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Global Climate Change DigestArchives of the
Global Climate Change Digest

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



Item #d96mar1

"Economic and Environmental Choices in the Stabilization of Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations," T.M.L. Wigley (UCAR, POB 3000, Boulder CO 80307), R. Richels, J.A. Edmonds, Nature, 379(6562), 240-243, Jan. 18, 1996.

(See News, this Digest issue--Mar. 1996.) Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has constructed a set of hypothetical time-paths of anthropogenic emissions over the next few hundred years, by which prescribed levels of CO2 stabilization could be achieved at various attainment dates. The IPCC time-paths all show the rate of increase in emissions dropping immediately in response to immediate attempts to mitigate emissions.

This paper analyzes the implications of achieving the same ultimate stabilization level by allowing emissions to increase along the "business as usual" pathway for as much as several decades, followed by a sharper drop than assumed in the IPCC scenarios. The overall cost to achieve stabilization could be lowered by delaying emission reductions until existing capital stock has reached its planned lifetime, and until better technology is available, presuming that appropriate research, development and demonstration is begun immediately. In addition, "no regrets" (no net cost) measures for reducing emissions should be adopted immediately. The ultimate level of stable CO2 attained eventually would be the same as with the IPCC approach, and the climate impacts are not likely to differ much, but the overall economic cost could be much lower. (See next entry.)

Item #d96mar2

"Carbon Dioxide Emissions," A.J. McMichael (Dept. Epidemiol., London Sch. Hygiene, Keppel St., London WC1E 7HT, UK), Nature, 379(6568), 764, Feb. 29, 1996.

The convening lead author of the health impacts chapter of the IPCC Second Assessment criticizes the previous paper, faulting the benefits portion of the cost-benefit analysis presented.

Item #d96mar3

Three related editorials in Clim. Change, 32(2), Feb. 1996:

"Policy and Global Change Research. A Modest Proposal," R.D. Brunner (Ctr. Public Policy Res., Campus Box 330, Univ. Colorado, Boulder CO 80309), 121-147. The mandate of the U.S. Global Change Research Program to produce "information readily usable by policymakers" is incompatible with the program's current emphasis—developing comprehensive predictive models. This conflict threatens stable public support for the Program. Proposes an alternative national program based on decentralized policy teams that would disaggregate problems of global change geographically, periodically integrate policy-relevant knowledge for various decision-makers, and compete for continuing support from the federal government on that basis. This alternative would expedite progress, consistent with the policy mandate, and help to maintain public support for the Program.

"Global Comprehensive Models in Politics and Policymaking—Editorial Essay," P.N. Edwards (Program in Science, Technol. & Society Bldg. 370, Rm. 111, Stanford Univ., Stanford CA 94305), 149-161. This extensive comment on the previous paper first reflects on the role of comprehensive models, distinguishing between earth system and integrated assessment models. Such models serve an important political purpose by encouraging the formation of an "epistemic community" of scientists, policymakers and others with compelling interests in global change, even if they do not serve the immediate needs of policymakers. Analogy to the "limits to growth" debate of the early 1970s shows that models can also acquire political significance as purely heuristic guides to complex phenomena. Finally, regional or local policies are discussed as an alternative to comprehensive national and international global change policy.

"Editorial Comment," R. Byerly Jr., 3870 Birchwood Dr., Boulder CO 80304), 163-164. Briefly comments on the previous two editorials, finding agreement with portions of each.

Item #d96mar4

"Indices of Climate Change for the United States," T.R. Karl (Natl. Clim. Data Ctr., 151 Patton Ave., Asheville NC 28801), Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 77(2), 279-292, Feb. 1996.

This paper, which augments work reported in the premier issue of Consequences (Global Climate Change Digest, Prof. Pubs./Of General Interest/General and Policy, June 1995), concerns the problem of summarizing and presenting a complex set of multivariate, multidimensional changes such that they can be understood and used in policy decisions. Two indices of climate change are developed and analyzed. The Climate Extremes Index, based on an aggregate set of conventional climate extreme indicators, supports the notion that the climate of the U.S. has become more extreme in recent decades, although the magnitude and persistence of the changes are not large enough to conclude that the increase in extremes represents a climatic trend. The Greenhouse Climate Response Index (of indicators that measure changes in climate) has a positive trend consistent with, but not proof of, an enhanced greenhouse effect.

Item #d96mar5

"Consequences of Climate Warming and Lake Acidification for UV-B Penetration in North American Boreal Lakes," D.W. Schindler (Dept. Biol. Sci., Univ. Alberta, Edmonton AB T6G 2E9, Can.), P.J. Curtis et al., Nature, 379(6567), 705-707, Feb. 22, 1996.

Observations from 20 years of whole-lake acidification experiments in northwestern Ontario show that climate warming and lake acidification both lead to declines in the dissolved organic content of lake waters, allowing increased penetration of solar radiation. Some changes in aquatic ecosystems that have been attributed to lake acidification may in fact have involved increased exposure to UV light. In clear, shallow waters, climate warming and/or acidification can be more effective than stratospheric ozone depletion in raising the exposure of aquatic organisms to biologically effective UV radiation.

Item #d96mar6

"Impact of the Montreal Protocol and Its Amendments on the Rate of Change of Global Radiative Forcing," S. Solomon (Aeronomy Lab., NOAA, 325 Broadway, Boulder CO 80303), J.S. Daniel, Clim. Change, 32(1), 7-17, Jan. 1996.

Ozone depletion is believed to cause a net radiative cooling in the stratosphere and at the Earth's surface. This paper's calculations show that ozone depletion from halocarbons in the 1980s significantly slowed the rate of total anthropogenic radiative forcing during that decade. The rate of ozone depletion should decrease as the effects of the Montreal Protocol are realized; calculations show that this will cause a pronounced increase in the decadal rate of anthropogenic greenhouse forcing of the next few decades, perhaps to levels unprecedented in this century.

Item #d96mar7

"Can Renewable Energy Sources Sustain Affluent Society," F.E. Trainer (Professional Studies, Univ. New S. Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia), Energy Policy, 23(12), 1009-1026, Dec. 1995.

Although renewable energy must be the sole source in a sustainable society, this analysis of renewable options reveals major difficulties when conversions, storage and supply are considered for high latitudes. Consequently, renewable energy sources will not be able to sustain present rich world levels of energy use; a sustainable world order must be based on acceptance of much lower per capita levels of energy use, much lower living standards, and a zero growth economy. Advocates a move to a "radical conserver society," in which it is possible to live well on far lower, constant levels of per capita energy consumption.

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