Governments, planning authorities, companies and individuals all need information about the impact of climate change on extreme weather in the future. A recent paper  investigates changes in extremes both globally and locally.
We can be relatively certain of the signature of climate change on a global or continental scale. On the other hand, estimating changes on a country-wide scale is harder and estimating them on a local scale (i.e. to the nearest few kilometres) is very difficult.
In the new study, scientists calculated the proportion of global land area in which certain weather extremes are expected to increase.
A fortnight ago a journalist at New Scientist asked me if I’d seen the latest report by the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency (PBL) and Joint Research Centre (JRC) on last year’s global CO2 emissions figures. He wanted some quick reactions on analysis that showed China’s emissions per unit of economic output (its “emissions intensity”) had declined by over 4% in 2012, compared to 2011 levels. The following analysis is based on my response.
In absolute terms, China’s emissions actually increased by about 3% in 2012, according to the PBL/JRC analysis. But its GDP increased by almost 8% over the course of 2012, so a 3% increase in emissions means between a 4 and 5% decrease in CO2 emissions intensity.
Last week the sustainability group of my village and a neighbouring one organised a workshop for local schools. A few of us gave talks, but much of the morning was given to the young people themselves. Each school shared with the group what it is doing on sustainability. The other major activity for them was a debate on whether sustainability and development are compatible. Each school was given two countries that they had to represent in this debate.
Through a contact in Ethiopia and the amazing commitment of a university teacher there, we also had a video to show the young people of a debate on this subject in a class in the University of Mekelle.
On Wednesday six major developing nations plus Russia agreed to pursue closer cooperation, or “Association” with the International Energy Agency. The announcement is superficially modest, but it’s of major strategic importance. It’s the first crack in the “Berlin wall” that has separated energy policy making in the rich OECD countries from that in the developing world. The announcement itself concentrates on making energy markets more efficient but “energy technologies, energy efficiency, and renewable energy” are also on the agenda. These are early days, and there is long way to go to make this initiative effective. But this statement of intention, at Ministerial level, is a new and crucial step.
BBC’s Question Time on 14 November saw Lord Lawson citing the IPCC findings to support one of his arguments. Did I dream that? Then I realised that, of course, the reference to the IPCC was incomplete and misleading so I knew I was awake and back in the strange media-distorted world of the UK debate on climate change.
According to the Daily Express, Lord Lawson said that “If you look at the inter-governmental panel on climate change they say there is absolutely no connection between climate change and tropical storms.” Wrong, but convenient for someone who argues we probably don’t need to do anything much about climate change.
The IPCC has released corrected figures for past carbon dioxide emissions and future emissions trajectories quoted in the Summary for Policy Makers of the Working Group 1 report, “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis”. The original numbers were published in the report released on 27th September, which was subject to copy edit and final layout changes.
In total, six values from the summary have been changed. As noted by Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute, these corrections are minor adjustments to historical greenhouse gas emissions and to the cumulative emissions consistent with achieving a 2 degree warming target with different levels of probability.
Two years to go and counting down. That’s the real significance of COP19, the Warsaw Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which runs from 11-22 November. A new universal climate agreement effective from 2020 is what is at stake, and Warsaw is a step on the path.
The COP21 meeting in Paris at the end of 2015 will hopefully be the successful culmination of many years’ of hard work by the UNFCCC Secretariat, government climate negotiators and many, many others. It’s time for governments to act on the words they agreed in the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers launched on 27 September – namely that substantial and sustained reductions in emissions are required to limit climate risks.