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Climate Change, Risk Management, and Science

Fordham University Symposium on Climate Change, Economics, and Energy Finance, 2012

Jan W. Dash, PhD
Visiting Research Scholar, Fordham University Climate Initiative Chair, Unitarian Universalist UN Office


  Climate

Science – General Remarks   Climate Impacts   Climate Risk Management   Climate Ethics


Climate Science – General Remarks

Science = Web of evidence, different sources
◦  Observations ◦  Physics, models, theory


Science is not Mathematics

◦  You never “prove” anything in science ◦  Always uncertainties (maybe small, maybe big) ◦  However can be relatively sure about some things ◦  Once convinced, skeptical on contrarian claims ◦  Informs us about risk from climate change ◦  Input into public policy, e.g. on renewable energy

   

Scientists are skeptics

Why should we care about climate science?

Comparison of the spread of actual IPCC projections (2007) with observations of annual mean temperatures 1980-2011


Natural variation out (El Niños/La Niñas, volcanoes, sun changes) => global warming exists, due to humans


Climate science expertise - counts
  Expertise

◦  Anyone speaking out of his field is as dumb as the next guy (paraphrasing Richard Feynman) ◦  Example: You don’t want your cardiologist – or your chiropractor - to give a cancer diagnosis ◦  Filter #1 = PhD in science ◦  Filter #2 = (earth) science faculty/research position at a recognized university, laboratory ◦  Filter #3 = substantial recent publications on climate science in peer-reviewed journals ◦  These are the filters: experts on climate science

needs to be in the right field.

  Who

has climate expertise?

Who are the Climate Contrarians arguing against mainstream science?

With few exceptions, they fail 3 expertise filters
◦  Example: Christopher Monckton
  No science degree. No position. No publications: FAILS   Gives talks. Gives expert testimony before Congress. Influential. Persuasive. Except he is completely wrong.   Like an actor who misuses medical terms – unless you’re a doctor you can’t tell   He misquotes scientists (they say so)
  John Abraham - devastating critique of Monckton’s claims


Cranks exist in every scientific field, are almost always wrong, are not Galileo, are justly ignored.
◦  In climate they get publicity and have outsize influence

What do Contrarians Say?
  “We

Have No Climate Risk” position:

1.  2.  3.  4. 

Deny global warming Deny human influence on climate Minimize climate impact risk Exaggerate cost of climate action mitigation

  Tactical

shift made from #3, 4 to #1, 2   Oppose climate action, renewable energy   Create doubt = tobacco tactic (Oreskes)   “Science can’t prove so we shouldn’t act”

Contrarian “Cargo Cult Science”
   

Cargo Cult Science = Form without content (Feynman) Contrarian Fallacies (partial list)
◦  ◦  ◦  ◦  ◦  ◦  ◦  Lawyer-like attacks nit-pick climate science (IPCC report) Promote ideas with little support (cosmic rays) Cherry-pick data (1998 temperature …) Ignore or overemphasize uncertainty (trends vs. noise) Malign climate models (ignore model back-testing success) Mathematical errors (principal components misuse) Irrelevant red herrings (“Medieval Warming Period”)


Ignore evidence, don’t admit error, distort, misquote, change meaning of words, other errors …


What are some resources?
  Skeptical

◦  One-liner responses: “The sun is responsible for global warming” – wrong – the sun has NOT been getting any warmer since 1975 ◦  Run by professional climatologists ◦  “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”

Science website

  Real

Climate website

  Prof. Michael   Climate

Mann - new book


◦  Media – get reliable scientific input for articles ◦  Overview, resources, news on climate

Science Rapid Response Team Climate Portal


Climate Impacts
     

Climate amplifies naturally produced disasters Impacts are probably being observed right now Faint rumbling of impacts on our descendants if Business as Usual BAU behavior continues U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review (2010)
◦  Climate change = U.S. National Security Risk

◦  Benchmark: 2 degrees C rise in temperature by 2100

   

Technical reports on impacts appear every week
◦  INCREASED: Food shortages, Water shortages, Migrations, Disease, Species extinction …

   

Breakdown of financial, economic systems? Why bad? Perturb earth like dropping your watch

A few reports - climate impacts
   

Background 1,000 pages: IPCC report,Vol. II (2007) China government report on climate impacts (1/18/12)
◦  Global warming threatens China's march to prosperity by cutting crops, shrinking rivers and unleashing more droughts and floods [Second National Assessment Report on Climate Change]


Oceans, climate change, and oxygen (2/11/12)
◦  Global warming could lead to more of the world’s oceans becoming “dead zones” [Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich]


Mayan civilization collapse, climate change (2/24/12)
◦  … likely due to a relatively mild drought, much like the drier conditions expected in the coming years due to climate change [Yucatan Center for Scientific Research, Mexico and U. Southampton, Britain]


Los Angeles and climate change (2/23/12)
◦  Rising sea levels will increase the likelihood of coastal flooding; rising temperatures will threaten the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which provides about a third of the drinking water (US Geological Survey)

Climate Risk Management
  Recognition

of risks: 2 types

◦  Average risk: probable, low impact ◦  Tail risk: less probable, high impact
  Rational   The

response to risk - lower it!

◦  Finance - hedging risk

best way to think about the response to climate is RISK MANAGEMENT
◦  If BAU, today’s tail climate risk becomes tomorrow’s average climate risk

Climate Mitigation – no silver bullet. Progress exists, and need MORE
  Action

by individuals   Action by organizations
◦  Corporations, Universities, Faith-based, NGOs
  Action   Action

at all levels of government to support non-fossil energy

◦  City, State, Regional, National, International ◦  Solar, wind, biomass, fusion, 4th gen. fission… ◦  Innovative technology: Gasoline from biomass + sequestration; Cool Planet biofuels (2012)

Climate Ethics

Science informs us: Prob(temps.) in future

◦  ALL models: long term temperature trend is UP ◦  Scenarios; most of the uncertainty = our response

Climate justice: Poor have the smallest effect on climate – are hurt the worst   However, no place to hide

◦  U.S. will be hit very hard if BAU prevails


Intergenerational ethics: Our descendants

◦  Finance: Discount rate assumption for assessing future climate impact costs is a critical ingredient ◦  More humane and cheaper for preventive action now rather than disaster adaptive action in the future
  16 “scientists” in WSJ misquote Prof. Nordhaus (Yale U.)

Bottom Line
  Human

activities are causing the global warming trend of climate change   Impacts are mostly bad, observed now, and will become far worse if BAU prevails

Shooting the messenger won’t fix the problem

  It’s

not too late to prevent worst impacts   Topics discussed at this Symposium certainly will help (renewable energies …)   You can help   Thank you