date: Wed, 15 Jan 1997 12:40:24 +0100
from: Michael Williams <Michael.WilliamsatXYZxyzp.ch>
subject: project proposal
Greetings. I am faxing you now a brief letter of support. The person
handling the Dutch CD on climate change science and policy modelling is Yvo
de Boer, at the Directorate Air and Energy, Dutch Ministry of Housing,
Spatial Planning and the Environment, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. 31
70 3394386, fasx 3391310. I'm sure he would be pleased to speak with you.
In a couple weeks we will republish our updated 30-sheet dossier on climate
change; I've recently drafted a summary sheet, if you have a few mintues to
review, please do (all underlying sheets already reviewed by several IPCC
experts each). Best regards, Michael.
Information Sheet 1
An introduction to climate change
Human activity is releasing key greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Carbon
dioxide is produced when fossil fuels are burned and forests are cut down.
Methane and nitrous oxide are emitted from agricultural activities, changes
in land use, and other sources. CFCs and other gases are released by
industrial processes, while ozone in the lower atmosphere is generated by
automobile exhaust fumes.
Rising levels of greenhouse gases are expected to cause rapid climate
change. By absorbing infrared radiation, these gases control natural energy
flows through the climate system. The climate must somehow adjust to a
"thicker blanket" of greenhouse gases in order to maintain the balance
between energy arriving from the sun and energy escaping back into space.
Climate models predict that the global temperature will rise by about
1-3.5�C by the year 2100. This projection is based on current emissions
trends and assumes that no efforts are made to limit greenhouse gases. It
contains many uncertainties, particularly about the scale and impacts of
climate change at the regional level. The climate does not respond
immediately to greenhouse gas emissions, so climate change will continue for
many decades after atmospheric concentrations have stabilized. Meanwhile,
the balance of the evidence suggests that the climate may already be
responding to past emissions.
Climate change is likely to have a significant impact on the global
environment. In general, the faster the climate changes, the greater will be
the risk of damage. The mean sea level is expected to rise 15-95 cm by the
year 2100, causing flooding of low-lying areas and other damage. Climatic
zones (and thus ecosystem and agricultural zones) could shift towards the
poles by 150-550 km in the mid-latitude regions. Forests, deserts,
rangelands, and other unmanaged ecosystems would face new climatic stresses.
As a result, many will decline or fragment, and individual species will
Human society will face new risks and pressures. Food security is unlikely
to be threatened at the global level, but some regions are likely to
experience food shortages and hunger. Water resources will be affected as
precipitation and evaporation patterns change around the world. Physical
infrastructure will be damaged, particularly by sea-level rise and by
extreme weather events. Economic activities, human settlements, and human
health will experience many direct and indirect effects. The poor and
disadvantaged are the most vulnerable to the negative consequences of
People and ecosystems will need to adapt to future climatic regimes. Past
and current emissions have already committed the earth to some degree of
climate change in the 21st century. Adapting to these effects will require a
good understanding of socio-economic and natural systems, their sensitivity
to climate change, and their inherent ability to adapt. Many strategies are
available for promoting adaptation.
Stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will demand a
major effort. Based on current trends, the growth in carbon dioxide and
other greenhouse gas emissions is expected to result in the equivalent of a
doubling of pre-industrial CO2 concentrations by 2030, and a trebling by
2100. Freezing global CO2 emissions at their current levels would postpone
CO2-doubling to 2100. Emissions would eventually have to fall to about 30%
of their current levels for concentrations to stabilize at doubled-CO2
levels sometime in the future. Given an expanding world economy and growing
populations, this would require dramatic improvements in energy efficiency
and fundamental changes in other economic sectors.
The international community is tackling this challenge through the Climate
Change Convention. Adopted in 1992, the Convention seeks to stabilize
atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at safe levels. Some 165
countries are Parties to this agreement. Developed countries are committed
to taking measures aimed at returning their emissions to 1990 levels by the
year 2000; they have agreed to complete negotiations by December 1997 on
emissions cuts for the first decades of the 21st century. Developed
countries are also committed to promoting financial and technological
transfers to developing countries to help them address climate change.
Meanwhile, all Parties are gathering information on their national emissions
and developing strategies for adapting to and minimizing climate change.
Many options are available in the short- and medium-term for limiting
emissions. Policymakers can promote energy efficiency and other
climate-friendly trends in both the supply and consumption of energy. Key
energy consumers include industry, houses and offices, transport, and
farming. This can be achieved in large part by providing an appropriate
economic and regulatory framework for consumers and investors. Policies
should be cost-effective. "No regrets" solutions that make economic and
environmental sense irrespective of climate change. They can greatly reduce
emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by encouraging the best
current and future technologies. Changes in practices, from better urban
transport planning to personal habits such as turning out the lights, are
also important. Taxes, regulatory standards, tradable emissions permits,
information programmes, voluntary programmes, and the phase-out of
counterproductive subsidies can all play a role.
Energy efficiency gains of 10-30% above baseline trends can be realized over
the next 20-30 years at no net cost. Some researchers believe that much
greater gains are also feasible during this time and beyond. Improvements
over the baseline can be achieved with current knowledge and today�s best
technologies in all major economic sectors. In the longer term, it is
possible to move close to a zero-emissions industrial economy � with its
innumerable environmental and economic benefits.
Reducing uncertainties about climate change, its impacts, and the costs of
various response options is vital. In the meantime, it will be necessary to
balance concerns about risks and damages with concerns about costs and
economic development. The prudent response to climate change, therefore, is
to adopt a portfolio of actions aimed at controlling emissions, adapting to
impacts, and encouraging scientific, technological, and socio-economic research.
| Michael Williams (Mr.) Voice:(41-22)979 9242/4 |
| Information Unit for Conventions Fax: (41-22)797 3464 |
| UN Environment Programme Email: michael.williams |
| Geneva Executive Center, C.P.356 @unep.ch |
| 1219 Chatelaine, Switzerland http://www.unep.ch |