Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the biggest single challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.”

For further information please contact:

PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
E-Mail: press@pik-potsdam.de

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1 Response

  1. Poo says:

    Let me first say that my heart, and every heart I know, goes out to those poor souls dependent upon the ever feeble Fema and the assorted incompetence’s of the Power Companies in the New York/New Jersey area. Lack of preparation, fax machines, paper maps and generators in basements are merely the tip of the melting iceberg for Lack of Power Co. The Red Cross seems busy handing out bonus cheques rather than food, water and blankets.

    There is quite a difference, however, between weather and climate. Some know it, most do not. There is money in those who do not.

    Let’s face it, we’re here and we contribute to everything that happens. But we’re not alone, the climate does plenty all on its own. Volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, changes in the earth’s orbit, changes in the sun’s intensity and changes in ocean currents are but a few examples of natural events that affect climate. The temperature of the Earth varies randomly and with wide fluctuations of time.

    If there were no greenhouse effect, our Earth would be about 30C colder and life would be difficult, perhaps even verging on another Ice Age. There is much doubt about the real difference any rise in greenhouse gases has.

    Only man could be arrogant enough to claim the power to change the world. Oh, we already claimed that. I mean the universe. Only man could be arrogant enough to take that on.

    “Every time there is a monster storm like this, people think it’s coming out of our tailpipes and smoke stacks,” says David Phillips, Environment Canada senior climatologist.

    Governor Cuomo chimed in early followed closely by that great hypocrite and expert at large, Michael Moore. Noted scientist and internet inventor Al Gore weighed in as well. No question about it, Sandy was caused by Climate Change.

    More than 20 years ago the US Army Corps of Engineers noted an “anomaly” along the New York/New Jersey coastline. They stated that even a moderate hurricane headed in just the right direction would drown commuters in the subway tunnels of Lower Manhattan. But who listens to them? All they do is experience the continual reparation of communities up and down the Mississippi, in New Orleans and along the Eastern seaboard. And why? Could it be that these areas, among many others in the US, are built at sea and or water levels or marginally above? Could it be the building codes in areas such as these are woefully inadequate? Could it be that some of these homes, , built on drained marshes and swamps, shouldn’t be there in the first place?

    Can you imagine the complete devastation in the New York/New Jersey area today had a hurricane larger than Super Storm Sandy attacked? Sandy was a 1, albeit a big 1 as it combined a tropical and winter storm at high tide. But the US is currently experiencing the longest-ever recorded period with no Category 3 or stronger hurricane landing on her shores. Is that Global Warming or Climate Change? If so, it’s for the better.

    Governor Cuomo doesn’t read reports by the US Army Corps of Engineers. He has his own sources divined, no doubted, by a floating sticking and an erupting Manhattan street sewer.

    “That’s not a political statement; it’s a factual statement,” he said. “New Yorkers will have to prepare for “a new reality.”

    There you have it, its “factual”, scientifically proven. Thank you Mr. Mayor, part time scientist. I’ll spare you the nonsense spewed by Moore and Gore. You’ve heard it all before. Hey, it’s made them rich beyond their wildest dreams. Perhaps it was their “dream” all along. They’ve rarely seen a trend they couldn’t follow and exploit.

    Over the past decade, in which coal has been damned and demonized, it has met nearly half of the rise in global energy demand. It is projected to be the main fuel of electricity generation through 2035. Over the next several years China, the United States and India will build 850 new coal-fired electricity plants. 562, or 66%, will be built in China. You tell them to stop building. China still has 48 years of coal supplies in the ground. India has over 100. The U.S. and Canada have more. Get used to it.

    Wind and solar accounted for almost 1% of primary energy demand in 2010. They will reportedly “soar” by 2035 to, wait for it … 4%. The success of Renewables is predicated on global subsidies rising from US$88 billion in 2011 to nearly US$240 billion by 2035. Chump change! By way of example, wind power is being exported out of Ontario as I type at below cost prices. This means Ontario ratepayers are paying U.S. states, primarily New York (congratulations!), to take surplus wind (which blows when no power is needed) out of Ontario.

    Oh, I forgot, tax the rich. How’s that working for Europe? The real money, being portable, has moved. Oh, I know most of it now resides in Switzerland and England but at least it’s not being taxed to death in Greece, Italy or France who so desperately need money to pay for promised programs they cannot, under any circumstances, afford. How could a Greek hairdresser possibly retire at age 50 with a greater government pension than a New York university professor at age 65?

    But then surely it is only fair to throw money at Renewables, given all the subsidies going to fossil fuels, doesn’t it? The problem is that we are talking apples and oranges.

    In 2009, the G20 attempted to reduce fossil-fuel subsidies and let the markets rule as they should, freely. The result? Fossil-fuel subsidies rose 30% last year to US$523-billion, with Iran as the subsidy champ, kicking in US$80-billion, followed by Saudi Arabia, with over US$60-billion, so much for free markets, renewables and subsidies. You can’t control everybody in spite of your own desires.

    On the climate affront, you cannot control it either. Apparently our magic temperature rise number is 2 degrees C or we fry where we stand. According to an IEA (International Energy Agency) report, given current consumption trends, the Earth is headed for a 3.6C of temperature increase by 2200, 188 years from now. Pardon me if I don’t panic.

    But I digress, back to the Storm. Of course those with real expertise, exact records of previous storms, qualifications and years of study in such fields hold different opinions from citizen scientists like Moore, Gore and Cuomo.

    “It’s a hybrid storm, which combines some features of tropical hurricanes with some features of winter storms, that operate on quite different mechanisms,” said Kerry Emanuel, a professor of Atmospheric Science (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

    Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder (Climate Analysis Section), Colorado, said it was too early to make such a leap.

    “As for Sandy, however, a lot of the weather conditions that lined up were due to a ‘crap shoot.’ A hybrid storm can be an explosive storm, what we might call a meteorological bomb, without the influence of climate change. Sandy doesn’t tell us anything about climate change.”

    Prof. Pielke (University of Colorado), has published that, based on existing climate models, man-made climate signals “are very unlikely to emerge in U.S. tropical cyclone losses at time scales of less than a century. Trying to wage the climate battle, day by day, weather event by weather, leads you down a pretty slippery slope of bad science.”

    Even the much discredited Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concurs. They have already admitted there is “little or no science” to justify years of claims about the evils of man made climate change and its subsequent responsibility for weather events around the world. Tell the Mayor; he has an office in New York too! On the other hand, why bother? If he doesn’t read reports from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers why would he read one from the IPCC? They’re longer. An IPCC report states that the number of hurricanes would “either decrease or remain essentially unchanged.” Typical IPCC Science, could be less, maybe not, who knows? Small wonder they are seemingly out of favor with so the called Climatologists.

    Figures can lie and liars can figure. It really depends on how you look at it, your depth of knowledge and what point you are trying to make. Me, I care about life and how much of it is lost. By that definition, Sandy was a pussy cat.

    But global-warming alarmists need Sandy. They need her badly. In keeping with the Halloween spirit they even gave her a name, ‘Frankenstorm’ based, no doubt on their liberal use of the corresponding ‘Frankenscience’.

    I feel their pain. The numbers have not been alarmist friendly of late. U.K. researchers insist on showing temperature trends, based on global numbers, have stalled for the past 16 years. Oops. Who’s talking about Climate Change? The President? Or is it just people looking for grant and consulting money while thousands need power, food and heat. Shameful.

    Did Sandy save the consultants and grant seekers? Even before the storm hit, the hype machines of the Environmental Defence Fund and the Natural Resources Defence Fund (whose funds one wonders) were emailing and tweeting reporters (for stories) and supporters (for funds, ah the funds). The idea became all the rage. Obsessive web sites and fellow junk science promoters had a field day. It’s “climate catastrophism” they wailed. Not because it was but because it had a ring to it. It raises funds. It gets grants. You can’t beat a catchy phrase. Ask Madison Avenue.

    Most scientists, even those who promote anthropomorphic climate change as a danger to mankind, are meek in their assessment. They released a combined statement saying that currently slightly higher ocean temperatures “could be” creating “perhaps optimal conditions” for a huge intense storm. “Could be?” “Perhaps?” Sounds scientific to me. Are these guys with the IPCC? And have you noticed just how many government supported groups there really are? How could unemployment still be a problem with Climate Change affording so many opportunities?

    Even if Sandy turns out to be a record breaker it adds nothing to support or take away from the grand theories of man-made climate change. As Prof. Pielke says, “Trying to wage the climate battle, day by day, weather event by weather, leads you down a pretty slippery slope of bad science.” But it is a slope many are more than willing to go down and now they have the winds of Sandy at their backs.

    How will Sandy rank in the annals of U.S. tropical hurricane history? If recent damage estimates of up to US$50 billion hold, Sandy could go down as one of the top five, using the U.S. National Hurricane Center tally of the damage cost of the most devastating hurricanes of the last 150 years. But a ranking produced by ICAT (Insurance Provider) would drop Sandy well down the list. It might just make the top 20.

    The U.S. Weather Service measures total economic damage, adjusted for inflation. While of importance, it is a misleading indicator of the force of each hurricane and the resultant damage. I mean prices go up nearly every year. By this system, a weak storm of today would rank higher than a powerful storm of yesteryear. A more accurate ranking of the relative strength of any hurricane requires adjusting for the damage that would have occurred if the same hurricane were to land today. Known as “normalized” damage estimates, these measures were developed by Roger Pielke of the University of Colorado.

    The latest normalized rankings by Prof. Pielke show the date and location of the top 15 hurricane losses between the years 1900 to 2011. It is based on estimates of what the losses would be if the same historical storms were to occur in 2012. Such adjustments, reflecting changes in personal wealth, coastal populations and housing, place the 1926 Great Miami hurricane at the top of the list. The implication is that if a hurricane of the Great Miami’s force, a category 3, were to strike today, it would cause more damage than Katrina caused in 2005.

    Normalized rankings shine an accurate perspective on recent and old hurricanes, not just those the yammerers can remember. The US Weather Service rankings place nine of the top 15 worst hurricanes in the 20th century. There you go. It’s Global Warming, proof positive. Not so say the normalized rankings.

    “In historical context, “wrote Prof. Pielke, “Sandy sits alongside Carol, Diane and Hazel. One big difference however — Carol, Diane and Hazel hit the U.S. Atlantic coast within a single 13-month period in 1954-55. Imagine that.” Yes, imagine that. Was that Climate Change too or as is most likely, the memory of the yammering class doesn’t go back that far.

    You want to talk ‘big’ and unyammered about?

    How about the year 1900 in Galveston? The massive hurricane leveled and submerged the town, an international seaport at the time. It carried on through the Midwest, Canada and was last seen in Siberia. The death total exceeded 6,000. 6,000!!!
    (For an informative and excellent read, I heartily recommend Erik Larson’s excellent book ISAAC’S STORM)
    The Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 was a Category 4 hurricane and devastated Miami in September 1926. The enormous economic impact ended the Florida land boom and gave the area an early start on the Great Depression.

    Or how the New England Hurricane of 1938? As officially recognized names did not come into being until 1950, it was also known as The Great New England Hurricane, Yankee Clipper, Long Island Express or simply the Great Hurricane. It was the first major hurricane to strike New England since 1869. The storm formed near the coast of Africa and made landfall as a Category 3. The hurricane was estimated to have killed as many as 800 people and damaged or destroyed over 57,000 homes. It remains the most powerful, costliest and deadliest hurricane in recent New England history, eclipsed in landfall intensity perhaps only by the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635.

    Ranked by Population and Wealth normalization in Billions of U.S. dollars, the 10 worst Hurricanes to strike the Atlantic coast are as follows:

    (i) Miami (1926)
    (ii) Galveston (1900)
    (iii) Galveston (1915)
    (iv) Katrina (2005)
    (v) Andrew (1992)
    (vi) Storm 11 (1944)
    (vii) Donna (1960)
    (viii) New England (1938)
    (ix) Lake Okeechobee (1928)
    (x) Wilma (2005)

    (Data based on Pielke et al. 2008 and updated by ICAT)

    Most of these Hurricanes had winds well in excess of 150 mph some 50% greater than Sandy at her worst. The estimates include hurricane damage as defined by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Several of these storms would have much higher damage if inland flood damage were to be included. Sandy is projected as top 10 but all figures are clearly estimates at this time. If the incompetence of the alleged rescue services continues it could reach Top 5. One hopes not.
    Hurricane Hazel, ranked #11, is my personal favorite (if one can truly have personal hurricane favorites) as I experienced it as a child. This Category 4 hurricane struck Toronto as an extratropical storm in 1954 killing 81 of Hazels’ total 1,200 total casualties. The areas most affected by Hazel’s 150 mph winds were Grenada, Haiti, Bahamas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Toronto (Ontario).

    Hazel was the deadliest and costliest hurricane of the 1954 Atlantic hurricane season (Yes, there is such a thing as a Hurricane Season every year) which struck the United States between North and South Carolina as a Category 4 hurricane. As a direct result of the high death toll and the damage, its name was retired from use for North Atlantic hurricanes.

    When Hazel arrived in Ontario, rivers and streams passing through the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) overflowed their banks, causing severe flooding. Can you imagine such a thing? Riverbanks overflowing? What’s next? Locusts? Residential areas along the rivers and streams that flowed into Lake Ontario were converted to parkland. You can’t live there anymore. Duh! Who really wants to live below sea level or in a regularly flooded flood plain?

    The army helicopters landed in a field just over the fence from my parent’s back yard. My friends and I stood at our back fence and watched as the soldiers carried the bodies to the Fire Station at the end of the field. These were the first soldiers I had ever seen. We liked them. We don’t have FEMA here happily. The governments (federal, provincial and municipal) write the cheques and the police, fire departments and assorted rescue services are backed up by the army in cases of dire need. Hazel was such a case.

    As Prof. Pielke said, “Trying to wage the climate battle, day by day, weather event by weather, leads you down a pretty slippery slope of bad science.”

    And what of Venice which is experiencing the highest tides since 1872? Of course, the yearly torrential rains cause rivers to overflow pouring more water into poor old Venice. Can you imagine such a thing? Those stupid rivers keep overflowing year after year. Apparently drainage problems occur across Northern Italy with no solution in sight. It just keeps happening! A complex system of moving dams around Venice that took decades and millions of dollars to build is nearing completion. A Barrier to protect the city is still under construction and has been for years. Current projections claim 2015 as the year for completion. Kind of reminds you of New Orleans, doesn’t it?

    The Italian Environment Minister blames global warming. Of course he does. It beats blaming a work force that has made a career out of not finishing projects. Hey, rivers overflow! Pass it on.

    Venice, also known as the “Queen of the Adriatic,” the “City of Water,” “City of Masks,” “City of Bridges,” “The Floating City,” and “City of Canals” is sinking more than five times faster than experts in Venice previously believed. It seems to be disappearing and some parts are flooding more and more often. It is much easier to flood when it is sinking already, don’t you think? Not only is Venice flooding more often, it is heading out to sea.

    Consorzio Venezia Nuova, the group in charge of safeguarding Venice and the lagoon have stated, “We have records of the subsiding of Venice for hundreds of years.” Hundreds of years of sinking, overflowing rivers and unfinished barriers and dams and the Environment Minister blames it on Climate Change. Beats working, I guess.

    And lastly (yes, there is a “lastly”), what is there to do about our Great Lakes that form so much of the border between the U.S. and Canada? Lakes Michigan and Huron were within an inch of the all-time record low for the month of October or so says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That must be Climate Change too, mustn’t it? A new low may be achieved through the late fall and winter months. Egad! Peak levels are achieved during June or July. The lakes then begin to decline as evaporation becomes larger than the inflow of rain and run-off. Pity Venice didn’t have more evaporation and run-off.

    The extent of these lake-level fluctuations is impressive. It’s not unusual for water levels in the Great Lakes to change by more than a foot from one year to the next. And the difference between the historic high and historic low water levels on some Great Lakes is more than 6 vertical feet!

    Water level monitoring began in the mid-nineteenth century. Records suggest that the lakes operate on a thirty year cycle, give or take, from high to high, with a dip falling approximately every fifteen years. Water fluctuations invigorate the ecosystem but upset those who seek their pleasures from consistent lake levels. What good is a high and dry dock one year and then one that is under water a decade or so later? Where’s the fun in that?

    Wasaga Beach, Ontario sits on Georgian Bay, Lake Huron and is an ideal place to observe natural fluctuations in Great Lake water levels. There is a faint tilt in the sand at Wasaga Beach. When Lake Huron’s water level falls by one vertical foot, it can actually change the Wasaga Beach waterline by dozens of feet. In 1986, during historic high water levels on the Great Lakes, Wasaga Beach swimmers needed only to amble a few yards from the tree line to reach the water’s edge. But in 2000, when water levels approached historic lows, beachgoers were forced to walk 150 yards to the water, often dodging the large thickets of sedges and coastal meadow that had sprouted in the sand where water once stood. Is that Climate Change or simply the natural order of things?

    Only man is arrogant or stupid enough to shake his fist at the sky in a vainglorious challenge.

    A man said to the universe:
    “Sir, I exist.”
    “However,” replied the universe,
    “The fact has not created in me
    A sense of obligation.”

    …Stephen Crane

    I think that just about says it all.

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