Climate change in the news (Oct 26 - Oct 30, 2009)
- News Update
The results of a large survey I conducted with my fellow environmental researcher, Wes Schultz, produced a pair of actionable results. First, people who thought their neighbors were conserving energy were more likely to conserve themselves. Second, at the same time, almost all of the nearly 3,000 survey respondents underestimated the conservation efforts of their neighbors. This suggests a simple way to increase conservation activity—by trumpeting the true levels of conservation that are going unrecognized.
To investigate this idea, we examined resource conservation choices in an entirely different setting—upscale hotel rooms, where guests often encounter a card asking them to reuse their towels. As anyone who travels frequently knows, although the wording of this card may vary somewhat, it always requests compliance for the sake of the environment. What the card never says, however, is that the great majority of guests do, in fact, reuse their towels when given the opportunity. We suspected that this omission was costing the hotels—and the environment—plenty.
A friend sent me the link to “One Minute to Save the World”, an interesting campaign that is inviting one-minute films from people across the world who care about climate change. The organizers are offering £1,000 as first prize for the best film, and there’s a nice line-up of films already. The panel of judges is a qualified one, and includes a number of well-known names, from Shekhar Kapur, Oscar-winning director, to Franny Armstrong of The Age of Stupid fame.
|Photo © Julia Bucknall/World Bank|
It is very hard to explain through writing what befell us. The drought is more that what is seen on telly. I am now only left with one cattle. The rest were wiped by the drought. That makes me feel as if there is no future in me. I had a dream of seeing the number I had increase to more than I could think of. Now that dream is gone.
We had rain for only two days, the 15th and 16th of October. This is not enough to make the land green, so we are still hoping for more. I am touched by offers of help. I wish you could make some grass for me. Since there haven't been any rain in most places in the country, we found it difficult to move the cattle in search of grass. Many died on the way.
My foray into climate change in the World Bank Group started with the drought-affected regions in Andhra Pradesh, India in 2003. The WB had just started thinking about adaptation to climate change and was trying to begin a dialogue with developing countries dealing with overwhelming challenges of poverty. With my colleagues in India, we began looking at drought-proofing in Andhra Pradesh without labeling this a `climate change’ study. In many ways, this was probably the first attempt to integrate adaptation into a Bank rural poverty reduction project. Two years later, the study was well received and became the pilot for drought-adaptation, to be linked to India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Program.
This experience served as a laboratory for us to learn lessons that have helped mould Bank’s engagement with climate change. It went on to shape the key features of the Strategic Framework on Development and Climate Change (SFDCC) that was approved a year ago. Connecting with client countries and listening to their concerns became the cornerstone for the SFDCC. The Framework was formulated through an extensive global consultation with both World Bank Group staff and external stakeholders. It was the process itself that helped build ownership for climate change work inside the Bank Group and among client countries.
Carbon governance—the institutional arrangements in place for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions—can vary considerably across countries. In Brazil, the financial community is actively interested in carbon trading, but Chinese banks have hardly any interest in it. In India, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) market is developed almost uniquely by domestic companies, while China relies extensively on foreign firms. And while the Chinese government takes an active interest in providing capacity to project developers, the Brazilian authorities see their role uniquely as guarantors of environmental integrity of emissions reductions projects. So, if carbon is the same everywhere, why is carbon governance so incredibly varied?
|Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank|
All "new" priorities risk diverting attention from "old" ones. Climate change seems no different. It seems likely that climate change, through its impact on temperatures and rainfall, will have negative affects on existing water stress in many countries. Crop water demand will increase with temperature, rainfall will decrease in many areas and become more erratic in most. Further, we are already substantially over-drafting many aquifers and damaging river eco-systems.
In parallel with these concerns, Vorasmarty et al (2000) estimate that the impact of economic and population growth will substantially exceed the impacts of climate change on the water demand/supply balance.
Climate change in the news (Oct 12 - Oct 16, 2009)
The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences is being shared this year by Elinor Ostrom, a political economist at Indiana University, and Oliver Williamson, an economist at UC Berkeley. The award could not be more appropriate in these times of rethinking what markets can and cannot do.
The award to Ostrom, who has spent her professional life studying how societies manage common resources is particularly relevant as we draw closer to the Copenhagen summit and countries are busy defining what they are willing to do to protect the global atmospheric commons.
In fact, Ostrom wrote a background paper for us earlier this year for the World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change. In it, she took exception to the notion that a solution to global change must be global. Such a solution would take too long, she argued. She also reminded us that a solution negotiated at the global level, if not backed up by a variety of efforts at the national, regional, and local levels, was not guaranteed to work well. This is because climate change is the result of many individual and local decisions.
|An IFC investment helps provide clean, affordable water to underserved communities in developing countries.|
Many of the measures proposed in the World Development Report (WDR) 2010 will require substantial engagement with the private sector. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has estimated that more than 80 percent of the investment required for climate change mitigation and adaptation will have to be privately financed. For this to happen, the key requirement will be meaningful targets and supportive public policies.
One area in which private initiative will be critical is in the development and dissemination of new climate friendly technology. As the advance edition of the WDR states, "Technological innovation and its associated institutional adjustments are key to managing climate change at reasonable cost. . . . Mobilizing technology and fostering innovation on an adequate scale will require that countries not only cooperate and pool their resources but also craft domestic policies that promote a supportive knowledge infrastructure and business environment."
For several reasons, an increased focus on accelerating new technology is urgently needed.
Written with Paulo Nobre
Both authors are with the Center for Earth System Science, INPE, Brazil
At present, there are a number of early warning systems based on seasonal-to-interannual climate forecasts in several countries (for example, Ogalo et al., 2008). These systems are based on the use of available monitoring data and state-of-the art climate models. Both observations and model-based predictions are analyzed by climatologists to predict climate anomalies one or two seasons ahead.
|Photo © iStockphoto.com|
Much of the success of such short-term climate predictions is based on the ability of current climate models to predict the evolution of the coupled tropical upper ocean-atmosphere state over seasons. The best example of this is the prediction of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) episodes.
Such climate predictions have been used in an array of applications, ranging from seasonal rainfall predictions guiding agriculture, fisheries, and water resources to natural hazards and health applications (Meza and Osgood, 2008; Abawi et al., 2008; Connor et al., 2008).
|Photo © iStockphoto.com|
Economists may have caused some of these misunderstandings by laying out simple principles that are useful as a introduction to the underlying economic parameters of climate policies: first, a unique carbon price (through carbon taxes or a cap & trade system) to foster carbon saving behaviours without distorting international competition; second, compensatory transfers to offset the adverse impact of higher energy prices for the most affected countries. But this has resulted in climate policies being considered a cost-minimization exercise conducted regardless of the nature of development issues.