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Global Climate Change: Uncertainties, Risks, and Values in
Determining Public Policy
“Climate Affairs:
A Notion Whose Time Has Come?”
Talk presented at the 10th
Kuehnast Program
University of Minnesota
11 October 2002
Michael H. Glantz, NCAR, Boulder, Colorado
[email protected]
Climate Affairs:
aspects of climate
Climate Variability
(seasonal to inter-annual)
Climate Fluctuations
(decade scale)
Climate Change
“Deep” climate change
(new global climate state)
Extreme Meteorological Events
(where weather meets climate)
Perceptions of Climate
• Climate as a hazard
• Climate as a resource
• Climate as a constraint
In every society climate is a mix of all three, but the
proportions vary from one country to the next.
Perception of Climate’s Impacts
on Agriculture
USDA 1984
Reality of Climate’s Impacts
on Agriculture
USDA 1984
…as a hazard
• This is the way that we tend to view climate
• Its anomalies can often lead to death and destruction
• There is also a misery factor (lost photos,h having to live
in a gym for weeks, loss of pets, heirloom losses, etc
• Governments most concerned about climate as a hazard.
• Governments have responsibility for early warnings.
… as a resource
• Adequate and reliable precipitation, temperature,
seasonality, among other climate conditions make climate
a resource for many countries
• As a resource, it provides for adequate food production
and water resources in a region
• Experience from similar ecosystems of coping with climate
conditions including extremes can be considered a part of
that resource
• Reliable and credible forecasts on all time scales can be
considered a resources as well
• The careful use of climate information can make a hostile
climate less so
… as a boundary constraint
• In the early 1900s climate was viewed as a constraint to
personal as well an national economic development
• Hot and tropical climates, it was argued, made the people
lazy and unproductive in a workplace, whereas seasonal
climates of the Northern Hemisphere were invigorating to
people and nations
• This view was challenged as racist but was more or less in
place until the mid 1970s!!
• Global warming will change present constraints while
creating new ones
El Niño as a Hazard-Spawner
• El Niño has not been accepted as a natural hazard even
though it meets all criteria
• However, all would agree that El Niño is a hazard-spawner
in the sense that its occurrence has been associated with
the likelihood of droughts, floods, fires, etc. around the
• The same can be said of La Niña
Weather and climate stories
are big news items
Global warming and the weather
Media Headlines Worldwide:
El Niño 1997-98
Fostering the notion of Climate Affairs
(the purpose)
Foster education on climate-society-environment issues
Understand how climate affects society and environment
Understand how society affects climate and environment
Make climate information “usable”
– By the public
– By policy makers
– By businesses
TIME magazine (January 1984):
climate connection overlooked
Fostering Climate Affairs
(why now?)
• Climate issues:
– Increasingly important to
governments, corporations,
the public
• Perceptions:
– Climate anomalies getting
more frequent, costly and
• Global warming:
– Looming in the 21st century
Reasons for Concern
(climate-related anomalies)
• Droughts & floods
• Hurricanes &
• Ice storms & frosts
• Forest and bush fires
• El Niño & La Niña
• Infectious diseases
• Global warming
• Other (locust, dust
storms, haze, etc.)
Need to improve communicating
Need to improve
society’s understanding of science
Area of Concern
(the impacts of anomalies)
• Food production
• Food security
• Water resources
– Quantity
– Quality
Public health
Public safety
What do we need to know?
• Climate science
• Climate impacts
• On ecosystems
• On societies
• Climate policy & law
• Climate politics
• Climate economics
• Climate ethics & equity
Climate Science
• Understand the climate
• Understand its
• Society is a component
Modeling the Climate System
Climate Change Impacts on the United States, USGCRP, 2000
The Climate System
IPCC, 1996
Time Series for El Niño (red)
and La Niña (blue)
Ocean temperature
profile, Equatorial
Pacific 1997-98
Popularizing El Nino
Global Warming
• What’s happening?
• Why?
• Who’s doing it?
• Who’s affected by it?
• How do we know?
Climate Impacts
• On ecosystems
– Terrestrial & marine
• On societies
– Industrialized & agricultural
• Human impacts on the atmosphere
– Direct & indirect
• Methods to assess impacts
– Quantitative & qualitative
Venezuelan Mud slides
December 1999
Hurricane Mitch from Space
Superstorm 1993 (March 12-15)
From the Caribbean to Canada
ENSO: What it can do
(based on what it has done in the recent past)
Climate Policy & Law
• Air pollution, acid rain, ozone depletion, global warming
• Energy consumption, land-use practices, GHGs emission
• Trans-boundary water issues, coastal ocean issues,
air-shed management
International Response to
US Pullout of Kyoto Process
Climate Politics
• White House effect versus
greenhouse effect
• Conservation versus
– Greenpeace versus
• Technophiles versus
• Dependence on free market
Local, national, regional,
global politics
Climate Economics
Discount Rates
Risk assessments
Welfare of present versus future generations
Forecast value assessments
Prevent, mitigate or adapt to climate variability and
Climate Equity and Ethics
• Inter- versus intragenerational equity
• Environmental justice
• Downwind
• Downstream
• Disasters and poverty
• North-South views
• Polluter Pays Principle
• Precautionary Principle
• Nature’s Bank analogy
Where all that C02 comes from
(total emissions since 1950 in billions of tons)
Could the 21st century become …
The Climate Century?