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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999

REPORTS (JUNE 1999)

Item #d99jun17

Profiles in Carbon: An Update on Population, Consumption and Carbon Dioxide Emissions, Robert Engelman, Population Action International, available at http://www.populationaction.org/why_pop/carbon/carbon_index.htm.

This report highlights the linkage of population and climate and illustrates the contribution that population policies could make to the slowing of climate change. Just as past population increase has influenced the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere in the late 20th century, the rate of future increase will influence the Earth’s climate for centuries to come. This report profiles per capita emissions of CO2, ranks countries by their 1995 per capita emissions, and charts population and emissions trends. The data highlight the significant global disparities in individual human use of the atmosphere for the disposal of CO2. These disparities complicate international negotiations and cloud the role of population growth in changing climate because the greatest per capita contributions to climate change are made by populations that are growing relatively slowly while rapidly growing populations have very low per capita greenhouse- gas emissions. Per capita emissions and populations are nonetheless increasing rapidly and in tandem in much of the world. The conclusions reached are that:

  • The limited capacity of the atmosphere and biosphere to absorb greenhouse-gas emissions without adding to the risk of climate change must be shared fairly on a per capita basis.
  • A flexible system of international emissions trading would allow those with higher emissions to compensate those with lower emissions while reducing total emissions.
  • The more slowly population growth proceeds, the more rapidly global emissions can be made to decline, especially if equity is practiced in slowing climate change.
  • The further one looks into the future, the more important slowing population growth becomes.

The report recommends that

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should include population-climate interactions in its Third Assessment.
  • The Framework Convention on Climate Change should make specific reference to the Programme of Action agreed to at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development as a way to slow the pace of human-induced climate change.
  • Climate-change protocols should recognize the principle of the equal right of all humans to use the atmosphere to dispose of greenhouse gases.
  • Experience with Emission Baselines Under the AIJ Pilot Phase, Jane Ellis, OECD Information Paper, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris, April, 1999; available free of charge at http://www.oecd.org/.

Emission baselines are a means of assessing the potential environmental and financial performance of a project. But no internationally agreed-upon method exists for how to calculate emission baselines for activities implemented jointly (AIJ) projects, and the methods currently used to calculate emission baselines in AIJ projects are highly diverse. Standardized means of drawing up emission baselines may need to be explored for use under joint implementation and/or the clean development mechanism, as called for in Articles 6 and 12 of the Kyoto Protocol. Because the calculational methods vary, the emission baselines themselves vary considerably, and many potential baseline shapes are valid for a given project type. They could be made more consistent, comparable, and transparent by setting out guidelines on how they should be calculated and reported, addressing

  • the length of time over which different project types generate emissions benefits,
  • the issue of uncertainty,
  • whether emission baselines should be calculated in the same manner for greenfield and replacement projects,
  • how to deal with learning issues, and
  • how to calculate the environmental benefits of energy efficiency measures.

Improvements to the current uniform reporting format could include providing

  • a more detailed disaggregation of current project classifications,
  • separate reports for subprojects,
  • references to the availability of more detailed information,
  • an agreed-upon accounting convention on the sign of emission benefits from projects,
  • differentiated reporting requirements for different project types,
  • including relevant and readily available data and information,
  • recommended units of measurement, and
  • independent verification/validation of data.
  • Is Climate Changing Where the Wild Things Are?, USEPA, 12 pp., 1999, available free at www.epa.gov/ globalwarming/conferences/wildlife.pdf.

This report summarizes presentations made at a conference cosponsored by 19 organizations examining the potential and observed effects of climate change on wildlife. A central theme was the fragility of ecosystems and the environmennt. Observations included:

  • It is becoming difficult to deny the importance of climate change.
  • Evidence shows that some impacts are occurring.
  • Glacial retreat is evident.
  • The natural average rate of climate change to which species have adapted is 1o per millennium; current climate change is about 1o per century.
  • Climate change will add an additional stress to the many existing threats to biological diversity.
  • At current rates of deforestation, the 80% of the world’s plants and animals that live in tropical moist forests will be lost by the middle of the next century.
  • Species with very small geographic ranges are overwhelmingly threatened with extinction.
  • Of 47 birds that summer in northern Michigan, 4 have expanded their ranges northward, and 15 have advanced their arrival dates by up to eight weeks.
  • Adélie penguins, which feed by diving through cracks in sea ice to feed on krill, have declined during winters of low sea ice because suitable feeding sites are too scarce or distant.
  • Northward shifts of butterfly populations match temperature increases in those locales.
  • CO2 increases increase the carbon-to-nitrogen ratios of plants, reducing their nutritional value to insects.
  • In Monterey Bay, species with southerly ranges have become more abundant and those with northerly ranges have declined as sea-surface temperatures have increased 1oC in the past 30 years.
  • Because fish physiology and development are tightly linked to water temperature, many fish prefer to live within only a 4oC range in temperature.
  • Sea-level rise will cause problems for wildlife that live in coastal areas as those areas are inundated.
  • Responses to climate change must include large-scale reforestation, increased use of renewable energy, better communication of the risks to decision makers and the public, reduction of emissions, and recognition that exponential changes can occur in response to an environmental impact.
  • Cities at Risk, ICLEI/US, 77 pp., April 1999, $25 plus shipping and handling; also available at http://www.ICLEI.org/co2/car-textonly.htm.

This report explores and assesses the potential impacts of global climate change on five urban areas in the United States: Boston, Denver, Chicago, New Orleans, and Seattle. The assessment is based on the the IPCC estimate that average global temperatures will rise to 1.8 to 6.3F during the 21st century. It does not address mitigation but focuses on what these U.S. urban areas can expect if emissions are not reduced. The climate changes expected are

  • Elevated temperatures in every region;
  • Increased precipitation in some regions, mainly in the northern half of the United States;
  • Decreased precipitation in other regions, mainly in the south;
  • An increase in the incidence and intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods, blizzards, tornadoes, and droughts;
  • A continuing rise in ocean level; and
  • A drop in water level in certain lakes, especially the Great Lakes.

The report specifies particular physical, financial, environmental, economic, and health risks for each of the five urban areas. Its general conclusions are that

  • These urban areas have huge investments in public and private infrastructure that will be at increased risk of damage or destruction from extreme weather events.
  • They also have huge investments in public-works infrastructures, such as water, sewage, and storm-water systems that may be overtaxed or rendered obsolete by major shifts in weather patterns and ocean levels.
  • Many of these urban areas have serious air-pollution problems that will be exacerbated by rising temperatures.
  • Residents of these urban areas may be at risk from diseases whose ranges will spread as temperatures or precipitation increase.
  • Economies dependent on tourism, agriculture, forestry, or fisheries will be at risk of disruption and cutbacks from changed weather patterns or extreme weather.
  • Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion: 1998 Assessment, UNEP; also published as a special issue of the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, B: Biolology, 1998, 107 pp.; also available at http://www.gcrio.org/ozone/toc.html; hardbound copies are also distributed free of charge by GCRIO.

Increased penetration of solar UV-B radiation to the Earth’s surface has resulted from the decrease in atmospheric ozone now observed over much of the globe. Although the effects of ozone depletion would have been dramatically worse without the actions called for by the Montreal Protocol, many of them will persist during most of the next century, and the ozone layer will be the most depleted during the next two decades. Evidence indicates that a slow recovery may be expected during the next half-century. Stratospheric ozone levels, however, are currently near their lowest points since measurements began, and surface UV-B irradiation has been correlated with overhead ozone, although satellite observations have been shown to produce UV-B-irradiation values that are lower than actual. The increased UV-B is likely to lead to increased health effects. Many of these increases are related to the eye: snowblindness, cataracts, ocular melanoma, and squamous-cell carcinoma. Depressed immune responses will lead to increases in certain tumors and infectious diseases, impairment of vaccinations, and alterations in some autoimmune and allergic responses. The severity of psoriasis may be decreased, but photoaging and skin cancer will increase among the fair-skinned. UV-B can damage plants and microbes, but these organisms also have protective mechanisms and repair processes. Most direct effects on these organisms, though, are manifested in altered patterns of genetic activity rather than cellular damage; this leads to the accumulation of effects from year to year and from generation to generation. Indirect effects on plants include unbalancing the competition among higher plants, herbivory, and susceptibility to pathogens. UV radiation adversely affects the growth, photosynthesis, protein and pigment content, and reproduction of phytoplankton, and thus it affects the entire food web. Macroalgae and seagrasses show significant sensitivity to UV-B and so, to a lesser extent, do sea urchins, corals, and amphibians. These negative effects of UV-B on aquatic and marine organisms will reduce the uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide, exacerbating global warming. Increased UV-B changes the chemical composition of plant tissue, enhances photodegradation, and changes the community makeup of microbial decomposers and nitrogen fixers. It also increases atmospheric-chemistry activity, particularly in polluted areas (i.e., high-NOx atmospheres), although it helps remove primary pollutants from the air. Studies of the degradation of HCFCs and HFCs currently in the air have not found any significant effects on humans or the environment. Finally, UV-B negatively affects the physical and mechanical properties of polymers as well as other structural and utilitarian materials, and conventional photostabilizers are not likely to be able to mitigate those effects.


Item #d99jun18

Sources of Conflicts in Climate Policy Within the EU: An Economic Analysis, H. Asbjørn Aaheim and Camilla Bretteville, Report 1999:3, CICERO, free, 40 pp.; also available at http://www.cicero.uio.no.

Factors were sought to explain the different economic interests EU countries have in cutting CO2 emissions. Interests result from different perceptions of the cost of emission cuts among stakeholders. Sector-based comparisons indicate that the conflicts resulting from an announcement of emission cuts are likely to be moderate in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom while the possibility for conflicts is significantly higher in France, Italy, and Spain. To a large extent, the conflicts are determined by whether or not emissions can be reduced in the electricity sector. The presense of these differences may explain why the EU has not succeeded in implementing common measures across the member countries. To prepare for a common policy, a coordination of the electricity market should be given priority. Meanwhile, the different targets agreed upon after Kyoto clearly mitigate conflicts: Italy has very strict targets compared with the other countries, while the Netherlands and Spain have moderate targets.


Item #d99jun19

Analysis of the Climate Change Technology Initiative, Report No. SR/OIAF/99-01, EIA, April 1999, 101 pp.; also available at http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/climate99/climaterpt.html

This analysis was undertaken at the request of the Committee on Science of the U.S. House of Representatives. In its request, the Committee asked EIA to analyze “the impact of specific policies on the reduction of carbon emissions and their impact on U.S. energy use and prices ... in the 2008-2012 time frame.” A subsequent communication from the Committee specified that EIA “analyze the impact of the President’s Climate Change Technology Initiative, as defined for the 2000 budget, on reducing carbon emissions from the levels forecast in the Annual Energy Outlook 1999 reference case.” The projections and quantitative analysis were primarily conducted with the National Energy Modeling System, an energy-economy model of U.S. energy markets, which is used to provide the projections in the Annual Energy Outlook. The analysis concludes that in 2010, the Clinton Administration’s proposed tax credits for buildings, industrial, and transportation technologies would reduce primary energy consumption by 0.03% or 31.6 trillion Btu. Tax credits for wind and biomass electricity generation would reduce fossil-energy use in electricity generation by 0.06% or 71.9 Btu. The tax credits would result in carbon emissions in 2010 that are 0.17%, or 3.1 million metric tons, lower than the base case.

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