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Weekly news update on climate change: Oct 16

 Climate change in the news (Oct 12 - Oct 16, 2009)

The Nobel Prize Committee pays attention to governance of the commons

Marianne Fay's picture


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.   

Getting on a technology pathway to avoid dangerous climate change

Alan Miller's picture
   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.

How can current and future early warning systems be used to enhance adaptive capacity to climate change?

Carlos A. Nobre's picture

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).

How Can We Untie the Climate-Development Gordian Knot?

Jean-Charles Hourcade's picture

   Photo © iStockphoto.com
The participation of developing countries is essential for effective climate policy. But this participation is hampered by the fact that many developing countries perceive environmental policies as a new form of Malthusianism. And unfortunately, despite repeated references to sustainable development in the climate negotiations, the debates about climate and development policies continue to occur in separate spheres. A new Gordian knot has been tied through a succession of misunderstandings.

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.

Sea-Level Rise and Storm Surges: New Data on 500 Cities

Susmita Dasgupta's picture

In April 2009, I blogged on a paper co-authored with David Wheeler (Center for Global Development) on the impact of sea-level rise and storm surges in developing countries. David has extended this work further to include the potential future impact of sea-level rise for more than 500 cities, given changes in population. The results are stunning, and show a huge potential impact concentration in a few hot-spot cities. 

In Defense of Diversity

Nicola Cenacchi's picture

Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Photo © Mari Tefre/Global Crop Diversity Trust

If you are not familiar with it, I highly recommend taking a look at the TED website. TED is a small nonprofit devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading”. It organizes conferences where people from different fields and walks of life, scientists, engineers, and politicians, can present their ideas and projects.

The talks are filmed and made available for free on their website, which now contains a vast collection of brilliant presentations and speeches, always informative and at times downright jaw-dropping (in fact, “jaw dropping” is one of the categories you can use to scan through the presentations.)

The presentation that recently caught my attention is one by Cary Fowler, about the importance of genetic diversity in agriculture. Dr Fowler is Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, whose mission is to conserve Earth’s agricultural biodiversity. Jointly funded in 2004 by FAO and Biodiversity International the Trust worked with the Norwegian Government and the Nordic Gene bank to create the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, also dubbed by the media “the Doomsday vault,” which was officially opened on February 26, 2008.

Mitigation Costs Update

Marianne Fay's picture

A question we’ve been asked (and have asked ourselves) is how much climate change mitigation will cost developing countries.   We recently revised our numbers so that the ones presented in the final version of the World Development Report 2010, due out in early November, differ from those in the advance version of the report, which is now online. 

What are our new numbers? Here goes: In the medium term estimates of mitigation costs in developing countries ranges between $140 billion and $175 billion annually by 2030.  That is the annual net cost of developing-country mitigation  measures to stay on a  2 °C trajectory.

But financing needs will be higher however as many of the savings from the lower operating costs associated with renewable energy and energy efficiency gains only materialize over time.  McKinsey, for example, estimates that while the incremental cost in 2030 would be $175 billion, the upfront investments required would amount to $563 billion (over and above business-as-usual investment needs).  McKinsey points out that this amounts to a roughly 3 percent increase in global business-as-usual investments, and as such is likely to be within the capacity of global financial markets (McKinsey 2009).

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