Monday, August 31, 2009

WCC-3 -- World Climate Change Experts Meet Resource Managers and Planners

By Paul K. Haeder*

Ahh, can there finally be a huge break in the way we see business as usual during this week’s WCC-3 in Geneva, which bringing together thousands of remarkable people who collect and analyze climate data and those who manage the world’s land and water resources? Will the US media, mainstream that is, cover this historic event this week? How much traction can climate change and sustainability experts and the thousands of groups working on a post-carbon civilization get from this meeting where business and resources managers meet science?

During the 3rd World Climate Conference in Geneva, August 31-September 4, more than 1,500 policymakers and resource managers from more than 150 countries will join with scientific experts to begin paving the road to construct those actionable and proactive measures so people can begin adapting to a changing climate.

“Part of what we’re doing at the meeting is thinking about what end users need,” Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and head of the U.S. delegation to WCC-3. “Is it data, is it technical assistance, is it analysis and prediction, is it better communication of what’s known, is it decision-support tools? It’s probably all of that … but what are the priorities, what are the most urgent needs?”


  • The Conference sets the stage for nations
    and organizations to identify the needs of
    end users around the world who will directly
    benefit from improved climate prediction and
    information services.

  • The Conference will address the state of
    knowledge and the capacity to mobilize climate
    science globally to advance seasonal
    to interannual to interdecadal climate predictions,
    including current gaps.

  • The Conference will negotiate the principles
    and discuss the mechanisms by which to share
    new advances in science and information
    through global infrastructure for the benefit
    of end users.

The biggest issue now isn’t climate warming deniers or the media creating false dichotomies and buoying up bizarre opinions about climate science. It’s the huge divide between the technical computer modeling data from satellites, ocean monitors and other measuring devices and what planners and civil engineers and policy makers managing areas’ and countries’ resources can do to make the changes necessary to protect people and infrastructure.

This is a multitrillion dollar adventure into the future. And the climate models will be more than computerized predictors of desertification, aquifer desiccation and deforestation. It comes down to where a bridge should and can be built and where water treatment plants should be sited.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and its international partners organized the conference to define climate services. The focus will be on climate predictions on a time scale of days to 50 years in the future ― seasonal to multidecadal ― for adapting to climate variability and change.

“It’s not enough for scientists to say, ‘What do we think the users need?’” Lubchenco said. “It’s critically important for the users to help define what they need and how they need it.”

The first World Climate Conference, sponsored by WMO, was held in Geneva in 1979. Three international climate organizations arose from this scientific meeting. One of these, formed in 1988 by WMO and the United Nations Environment Programme, was the Nobel-Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which convenes scientists from around the world every five years or six years to assess the state of the climate.

The Second Climate Conference was held in Geneva in 1990. Meeting participants issued a strong statement highlighting the risk from climate change. Developments here also led to the creation of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, an international environmental treaty created in 1992, and the Global Climate Observing System, a network of climate and related observations.

We’ve mentioned this before on the PacifiCAD blog – we need a global framework for climate change planning and for creating connectivity to all the climate change services that will be necessary to improve networks of satellites, buoys and other Earth-observation devices that monitor conditions in the oceans and atmosphere. Again, all nations, all communities need to have access to this information and to those climate services.

“The United States will be an active partner in this,” Lubchenco said. “We have a lot to share but we also have a lot to learn. We’re viewing this very much as a partnership with the international community.”

*thanks to Cheryl Pellerin for information in this blog

Time to change 'climate change'

What's clear from Copenhagen is that policymakers have fallen behind the scientists: global warming is already catastrophic

George Monbiot 12 March 2009 14.30 GMT

The more we know, the grimmer it gets.

Presentations by climate scientists at this week's conference in Copenhagen show that we might have underplayed the impacts of global warming in three important respects:

• Partly because the estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) took no account of meltwater from Greenland's glaciers, the rise in sea levels this century could be twice or three times as great as it forecast, with grave implications for coastal cities, farmland and freshwater reserves.

• Two degrees of warming in the Arctic (which is heating up much more quickly than the rest of the planet) could trigger a massive bacterial response in the soils there. As the permafrost melts, bacteria are able to start breaking down organic material that was previously locked up in ice, producing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane. This could catalyse one of the world's most powerful positive feedback loops: warming causing more warming.

• Four degrees of warming could almost eliminate the Amazon rainforests, with appalling implications for biodiversity and regional weather patterns, and with the result that a massive new pulse of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Trees are basically sticks of wet carbon. As they rot or burn, the carbon oxidises. This is another way in which climate feedbacks appear to have been underestimated in the last IPCC report.

Apart from the sheer animal panic I felt on reading these reports, two things jumped out at me. The first is that governments are relying on IPCC assessments that are years out of date even before they are published, as a result of the IPCC's extremely careful and laborious review and consensus process. This lends its reports great scientific weight, but it also means that the politicians using them as a guide to the cuts in greenhouse gases required are always well behind the curve.

There is surely a strong case for the IPCC to publish interim reports every year, consisting of a summary of the latest science and its implications for global policy. The second is that we have to stop calling it climate change.

Using "climate change" to describe events like this, with their devastating implications for global food security, water supplies and human settlements, is like describing a foreign invasion as an unexpected visit, or bombs as unwanted deliveries. It's a ridiculously neutral term for the biggest potential catastrophe humankind has ever encountered.

I think we should call it "climate breakdown." Does anyone out there have a better idea?

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