Talk:Open Task Group on Climate Change

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Notes from the scientific Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen, 10-12 March 2009

Wednesday 11 March plenary

Willian Nordhaus:

Everyone must pay the external costs for their emissions.

Four mechanisisms for carbon price:

  • Consumers see what contains carbon
  • Producers want to move to low-carbon
  • Incentive to innovators to develop low-carbon
  • Economises the information needed in this system.

The analytical thing is simple: everyone must pay the same price.

  • Problem: Huge differences between countries, individuals, values, ...
  • What is the impact of non-participation? Studies show: very high.
    • half of emissions are in the ETS (if US included)
      • 250 % costs of because 50% emissions are out of the mechanism.
  • CDM is problematic: Cannot show that companies actually reduce emissions.
  • CDM credits look too non-transparent.
→ Universal participation must be achieved.

Quantity or price-based approach?

  • Carbon tax: more precisely defined internationally. Each country accept to collect and use.
  • Tax should be harmonised in all countries and sectors. In practice, the reality will deviate from this but that's the goal.
  • The shortcomings of Kyoto-type are undervalued.
    • Price tag is easier.
    • Emission tax is more efficient than emission gap, given uncertainties. There are limits to measure and causes volatility. This is not because of policy errors, but because of the nature of the system.
    • Tax system can more easily collect the tax.
    • Tax has less possibility for corruption.
    • Tax systems are proven instruments and every country has experience.

A useful concept:

  • Hybrid model where all countries have basic tax, which can be added by emission gap.
  • Tax system is easier to participate to. Big countries will not have pressure on smaller, except the minimum tax amount.

It is difficult to design international economic systems. Very complex ecosystems with hidden goals, prays and predators. History is full of failures. We must recognise that now rather than after 10 years.

Two year lessons learned of Kyoto has just been published.

Dan (Daniel) Kammen, Berkeley: From science to solutions

  • We need a reassessment of things we need to do. We need a more progressive go than what we have.
  • We need examples of low-carbon solutions at all levels individual - international. We need them before Copenhagen.
  • Energy efficiency must become a global priority.
  • Sustainable energy is needed globally.
  • We need to monetise greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Energy finansing needs a revolution.
  • Energy access is the key, not carbon access.
  • Many of our successes have come from laws and regulations
  • Energy efficiency has a lot of other co-benefits: Competitiveness, ...
  • We don't quantify and report back. Christian Casillass, Dam Kammen and blueEnergy (NGO)
  • Communities must be able to do their own projects: wind+telecommunication in Nicaragua. Little education and a lot of practical experience and local needs.

Solar home solar panels: there were either poor of good quality, but nobody checked for it until a community group in Kenya. The best offer: buy solar panel and a tv. → you can look at World cup

  • Why are polar panels in series? Because in 1950 the inverters were expensive. Now you can do AC power from a single solar panel. In series, every broken cell drops the performance of the whole series.

We have an energy grid model of CA. The model predicts that certain power grids MUST be built to enable the power transport.

  • The impact of carbon tax 1-200 USD/ton: There is little impact unless you build the infrastructure to make optimising possible.
  • EBAMM: ethanol and env goals.
  • Property owner fully repay loan over 20 years. You built clean energy into your house, and the loan goes into the property - no need to put your money on the table now.


IIASA: We need to establish a long-term high-carbon price future so that the economy will have an incentive. WTO has been a wide achievement, but it has been a hard battle. This will happen with climate taxes anyway. We have all the lobbies there to fight for private interest.

Dan: Churchill: That's why experts should be on tap, not on top. (?)

  • Possible approaches: cap and trade / tax and divide / give it to individuals / simple tax. → Test all out and see what works. But we will not have global carbon tax tomorrow morning.

12.3. morning session

Ulla Törnäs, minister of development cooperation:

Climate dialogue process, launched by the minister

Prof Diane Liverman Oxford: Why we respond or not?

(Tyndall Centre of Climate Change. Global Env climate change and Food Program ESSP)

People matter: How much can we expect from people?

What can social science offer to the solution?

We will fail unless we understand possible human responses.

When and why you last did some environmentally friendly acts?

McKenzie GHG abatement curve: a lot can be achieved with negative costs. Social aspects show small impact on this curve. But insulating a house is not a technical or regulatory thing alone. It is a complex social issue.

Millions of people do billions of decisions, usually supported by poor knowledge and weak institutes.

Social science tells that not all technologically feasible solutions can be put into action without problems.

Kathrine Wilcinson: Attitutes about climate change.

Gap between value and act:

  • Value-action gap
  • Information deficit model
  • Values-beliefs-norms
  • Social marketing
  • Culture and resilience theory

Promoting pro-environment acts

  • Multiple intervention types
  • Address contexts that constrain pro environment choices
  • Understand actors perspective
  • Build on personal values, social norms
  • Participatory methods

Many people report easy actions, but eating less meat or travelling less are things that are not given up (social norms?)

CGI program: food system adaptation

We need to adapt to +2-3 C world

We must understand what the world would look like and what people would do.

Tyndall study: ...

Facilitating behavioural change: McKenzie

  • 15% decrease in home energy consumption can be achieved quickly with direct feedback.

Many groups oppose carbon capture and storage (CCS) because:

  • uncertainties (of efficiency)
  • contacts to oil industry
  • ...

John Schellnhuber, Tyndall/Potsdam Institute

What are the emissions with which we have 5/6 probability to remain below +2C limit? 80% emission reduction before 2050, 2070- negative emissions.

We will have huge competition on: land, water (as glaciers melt), energy.

MAD challenge: mitigation, adaptation, development.

Loel Cohen: Hom many people can the Earth support?

  • Leuuwenhoek 1700's: earth can support 13 G people. The subsequent estimates 1-1000 G.

Is the land use optimal now. Of course not.

  • The QWERTY phenomenon. Why is the keyboard like that? Frozen accident, difficult to change.
  • Optimal land use would look different Krause, Lotze-Campen 2009: a lot of energy production around Sahara etc.
  • WBGU 2008, Beringer and Lucht 2008: Ideal system of protected land areas: Corridors for biota
  • Sustainable bioenergy potential on non-agricultural land:...
  • No-go areas: hurricane risk, thawing of permafrost: People should not live there (East cost of China and US) but they do.

Müller 2006: Optimising agriculatural sites

  • You need only 1/5 of land to produce the same amount of food, if we just use the optimal crop in the optimal spot.

What we need to do:

  • REDD Forest protocol: First thing first: protect the rainforest
  • Global system on emissions trading schemes ("I don't believe that tax is much better than emission trade.")
  • 12 land use changing Apollo program
  • Creating supersmart grids for energy: solar, wind, hydro, geo, biomass
  • Quota for accommodations of climate refugees. (sea level rise will cause refugees: based on the cumulative historical GHG emissions: US should take 25% of the refugees)
  • Terrestial global commons scheme (south AND north, not only south.)
    • Worlds most fertile land (east US and Europe) should be named world commons)

Lenton PNAS 105:6 2008 Tipping elements of the globe Krieger et al PNAS 2009 Hofmann Schellenhuber 2009 PNAS

The current approach (BAU) will finally stabilise something: the sustainable amount of people on The Earth below 1 G people.

Nicholas Stern: Economics of low-carbon society

Topics of the talk:

  1. How economics should be shaped based on science
  2. Global deal
  3. Economic crisis and climate change

GHG emission is an externality.

  • We can tax or regulate externalities.
  • Climate change is externality unlike any other:
    • Global
    • Very long term
    • You don't see the impacts soon
    • Scale of potential damage is huge
  • → We need to look this very carefully.

We have to look non-marginal changes, unlike typically. This is about a choice between very different futures, and marginal change idea doesn't apply.

  • This is a stock problem: emissions are cumulative and costs of delay are huge. Things come worse all the time.

William Nordhaus is simply wrong: There are damages that depend on temperature. How fast they go up? That's the key. +19 C --> You lose 50% of GDP in the model. This is absurd.

They also get discounting wrong. We are talking about very low quality of life in the future, if thing go wrong. They also do not think how much more expensive it is to delay actions (overwhelms discounting).

You didn't tell loud and clear enough what science knew about impacts, this is why economists didn't realise these things.

People typically use quadratic extrapolation, because no data available for other than +2 C scenario. This makes predictions above +2C clearly wrong, because impacts are non-linear.

These +5C changes are fundamental radical changes in where people can live. This will cause migration of hundreds of million of people. This will cause mass conflicts.

This is a big probability of a devastating outcome. This is based on science.

What is the economic story?

  • We can start to...
  • This is an insurance case: what are you willing to pay to reduce the risk of +5C from 80% to 5 %? This is a very good deal.
  • We underestimated effects in the Stern report. Now we know better.
  • We can convince people to the scale of action.
  • At least 50% reduction of GHG emissions by 2050. We know what to do.
  • We know what kind of economic policies are needed. Taxes, trading. Economy says that tax is better. We need to give technical support...

We can do it. But it depends on political will. This is the place to put the political will together.

  • At least 50% cut.
  • 2 ton/capita
    • This is not the same as justifiable permission of emission flow. Rich countries have old bad history of stocks, which still counts.
    • We cannot expect poor countries to make fixed targets yet on COP15. China and India are vulnerable.
      • China, India, Brazil, etc. are all different. We must ask them how they can support the common challenge. Do not use the language "how we bring them into the deal". Ask how can we act to respond and support you to succeed.
    • The developing countries should be leading this. They will have 8/9 G people in 2050.
  • Developing technology together. Work together to forestation. We should talk about development in more hostile climate, not adaptation.
  • Message to rich: You do 80% cuts. You develop low-C technology. You show us the way and help.

I am more optimistic than I was 2 a ago.

  • People act. People develop new ideas (most stupid, but if 30 % are good, that's fantastic).
  • Technology develops.
  • Commitments have started to come: Obama, China is putting effort on this.

It will be hard. But economic crisis has brought us an opportunity. Insulating is cheap now. We can go for the smart grid and high-voltage DC. The crisis will last for a few years, so acts next year will help both economy and climate change.

We must put investments to low-carbon society.

We can attack the two huge problems simultaneously: poverty and climate change.

Session on stakeholder involvement

X.2: AIM/CGE global model for Global sustainable society (Tokio U, )

  • Model up to 2050 (2100)

X.4 Germany: Arctic stakeholder involvement (UU, U ? in Finland) Projet: Arctic Transform (EU project)

Thursday 12 March, Final plenary

Key messages:

  • Even worse-than-thought climate change is happening.
  • Social disruption: poor societies are extremely vulnerable to climate change.
  • Rapid long-term strategy is needed to avoid dangerous climate change. Weak 2020 targets make things worse later on.
  • Equity: climate change is unfair. An effective, well-funded adaptation safety net is needed.
  • There is no excuse for inaction. Tools are there.
  • Meeting the challenge: we must meet al lot of challenges. Governments must act in many ways.

Stern: we must act to avoid +5C. But the action is a low-C society. And that is attractive. It is simply better than the current system. Now lets work on energy efficiency and give work to unemployed. And it is growth.

To what we should we invest?

This is frustrating, (Dan K). Because this is clear in scientific point of view. But we haven't even really started. They have quick pay-back times. The fact that we are not doing it already is frustrating and just shows that we have not learned. We are failing so far, because we don't use system science. Rich countries should step up.

  • Katrine: Am I guilty if I don't turn off lights?
  • Dan: In 70s we tried to go lower life quality. Now we should go for better. Obama is reprioritising science. This is an industrial revolution. Mixed technologies, market signals. We must decrease the equity problems.

Who is we?

  • Stern: The 2 big challenges are poverty and climate change. They go together, so does the success or failure. We must have a coalition. Rich countries must support poor countries' climate change policies. People's understanding on responsible behaviour makes a difference. (Like attitudes towards drinking & driving). Discussion and understanding is the key.

When we hit the reality after a congress, it is difficult to see things happening. But there are tipping points where things just start to change. Things can change very quickly when it starts. 9 months from now we can say: COP15 was the turning point.

Comment from PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Your input as scientists is very helpful. I have received key messages. My first responses:

  • "We" is each individual but also a political framework. That is for politicians.
  • 1st message is urgency. We learn that the worst is happening. The longer we wait, the, the worse it gets.
  • Bali 2007 started a roadmap. Can we get a global deal in 9 months? We must. We stick to the roadmap. This demands tough negotiations. The highest level is needed.
  • 2nd message: direction. We must reach +2C target and -50% compared to 1990. We may have to go beyond. Some countries have committed -80% in 2050 as Obama.
  • 3rd: action. Most politicians are retired in 2050. But we must act now. EU has promised -30% by 2030. Rich countries carry historical responsibility. But developing countries must participate. I am encouraged to see their effort.
  • 4th fairness. Rich must assist in capacity building and sustainable practice. We must find funding methods for sustainability, including forestry. Market-based systems are most likely to survive. Climate change can drive private investments. In the long run, market solutions will prevail. We must put a price on carbon.
  • 5th opportunity: Benefits, not just on burdens. Low-C must be the target. Efficiency is an obligation. We must disseminate knowledge globally. World needs good news for economy. Business as usual is dead. Green growth is in. Energy sustainability
  • 6th governance. There are constraints that prevent us from making right decisions. This is COP15 is a unique opportunity. It is governments' interest to succeed. World needs better governance. If we fail to act, we fall.

Katherine: Its all about communication. Does scientists have comment on the political message?

  • Stefan: When we talk about +2 C we really mean +2 C, not +3 C. +2 C is not safe. +2 C is worse than Russian roulette.
  • Dan: The key messages is all one message. In Nigeria there is frustration, because they don't see the progress. The villagers want to see the opportunities.
  • Stern: Power of example. We must show how it can be done, instead of describing. Rich countries must show how low-C society works. Poor: We have seen high-C growth. We have not seen low-C growth. We should support development that is driven by the developing countries themselves.
  • Fogh: I need concrete advice. +2 C is not safe. Should we set the the bar even more ambitious? I need to know today. What is the real platform for politicians, that must be set by scientists.
  • ? :The target is not a science issue. This is an adaptive game. +2 C is a reasonable target for COP15. But I suppose that we need to go further later.
  • Fogh: Can I go for 50% globally with 80% for rich.
  • Stephan: I would go for stricter if you need to hit 2C, otherwise it is only 50% chance of hitting the target.
  • Dan: 80% is really critical. It means an industrial revolution. Otherwise we risk for a serious environmental injustice.
  • Fogh: Now I have the necessary information. We always operate in the margin of uncertainty. But the margin is smaller than what I am used to. We must make a final decision in COP15. This is why I need precise numbers. Don't give moving targets. Not too many considerations on risk and uncertainty and all that.
    You have had a successful congress. Science should be the basis for decision-making. Politics can only act on what we know. I will tell what science says.
    The process for COP15: Formal negotiations will continue with sessions throughout year. We need to
    • Engage key players: D8 Madiline, It in June; NY September final guidance Sept-Dec intensive negotiations to sort out an agreement.

Highest pressure to negotiators. What is the framework?

  • Global solution is needed. Must have
    • targets 50% globally binding commitment from rich by 2020.
    • Funds developing countries especially. Rich must pay for new technology. Forests and better land use must be in.
    • Verification. Reliable and transparent system to measure and verify national/international actions. Transparency is critical.

After COP15:

  • Set the framework, commit. Then, we must hold each other accountable. Scientists must follow the trend. Not only on obligations, also look at opportunities. DK will be of fossil fuels.

Countries should buy patents and give them openly available.