Archive for the ‘climate change’ Category

Developed and developing world responsibilities for historical climate change and CO2 mitigation

August 13, 2012 Comments off

Developed and developing world responsibilities for historical climate change and CO2 mitigation

Source:  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Cancun, in November 2010, the Heads of State reached an agreement on the aim of limiting the global temperature rise to 2 °C relative to preindustrial levels. They recognized that long-term future warming is primarily constrained by cumulative anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, that deep cuts in global emissions are required, and that action based on equity must be taken to meet this objective. However, negotiations on emission reduction among countries are increasingly fraught with difficulty, partly because of arguments about the responsibility for the ongoing temperature rise. Simulations with two earth-system models (NCAR/CESM and BNU-ESM) demonstrate that developed countries had contributed about 60–80%, developing countries about 20–40%, to the global temperature rise, upper ocean warming, and sea-ice reduction by 2005. Enacting pledges made at Cancun with continuation to 2100 leads to a reduction in global temperature rise relative to business as usual with a 1/3–2/3 (CESM 33–67%, BNU-ESM 35–65%) contribution from developed and developing countries, respectively. To prevent a temperature rise by 2 °C or more in 2100, it is necessary to fill the gap with more ambitious mitigation efforts.

Global economic potential for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from mangrove loss

August 7, 2012 Comments off

Global economic potential for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from mangrove loss

Source:  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Mangroves are among the most threatened and rapidly disappearing natural environments worldwide. In addition to supporting a wide range of other ecological and economic functions, mangroves store considerable carbon. Here, we consider the global economic potential for protecting mangroves based exclusively on their carbon. We develop unique high-resolution global estimates (5′ grid, about 9 × 9 km) of the projected carbon emissions from mangrove loss and the cost of avoiding the emissions. Using these spatial estimates, we derive global and regional supply curves (marginal cost curves) for avoided emissions. Under a broad range of assumptions, we find that the majority of potential emissions from mangroves could be avoided at less than $10 per ton of CO2. Given the recent range of market price for carbon offsets and the cost of reducing emissions from other sources, this finding suggests that protecting mangroves for their carbon is an economically viable proposition. Political-economy considerations related to the ability of doing business in developing countries, however, can severely limit the supply of offsets and increases their price per ton. We also find that although a carbon-focused conservation strategy does not automatically target areas most valuable for biodiversity, implementing a biodiversity-focused strategy would only slightly increase the costs.

Generation X is surprisingly unconcerned about climate change

July 19, 2012 Comments off

Generation X is surprisingly unconcerned about climate change

Source: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan

As the nation suffers through a summer of record-shattering heat, a University of Michigan report finds that Generation X is lukewarm about climate change—uninformed about the causes and unconcerned about the potential dangers.

“Most Generation Xers are surprisingly disengaged, dismissive or doubtful about whether global climate change is happening and they don’t spend much time worrying about it,” said Jon D. Miller, author of “The Generation X Report.” (Read and download the full report.)

The new report, the fourth in a continuing series, compares Gen X attitudes about climate change in 2009 and 2011, and describes the levels of concern Gen Xers have about different aspects of climate change, as well as their sources of information on the subject.

“We found a small but statistically significant decline between 2009 and 2011 in the level of attention and concern Generation X adults expressed about climate change,” Miller said. “In 2009, about 22 percent said they followed the issue of climate change very or moderately closely. In 2011, only 16 percent said they did so.”

Knowledge, responsibility, engagement: the EU outlines its policy for the Arctic

July 6, 2012 Comments off

Knowledge, responsibility, engagement: the EU outlines its policy for the Arctic
Source: European Commission

The European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have today outlined the way forward for the EU’s constructive engagement in the Arctic. The Arctic region is a vital component of the Earth’s environment. Climate change in the Arctic is advancing dramatically, with change visible on a yearly basis, impacting significantly on its ecosystem and the livelihood of its inhabitants. At the same time, rapidly retreating sea ice alongside technological progress are opening up new economic opportunities in the region such as shipping, mining, energy extraction and fishing. While beneficial for the global economy, these activities also call for a prudent and sustainable approach: further repercussions for the fragile Arctic can be expected if top environmental standards are not met.

Summarised in three words, ”knowledge, responsibility, engagement”, the strategy adopted today contains a set of tangible actions that contribute to research and sustainable development in the region and promote environmentally friendly technologies that could be used for sustainable shipping and mining. It also underlines the EU’s activities in the Arctic since 2008. For example, the EU has made a contribution of 20 million EUR per year in Arctic research over the last decade and has invested more than 1.14 billion EUR in the sustainable development of the region since 2007.

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative and Vice-President of the Commission stated: “With the actions presented today, we want to show the world that the EU is serious about its commitments towards the Arctic region. Developments in the Arctic add further urgency to our work to combat global climate change, and are of increasing strategic, economic and environmental importance to the European Union. The EU wants to make a positive contribution to the cooperation between the Arctic states and take into account the needs of indigenous and local communities inhabiting Arctic areas”.

Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said: “The Arctic is rapidly going through important changes, allowing for new economic activity in a fragile part of the world. There are environmental challenges and opportunities that require global attention and the EU can help substantially: in research, funding, combating global warming and developing greener technologies. This is what the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy is all about, to contribute to common solutions for the sustainable management of the seas.”

Climate Change and Infrastructure, Urban Systems, and Vulnterabilities: Technical Report to the U.S. Department of Energy in Support of the National Climate Assessment

July 5, 2012 Comments off

Climate Change and Infrastructure, Urban Systems, and Vulnterabilities: Technical Report to the U.S. Department of Energy in Support of the National Climate Assessment (PDF)
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

This Technical Report on “Climate Change and Infrastructure, Urban Systems, and Vulnerabilities” has been prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in support of the U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA). Prepared on an accelerated schedule to fit time requirements for the NCA, it is a summary of the currently existing knowledge base on its topic, nested within a broader framing of issues and questions that need further attention in the longer run.

The report arrives at a number of “assessment findings,” each associated with an evaluation of the level of consensus on that issue within the expert community, the volume of evidence available to support that judgment, and the section of the report that provides an explanation for the finding.

Cross-sectoral issues related to infrastructures and urban systems have not received a great deal of attention to date in research literatures in general and climate change assessments in particular. As a result, this technical report is breaking new ground as a component of climate change vulnerability and impact assessments in the U.S., which means that some of its assessment findings are rather speculative, more in the nature of propositions for further study than specific conclusions that are offered with a high level of confidence and research support. But it is a start in addressing questions that are of interest to many policymakers and stakeholders.

A central theme of the report is that vulnerabilities and impacts are issues beyond physical infrastructures themselves. The concern is with the value of services provided by infrastructures, where the true consequences of impacts and disruptions involve not only the costs associated with the clean-up, repair, and/or replacement of affected infrastructures but also economic, social, and environmental effects as supply chains are disrupted, e

Hotspot of accelerated sea-level rise on the Atlantic coast of North America

June 25, 2012 Comments off

Hotspot of accelerated sea-level rise on the Atlantic coast of North America

Source: Nature Climate Change

Climate warming does not force sea-level rise (SLR) at the same rate everywhere. Rather, there are spatial variations of SLR superimposed on a global average rise. These variations are forced by dynamic processes arising from circulation and variations in temperature and/or salinity, and by static equilibrium processes, arising from mass redistributions changing gravity and the Earth’s rotation and shape. These sea-level variations form unique spatial patterns, yet there are very few observations verifying predicted patterns or fingerprints. Here, we present evidence of recently accelerated SLR in a unique 1,000-km-long hotspot on the highly populated North American Atlantic coast north of Cape Hatteras and show that it is consistent with a modelled fingerprint of dynamic SLR. Between 1950–1979 and 1980–2009, SLR rate increases in this northeast hotspot were ~ 3–4 times higher than the global average. Modelled dynamic plus steric SLR by 2100 at New York City ranges with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenario from 36 to 51 cm (ref. 3); lower emission scenarios project 24–36 cm (ref. 7). Extrapolations from data herein range from 20 to 29 cm. SLR superimposed on storm surge, wave run-up and set-up will increase the vulnerability of coastal cities to flooding, and beaches and wetlands to deterioration.

Hat tip: Journalists Resource

California Sea Level Projected to Rise at Higher Rate Than Global Average; Slower Rate for Oregon, Washington, But Major Earthquake Could Cause Sudden Rise

June 25, 2012 Comments off

California Sea Level Projected to Rise at Higher Rate Than Global Average; Slower Rate for Oregon, Washington, But Major Earthquake Could Cause Sudden Rise

Source: National Research Council

The sea level off most of California is expected to rise about one meter over the next century, an amount slightly higher than projected for global sea levels, and will likely increase damage to the state’s coast from storm surges and high waves, says a new report from the National Research Council. Sea levels off Washington, Oregon, and northern California will likely rise less, about 60 centimeters over the same period of time. However, an earthquake magnitude 8 or larger in this region could cause sea level to rise suddenly by an additional meter or more.

Global sea level rose during the 20th century, and projections suggest it will rise at a higher rate during the 21st century. A warming climate causes sea level to rise primarily by warming the oceans — which causes the water to expand — and melting land ice, which transfers water to the ocean. However, sea-level rise is uneven and varies from place to place. Along the U.S. west coast it depends on the global mean sea-level rise and regional factors, such as ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns, melting of modern and ancient ice sheets, and tectonic plate movements. California Executive Order S-13-08 directed state agencies to plan for sea-level rise and coastal impacts and asked the Research Council to establish a committee to assess sea-level rise. Oregon, Washington, and several federal agencies joined California to sponsor the study. The report estimates sea-level rise both globally and for those three states for the years 2030, 2050, and 2100.

Climate change and disruptions to global fire activity

June 21, 2012 Comments off

Climate change and disruptions to global fire activity
Source: Ecosphere

Future disruptions to fire activity will threaten ecosystems and human well-being throughout the world, yet there are few fire projections at global scales and almost none from a broad range of global climate models (GCMs). Here we integrate global fire datasets and environmental covariates to build spatial statistical models of fire probability at a 0.5° resolution and examine environmental controls on fire activity. Fire models are driven by climate norms from 16 GCMs (A2 emissions scenario) to assess the magnitude and direction of change over two time periods, 2010–2039 and 2070–2099. From the ensemble results, we identify areas of consensus for increases or decreases in fire activity, as well as areas where GCMs disagree. Although certain biomes are sensitive to constraints on biomass productivity and others to atmospheric conditions promoting combustion, substantial and rapid shifts are projected for future fire activity across vast portions of the globe. In the near term, the most consistent increases in fire activity occur in biomes with already somewhat warm climates; decreases are less pronounced and concentrated primarily in a few tropical and subtropical biomes. However, models do not agree on the direction of near-term changes across more than 50% of terrestrial lands, highlighting major uncertainties in the next few decades. By the end of the century, the magnitude and the agreement in direction of change are projected to increase substantially. Most far-term model agreement on increasing fire probabilities (62%) occurs at mid- to high-latitudes, while agreement on decreasing probabilities (20%) is mainly in the tropics. Although our global models demonstrate that long-term environmental norms are very successful at capturing chronic fire probability patterns, future work is necessary to assess how much more explanatory power would be added through interannual variation in climate variables. This study provides a first examination of global disruptions to fire activity using an empirically based statistical framework and a multi-model ensemble of GCM projections, an important step toward assessing fire-related vulnerabilities to humans and the ecosystems upon which they depend.

The Heat is On: U.S. Temperature Trends

June 14, 2012 Comments off

The Heat is On: U.S. Temperature Trends
Source: Climate Central

Global warming isn’t uniform. The continental U.S. has warmed by about 1.3°F over the past 100 years, but the temperature increase hasn’t been the same everywhere: some places have warmed more than others, some less, and some not much at all. Natural variability explains some of the differences, and air pollution with fine aerosols screening incoming solar radiation could also be a factor.

Our state-by-state analysis of warming over the past 100 years shows where it warmed the most and where it warmed the least. We found that no matter how much or how little a given state warmed over that 100-year period, the pace of warming in all regions accelerated dramatically starting in the 1970s, coinciding with the time when the effect of greenhouse gases began to overwhelm the other natural and human influences on climate at the global and continental scales.

We looked at average daily temperatures for the continental 48 states from 1912 to the present, and also from 1970 to the present and found:

  • Over the past 100 years, the top 10 states warmed 60 times faster than the bottom 10 (0.26°F per decade vs. 0.004°F per decade), when looking at average mean temperatures. During this timeframe, 45 states showed warming trends, although 21 were not statistically significant. Three states experienced a slight cooling trend.
  • Since 1970, warming began accelerating everywhere. The speed of warming across the lower 48 more than tripled, from 0.127°F per decade over the 100-year period, to 0.435°F per decade since 1970, while the gap between the fast and slowly warming states narrowed significantly; the 10 fastest warming states heated up just twice as fast, not 60 times as fast as the 10 slowest warming states (0.60°F vs. 0.30°F per decade). Over the past 42 years 17 states warmed more than half a degree F per decade.
  • The states that have warmed the most — whether you look at the past 100 years or just the past 40 — include northern-tier states from Minnesota to Maine and the Southwest, particularly Arizona and New Mexico. Places that have warmed the least include Southeast states, like Florida, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, along with parts of the central Midwest, like Iowa and Nebraska.

Progress and Challenges in Urban Climate Adaptation Planning: Results of a Global Survey

June 7, 2012 Comments off

Progress and Challenges in Urban Climate Adaptation Planning: Results of a Global Survey (PDF)
Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Cities around the world are increasingly aware of the need to prepare for greater variability in temperature, precipitation, and natural disasters expected to take place as a result of global climate change. In recent years, numerous reports and manuals have been written and networks formed to offer guidance and facilitate the exchange of ideas and information. However, since systematic studies have not been conducted, the information and methods being disseminated often are based on the efforts of a limited number of cities and wisdom drawn from experience in other domains. To gain insight into the status of adaptation planning globally, approaches cities around the world are taking, and challenges they are encountering, a survey was sent to communities that are members of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. A total of 468 cities (44%) completed the 40-question survey, with the majority of respondents being from the U.S since this is where ICLEI has the largest membership.

See: Survey — Latin American and Asian cities lead way in planning for global warming (EurekAlert!)

The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks

June 6, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Nature Climate Change

Seeming public apathy over climate change is often attributed to a deficit in comprehension. The public knows too little science, it is claimed, to understand the evidence or avoid being misled1. Widespread limits on technical reasoning aggravate the problem by forcing citizens to use unreliable cognitive heuristics to assess risk2. We conducted a study to test this account and found no support for it. Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest. This result suggests that public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest: between the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties and the collective one they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare.

CRS — SEC Climate Change Disclosure Guidance: An Overview and Congressional Concerns

June 5, 2012 Comments off

SEC Climate Change Disclosure Guidance: An Overview and Congressional Concerns (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Publicly traded companies are required to transparently disclose material business risks to investors through regular filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). On January 27, 2010, the SEC voted to publish Commission Guidance Regarding Disclosure Related to Climate Change, which clarifies how publicly traded corporations should apply existing SEC disclosure rules to certain mandatory financial filings with the SEC regarding the risk that climate change developments may have on their businesses. The Guidance has been controversial and has prompted legislation in the 112 th Congress to repeal it.

Proponents of the Guidance, including several union and public pension funds, have argued that it was necessary because a consensus has been established on the reality of climate change and that, given the salience of climate change and the various related legislative and regulatory responses to it, the Guidance would help foster a better understanding of how the SEC’s existing disclosure requirements applied to it. Some that oppose the guidance, including several business interests, argue that the current state of the science and the law underlying the idea of global climate change remains uncertain; existing SEC disclosure rules are adequate with respect to corporate reporting on environmental change; and while certain interest groups had advocated for such climate change disclosure guidance, the climate change disclosure guidance’s usefulness for most investors is unclear.

In the 112th Congress, Senator John Barrasso and Representative Bill Posey introduced identical bills (S. 1393 and H.R. 2603, respectively) that would prohibit the enforcement of the SEC’s climate change disclosure guidance.

Since the Guidance went into effect on February 8, 2010, there have been several attempts to gauge its impact. A 2011 report from Ceres, a nonprofit coalition of institutional investors, environmental organizations, and other public interest groups, concluded that most corporate filers needed more experience at communicating the risks associated with climate change. Although it found that large public companies had improved their climate-change risk disclosures in recent years, the report concluded that there was more work to be done in this area.

A report from the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell found that the Guidance did not appear to have had as significant an impact on disclosure as some had expected; that new disclosures emerged involving potential changes in demand for products and services and increases in fuel prices; and that there was little disclosure of actual or potential reputational harm that might result from climate change.

A third study published for the American Bar Association found that many companies reported seeing little upside and even less downside in climate change disclosures. It also found that many companies reported few meaningful business opportunities resulting from climate change disclosures, which instead carried a potential for creating risks. In addition, many companies indicated that disclosing frequently uncertain climate change-related information was often a very speculative process and that there were few, if any, penalties from the SEC for nondisclosure of climate change matters. This perception was underscored by other observations that characterized the SEC’s level of enforcement in this area as negligible.

This report will be updated as events warrant.

Sustainable low-carbon city development in China

May 20, 2012 Comments off

Cities contribute an estimated 70 percent of the world’s energy-related greenhouse gases (GHG). Their locations, often in low-elevation coastal zones, and large populations make them particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. But cities often take steps, even ahead of national governments, to reduce GHG emissions. So it is with China’s cities, which are well placed to chart a low-carbon growth path to help reach China’s national targets for reducing the energy and carbon intensity of its economy. China’s cities will need to act on multiple fronts, in some cases scaling up elements of existing good practice, in others changing established ways of doing business. Actions affecting land-use and spatial development are among the most critical to achieving low-carbon growth as carbon emissions are closely connected to urban form. Spatial development also has very strong ‘lock-in’ effects: once cities grow and define their urban form, it is almost impossible to retrofit them because the built environment is largely irreversible and very costly to modify. Furthermore, cities need energy-efficient buildings and industries. They need a transport system that offers alternatives to automobiles. They need to shift to efficient management of water, wastewater, and solid waste. And they need to incorporate responses to climate change in their planning, investment decisions, and emergency-preparedness plans.

Full Document (PDF)

Paying Too Much for Energy? The True Costs of Our Energy Choices

May 9, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Brookings Institution

Energy consumption is critical to economic growth and quality of life. America’s energy system, however, is malfunctioning. The status quo is characterized by a tilted playing field, where energy choices are based on the visible costs that appear on utility bills and at gas pumps. This system masks the “external” costs arising from those energy choices, including shorter lives, higher health care expenses, a changing climate, and weakened national security. As a result, we pay unnecessarily high costs for energy. New “rules of the road” could level the energy playing field. Drawing from our work for The Hamilton Project, this paper offers four principles for reforming U.S. energy policies in order to increase Americans’ well-being.

Full Paper (PDF)

CRS — Federal Agency Actions Following the Supreme Court’s Climate Change Decision in Massachusetts v. EPA: A Chronology

May 8, 2012 Comments off

Federal Agency Actions Following the Supreme Court’s Climate Change Decision in Massachusetts v. EPA: A Chronology (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court rendered one of its most important environmental decisions. In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Court held 5-4 that greenhouse gases (GHGs), widely viewed as contributing to climate change, constitute “air pollutants” as that phrase is used in the Clean Air Act (CAA). As a result, said the Court, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had improperly denied a petition seeking CAA regulation of GHG emissions from new motor vehicles by saying the agency lacked authority over such emissions.

This report offers a chronology of major federal agency actions, mainly by EPA, that involve GHGs or climate change and that occurred in the wake of Massachusetts v. EPA. Most of the listed actions trace directly or indirectly back to the decision. Examples include EPA’s “endangerment finding” for GHG emissions from new motor vehicles; the agency’s standards for GHG emissions from new motor vehicles; its interpretation of “pollutants subject to regulation,” the CAA trigger for requiring best available control technology (BACT) for such pollutants in “prevention of significant deterioration” areas; its guidance for determining BACT for GHG emissions; the “tailoring rule” (limiting the stationary sources that initially will have to install BACT and obtain CAA Title V permits based on their GHG emissions); and settlements of litigation seeking to compel new source performance standards (NSPSs) for GHG emissions from electric power plants and petroleum refineries. A few agency actions were included solely because of their relevance to climate change and their post-Massachusetts occurrence–for example, EPA’s responses to California’s request for a waiver of CAA preemption allowing that state to set its own limits for GHG emissions from new motor vehicles, and EPA’s monitoring rule for GHG emissions.

More analytical treatment of the government actions in this report may be found in CRS Report RL32764, Climate Change Litigation: A Survey, by Robert Meltz; CRS Report R40984, Legal Consequences of EPA’s Endangerment Finding for New Motor Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions, by Robert Meltz; CRS Report RS22665, The Supreme Court’s Climate Change Decision: Massachusetts v. EPA, by Robert Meltz; CRS Report R40585, Climate Change: Potential Regulation of Stationary Greenhouse Gas Sources Under the Clean Air Act, by Larry Parker and James E. McCarthy; CRS Report R40506, Cars, Trucks, and Climate: EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources, by James E. McCarthy and Brent D. Yacobucci; and CRS Report R40166, Automobile and Light Truck Fuel Economy: The CAFE Standards, by Brent D. Yacobucci.

Achieving food security in the face of climate change: Final report from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change

May 3, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change
Nearly one billion people in the world are undernourished, while millions suffer from chronic disease due to excess food consumption. Global demand is growing for agricultural products and food prices are rising, yet roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Climate change threatens more frequent drought, flooding and pest outbreaks, and the world loses 12 million hectares of agricultural land each year to land degradation. Land clearing and inefficient practices make agriculture the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution on the planet.
To address these alarming patterns, an independent commission of scientific leaders from 13 countries released today a detailed set of recommendations to policy makers on how to achieve food security in the face of climate change. In their report, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change proposes specific policy responses to the global challenge of feeding a world confronted by climate change, population growth, poverty, food price spikes and degraded ecosystems. The report highlights specific opportunities under the mandates of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Group of 20 (G20) nations.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) report shows further progress needed

April 30, 2012 Comments off

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) report shows further progress needed
Source: International Energy Agency

At the 2011 Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) meeting in Abu Dhabi, the CEM Carbon Capture, Use and Storage Action Group (CCUS AG) presented seven recommendations on concrete, near-term actions to accelerate global carbon capture and storage deployment. This week, at the 2012 CEM meeting in London, the IEA and Global CCS Institute presented a report tracking progress made against the 2011 recommendations and focusing on key questions such as how Energy Ministers can continue to drive progress to enable CCS to fully contribute to climate change mitigation. It concludes that, despite developments in some areas, significant further work is required. CCS financing and industrial applications continue to represent a particularly serious challenge.

+ Full Report (PDF)

CRS — The G-20 and International Economic Cooperation: Background and Implications for Congress

April 24, 2012 Comments off

The G-20 and International Economic Cooperation: Background and Implications for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The G-20 is an international forum for discussing and coordinating economic policies among major advanced and emerging economies. Congress may want to exercise oversight over the Administration’s participation in the G-20 process, including the policy commitments that Administration is making in the G-20 and the policies it is encouraging other G-20 countries to pursue.

The G-20 rose to prominence during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, when it played an arguably influential role in coordinating international responses to the crisis. The G-20 is now considered the “premier” forum for international economic coordination, a position previously held by a smaller group of advanced economies (the Group of 7, or G-7, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

G-20 leaders have annual meetings (“summits”), and meetings among lower-level officials occur more frequently. Meetings primarily focus on international economic and financial issues, although related topics are also discussed, including development, food security, and the environment, among others. Previous summits have, for example, focused on financial regulatory reform, global imbalances, funding for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), voting power of emerging economies in international financial institutions, and fossil fuel subsidies.

The 2012 Summit
The next G-20 summit is scheduled to be held in Los Cabos, Mexico in June 2012, and will be the first hosted by a Latin American government. The Mexican government has indicated that the summit will focus on the following.

  • Economic stabilization and structural reforms as foundations for growth and employment.
  • Strengthening the financial system and fostering financial inclusion to promote economic growth.
  • Improving the international financial architecture in an interconnected world.
  • Enhancing food security and addressing commodity price volatility.
  • Promoting sustainable development, green growth, and the fight against climate change.

Effectiveness of the G-20
Some analysts say that while the G-20 was instrumental in coordinating the response to the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, its effectiveness has diminished as the urgency of the crisis has waned. They argue that the G-20 has failed to provide adequate international leadership in key policy areas, including responses to the Eurozone crisis and forging a conclusion to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations. They also maintain that the G-20 as a group is too heterogeneous to achieve real coordination and its agenda is too ambitious. Others argue that the G-20 serves as an important institution in the international economy. They argue that the G-20 is a critical forum for discussing major policy initiatives across major countries and encouraging greater cooperation, even if agreement on policies is not always reached. They also argue that it serves as a useful institution as a steering committee for other international organizations, such as the IMF, and that having the G-20 policy-making infrastructure in place is important for timely international responses to future crises.

IPCC releases full report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX)

March 30, 2012 Comments off

IPCC releases full report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) (PDF)
Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Evidence suggests that climate change has led to changes in climate extremes such as heat waves, record high temperatures and, in many regions, heavy precipitation in the past half century, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said today. Climate extremes, or even a series of non-extreme events, in combination with social vulnerabilities and exposure to risks can produce climate-related disasters, the IPCC said in its Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX).

While some extreme weather and climate events lead to disasters, others do not. Policies to avoid, prepare for, respond to and recover from the risks of disaster can reduce the impact of these events and increase the resilience of people exposed to extreme events, the IPCC shows in the report, published on Wednesday.

At the same time, as the IPCC notes in the report, limits to resilience are faced when thresholds or tipping points associated with social and/or natural systems are exceeded, posing severe challenges for adaptation.

“The main message from the report is that we know enough to make good decisions about managing the risks of climate-related disasters. Sometimes we take advantage of this knowledge, but many times we do not,” said Chris Field, Co-Chair of IPCC’s Working Group II, which together with Working Group I produced the report. “The challenge for the future has one dimension focused on improving the knowledge base and one on empowering good decisions, even for those situations where there is lots of uncertainty,” he said.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Assessing the potential impacts of climate change on food- and waterborne diseases in Europe

March 30, 2012 Comments off

Assessing the potential impacts of climate change on food- and waterborne diseases in Europe
Source: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

After a structured and systematic review of published literature on food- and waterborne pathogens and how they are influenced by meteorological and climate variables, a team of scientists from the University of Bonn developed a computerised interface to access the findings of this literature review. The resulting knowledge base allows users to quickly explore relationships between environmental variables and food- and waterborne pathogens.

+ Full Report (PDF)


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