Saturday, May 5, 2007

Cost of Global Warming Fix Uses Old Model

By the time government representatives managed to broker something they found acceptable the model it has been based on had become outdated.

Still there is something very newsworthy in this: The scientific panel was international and it included a delegation from the US. Also, price tags for Plan A, B and even C have been calculated.

Further the panel found that:

Summary report pdf to download

"... blunting the consequences of global warming will require different lifestyles, higher prices for basics including gasoline and electricity, and a much greater investment in research and development efforts."

These are very important and very striking statements. You may want to compare the statement on lifestyle change to this previous ChangeClimateBack blogpost: ../2007/04/problem-with-overconsumption.html

The other important point is that costs are affordable. However, the report is seriously lacking by it's own admission.

"... estimates of potential price increases for gas and other energy sources were not included in the report because they were based on assumptions that have not been well studied."

Now if you read between the lines, you find the the whole process of negotiation was much much longer then the 5 days delegates spent in Bangkok. As a result, the model they used was the same as it was before negotiation started. At the time relevant and inclusive, but by the time agreement was reached - outdated and old. For istance it did not include new findings that the Polar Ice cap actally melting faster than the model predicted back then.

[report] ... do not take into account the most recent discoveries -- such as findings that the Arctic ice cap appears to be melting at a much faster rate than described in the February IPCC report.
That's how much has changed just in the 4 months between February (the climate report) and May (the agreement brokered) to the model they uses as base. You can't blame them though. This was as exceptionally fast process. Today, may be enough. Tomorrow, not good enough.

Bottom Line?

It is important that now the talk is serious and is about exact costs and timelines of fixing. The complexity of the changes however is such that the model upon which calculations and predictions are based need to be updated more frequently than haggling process to reach agreement by politicians usually lasts. We may not like this but climate change is on a footing that requires emergency fast reaction time to important model changes.

... model upon which calculations and predictions are based need to be updated more frequently than usual haggling process ...

And it is even more so now, that some feedback processes start. Polar melt is a case in hand. Reduced albedo effect from white ice gone reduces reflection and increases warming as a second generation so called negative feed back process kicks in. Similarly, some trees are now reported to undergo such stress that they become net producers of CO2 - they breath carbon rather then oxigen. This is another negative feedback recently observed.

Such processes (both positive - there are a little, but could be important - and negative feedbacks) now alter model structures and acceptable predictions more rapidly. Some actual measurements now frequently and routinely carried out also defy predictions - some on the positive, some on the negative side.

Negotiations of any real merit should go real time and based on models updated in real time. In practical terms, at least adjusted in the interim before final agreements are reached.

The best medium for this would be expert internet forum, rather then a suit-and-tie air conditioned chain of events in venues across the globe. You do the sums: kerosine, gas, petrol, air-conditioning - all lost for wanting eggheads (save a respectful, but largely powerless minority) to agree on and old and outdated presumption.

Still, there is progress ...

Panel Calculates Cost of Global Warming Fix -

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