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date: Tue, 30 Jan 2001 13:15:15 +0100
from: Rob Swart <Rob.SwartatXYZxyzm.nl>
subject: Re: Synthesis Report (SYR): Summary for Policymakers
Thanks for giving us the opportunity to react to your thinking. It forces us to
think more clearly about the main messages. I must admit that I am somewhat
confused about the 26 page summary, since this comes very close to (although it
is different from) the full-scale document the various teams are currently
writing. My view would be that those teams take their own text as the starting
point and try to improve/shorten it on the basis of your text. Here, I only
respond to your main messages in italics and mainly focus on WG3 issues.
Most points made may be introducing the rest of the SYR, but they do not
address the question. I think the chapter should do both. In my view, in
addition to your 6 paragraphs, one or more paragraphs could be related to
five key aspects of Article 2: (a) dangerous interference, (b) stabilization,
(c) natural adaptation, (d) food security, and (e) sustainable economic
development. Three of these words (b), (c), (d) are not even mentioned. Two
of your paragraphs now do hardly relate to the question (the 4th and 6th)
but could be linked (see below).
The first italics could be positively relating to the question rather than
negatively; e.g. take the 2nd and 3rd sentence as italics: "Scientific,
technical and economic knowledge provides indispensable information needed to
arrive at an informed judgement as to what level of anthropogenic
interference would be dangerous, taking equity and social considerations into
account. However, that judgement is a political, not scientific, one. "
An initial attempt to address my 1st comment, integrating some of Bob's
italics but linking them to Artcile 2 issues: "Article 2 relates dangerous
anthropogenic interference to the level and the time-frame of stabilization
of concentrations of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere, which would be
required to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure
that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to
proceed in a sustainable manner. Although many uncertainties remain,
scientific, technical and socio-economic analysis as assessment in IPCC's
Third Assessment Report provides information which can be used to arrive at
the above mentioned political judgement about what constitutes dangerous
anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
Stabilisation of GHG concentrations. As elaborated in chapter (s) .. of
this report, concentrations of GHGs are not expected to be stabilized in
this century without additional climate policy interventions. Level and
timing of intervention needed depends critically on (a) the underlying
development path, which will be determined to a significant degree upon
decisions made about sustainable development policies and choices, and b)
the targetted level of the eventual stabilization of GHG concentrations in
the atmosphere and the timing of achieving this level.
Natural ecosystem adaptation. As discussed in chapter(s) ... of this
report, the climatic changes projected in IPCC's Third Assessment Report
report (TAR) are expected to significantly affect natural ecosystems
worldwide. Their ability to adapt naturally is dependent on both the
magnitude and rate of the changes. Policy intervention aiming at
stabilizing GHG concentrations in the atmosphere as required by Article 2
will increase this ability.
Food production. As discussed in chapter(s)... of this report, the climatic
changes projected in TAR are also expected to affect food production in all
regions. If food production would be threatened is not only dependent on
the magnitude and rate of these changes, but also on the ability of
societies, notably farmers, to adapt to the changing circumstances. Not
only would intervention aiming at stabilizing GHG concentrations in the
atmosphere make adaptation easier, also intervention aiming at increasing
society's adaptive capacity is important.
Sustainable economic development. The climate issue is an integral part of
the larger question of how complex social, economic and environmental
subsystems ineract and shape prospects for sustainable development over
many decades. Chapter(s) .... elaborate on how the capacity to mitigate and
to adapt to climate change could be enhanced and how possible associated
mitigation and adaptation costs could be reduced to ensure that economic
development can proceed in a sustainable manner.
"No futures are free if risk, but some are less risky than others". While I
do agree that it is useful to have a paragraph on risk, it is then also
important to note that the report (as SAR, TAR) does not report
probabilities, which would be needed to quantifdy risks (risk = impact *
likelihood of occurrence, for most people).
I would not include a WG3 paragraph, like "The Kyoto Protocol has led to the
creation of new market mechanisms"; apart from the question if this statement
is very relevant as such, I don't think it is "evidence of the consequence of
changes in the Earth's climate since the pre-industrial era."
In the current italics two things are missing: (a) the regional diversity in
the projected changes, and (b) the degree of confidence in the findings (from
most to least confident: gradual temperature change -> gradual precipitation
change-> abrupt climatic changes)
Jose Roberto Moreira, Igor Bashmakov and myself drafted a new text on inertia
in socioecomic sectors to completely replace the current section 4.4 and
complement the WG1 type of inertia. It will be more widely distributed
shortly. New italics (somewhat rearranged) from which the key messages from
this section could be selected for the SPM (to replace III in your proposal):
Inertia is not only an important integral feature of natural systems, it is
also an inherent characteristic of socio-economic systems, and thus crucial
for the assessment of both adaptation and mitigation options.
One important reason for socioeconomic inertia is that gradual climate
change effects may take decades to be noticed by the general publi, because
the irreversibility, in the medium term, of the buildup of greenhouse gases
is not well understood by the public or the policy community.
Research in many sectors and regions indicates an impressive human capacity
to adapt to long-term mean climate conditions, but less success in adapting
to extremes and to year to year variations in climatic conditions. While
some adaptation options have become more readily available, other
adaptation options have decreased, leading to inertia in socio-economic
sectors and making adaptation more difficult.
The challenge of the future appears to be to go beyond historical limits of
changes in energy and carbon intensity changes, i.e., move from slow
?dynamics-as-usual? scenarios toward ?fast? alternatives with new social
and institutional configurations addressing environmental constraints. Past
and anticipated rates of change of major forces driving anthropogenic GHG
emissions down are often limited to 1-1.5% per year. [add required rates
for stabilization at different timing - Igor Bashmakov]
Without inertia any trajectory could be corrected at no cost, but as
inertia is important, changing course may be very costly.
The inertia in socio-economic systems in mitigating climate change is
determined by their mitigative capacity, the development of which is a slow
and complex process to which long-term commitments must be made.
Inertia is very different for different elements of the socio-economic
system. End-use equipment with a relatively short lifetime can be replaced
within a few years (short term). Infrastructure, buildings, and production
processes can be replaced in up to 50 years, a similar time frame as for
lifestyle-related elasticities of energy, material and food demand (medium
term). Structures of urban form and urban land-use as well as fundamental
socio-economic such as international market and governance can only be
changed over 100 years (long term).
As to the short term, empirical studies suggest that the response of
relevant technological change to energy price changes can be surprisingly
swift, but its diffusion takes much longer. Inertia of reproducing
developing paths can be reduced on the short term by developing countries
through adopting anticipative strategies to avoid in the long-term, the
problems faced today by industrial societies (?leapfrogging?). Speed of
new technology penetration is influenced greatly by what have been called
?national systems of innovation? ? the institutional and organizational
structures that support technological development and innovation.
Behavioral changes can impact demand almost instantaneously under severe
economic conditions. For example, the oil crises of the 1970s very quickly
triggered societal interest in energy conservation and alternative sources
of energy. Following this period, economic development growth rates in most
OECD countries deviated strongly from the traditional tie with energy
consumption growth rate.
As to the medium to long term, social structures and personal values evolve
relatively slow with a society?s physical infrastructure, institutions, and
the technologies embodied within them. Institutions crowded by other
problems competing for attention exhibit substantial continuity and offer
narrow and infrequent windows of opportunity for reform, leading to medium
to long-term inertia.
First bullet: I propose to add (because of question 1) that the SRES
scenarios do NOT lead to stabilization of GHG concentrations within this
century, unlike popular rumours make believe (B1).
Second bullet: I would include the full text of the bullet in the extended
version: "Even with the same definition of costs, estimates will vary
considerably among studies: they depend on the reference,
non-climate-policy-intervention case; which policy intervention tools are
employed and when and where they are employed; which energy technologies are
available, and when and where these technologies are available. "
Fifth bullet: delete "that simultaneously correct market and policy
distortions" (unnecessary jargon and possible politically sensitive)
Sixth bullet: add: "which can be both positive and negative"; possibly
mention a few examples in addition to the oil producing countries example
mentioned. The one mentioned "a likely decline in GDP" is actually WRONG and
should be "a likely decline in GDP GROWTH" (WG3 SPM). Additional examples
could include the WG3 SPM statement: "These and other non-Annex I countries
may benefit from the reduction in fuel prices, increased exports of carbon
intensive products and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies and
know-how. They may be adversely affected by reductions in demand for their
exports to OECD nations and by the price increase of those carbon intensive
products they continue to import. The net balance for a given country depends
on which of these factors dominates. Because of these complexities, the
breakdown of winners and losers remains uncertain. "
Tenth bullet: cited wrongly: WG3SPM makes this statement about bringing
GLOBAL emissions in 2010 below 200 levels rather than Annex-B although during
the WG3 SPM approval process governments will propose to revise the statement
to say something they can use for Kyoto (but the underlying chapter does not
support this ... yet).
The first bullet should either acknowledge (in a footnote?) that IPCC is as
yet unable - based on the available literature - to say something sensible
about stabilizing concentrations of equivalent CO(subscript: 2), OR the word
equivalent should be added and explained in a footnote that current levels of
CO2 equivalent are close to 450 ppm ("today's levels").
"There is little information on the regional climate effects of stabilizing
CO2 concentrations" is a weak statement: either remove from SPM or say
something positive and qualitative as far as it is supported in TAR and have
the proposed sentence as a disclaimer. The sentence does suggest that there
is much information on the global climate effects of stabilizing CO2
concentrations: is this right?
All bullets on the mitigation aspects of the question are still missing (4th
and part of 5th bullet of 7b).
This question should be strengthened and Osvaldo is working on this. The
italics of the suggested revised text I sent to Osvaldo follow below:
Climate change is closely interlinked with a number of other environmental
problems at various scales, such as urban air pollution, regional acid
deposition, loss of biological diversity, stratospheric ozone depletion,
desertification and land degradation, scarcity of freshwater resources, and
While at UNCED in 1992 these problems were recognized as being closely
related, afterwards, they were often addressed as isolated issues by both
the scientific and political communities, as reflected in the separate
scientific assessment activities and international conventions.
The Earth �s weather, climate and stratospheric ozone layer are controlled
by the interplay among physical, chemical and ecological processes: changes
in one process influence the other and vice versa. Since the issues of
ozone depletion and climate change are interconnected, so also are the
Montreal and the Kyoto Protocols. Hence, decisions made under the Kyoto
Protocol with respect to methane, nitrous oxides and carbon dioxide will
affect the rate of recovery of stratospheric ozone, while decisions
controlling HFCs may affect decisions regarding the ability to phase out
Climate change affects land degradation through the effects of changes in
various climate variables (i.e. wind, precipitation/ runoff, temperature,
solar radiation, acid precipitation) on soil erosion and transport; and
land degradation affects climate change through the feedback soils have on
albedo. The causes of land degradation, such as intensive use of land in
arid and semi-arid areas, often co-incide with land-use related causes of
climate change locally, and through the increased demand for land elsewhere
. In arid and semi-arid regions, where deforestation is advancing and
leading to carbon loss, restoring forests by afforestation and proper
management of existing secondary forests can help combat desertification.
Changes in the acidity of rain are associated to variations in the emission
of sulfur oxide from fossil fuel burning and nitrogen oxides from fixed and
mobile engines. Sulfur abatement and fuel shifts are projected to lead
global emissions of sulfur to peak in the period 2020-2050 and then
decrease, mitigating acid deposition, but removing the masking effect on
Climate change can not only affect local air quality, (e.g. warming can
enhance conditions for troposheric ozone production and smog), conversely
urban air pollution can enhance (e.g. through tropospheric ozone) or
counteract (e.g. through sulphate aerosols) global warming. Addressing
local air pollution can have important co-benefits with mitigating climate
add statement on fresh water scarcity and climate change?
Climate change is projected to have significant impacts on the world?s
terrestrial ecosystems [forests]. At the same time, these ecosystems offer
significant potential to capture and hold carbon at modest social cost.
(WG3-ch 4). Increased carbon pools from management of terrestrial
ecosystems can only partially offset fossil fuel emissions.
add statement about biodiversity?
Interactions between climate change and other environmental problems have
important policy implications which can be seen in the context of the
social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development
(see Figure 8.2). The interactions call for policies that can serve
multiple objectives, such as development, equity and sustainability (DES),
and requires that a balance be struck when objectives conflict.
Policies that exploit synergies between national economic growth objectives
and environmental policies could help mitigate climate change as well as
promote development. Development paths that focus on the social, economic
and environmental elements of sustainable development may result in lower
GHG emissions. The effectiveness of climate change mitigation can be
enhanced when climate policies are integrated with the non-climate
objectives of national policy development and be turned into broad
transition strategies to achieve the long term social and technological
changes required by both sustainable development and climate change
Political decisions will inevitably be influenced by the distribution of
the effects of climate change over regions, sectors and time, as well as
the costs of mitigation among countries and be determined by how risks,
costs, environmental values and development aspirations are weighed in
different regions and cultures. Countries with limited economic resources,
low level of technology, poor information systems, inadequate
infrastructure, unstable and weak institutions and inequitable empowerment
and access to resources have little capacity to adapt and are highly
vulnerable to climate change and associated stresses.
At least three clusters of activities are likely to gain advantage from
potential synergies in implementing global conventions: the development and
strengthening of organizational structures, capacity-building
interventions, and data collection and information processing.
Organize the messages (a) according to the 5 bullets in the question and (b)
according to "robust findings" and "key uncertainties" (now all mixed up).
17thbullet: Cost and benefits are projected to amount to plus or minus a few
percent of GDP: add "which is projected to increase significantly in all
Add robust statement about possibilities to decrease costs, a.o. through
flexible mechanisms, multi-GHG approach, appropriate design of instruments
(e.g. double dividend), accounting for co-benefits, integration with other
national SD objectives. Optimistic message.
But: cost may be low at the aggregate level, they are not at the sectoral
level. And maybe even more important: there are many barriers and inertia in
the socio-economic sector/transaction costs which make implementation hard.
(that it is going to be difficult could be presented as a robust finding, but
the extent to which it is going to be difficult - when and for whom - is a
If I can find some more time this week, let me also think about your request for
tables and graphs. Good luck and looking forward to the "real" first draft SPM.