Monday, October 24, 2016

Coursera Course on Climate Change, University of Melbourne

Based on Coursera Course on Climate Change, University of Melbourne

Climate Change

1.1 Introduction
“Vulnerability is the degree to which a a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate change and variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity.”
IPCC WGII.2007:883
1.2 Climate Change: The context
Prof. David Karoly, Climate Scientist
The conclusions of all major scientific academies, the conclusions of the vast majority of scientists is that human activity, burning fossil fuels and land clearing has been the main cause of climate change over the last 50 and last 100 years, at global scales.
So, if that’s, the case, then what can we do about climate change? What do we need to do in terms
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So, if that’s, the case, then what can we do about climate change? What do we need to do in terms of society? Our industrial activity? Our economy? To change from using fossil fuels as our energy sources and maybe to change to using alternative energy sources. To think about the ways we can restructure our
economy, and that’s going to be addressed in the lectures on the economic aspects of climate change. But actually one of the fundamental issues is really how sustainable is our modern society.
We live on Earth, we only have one planet with finite resources. And there’s lots of discussion
about climate change being a scientific problem no, actually, climate change is a
problem to do with people. It’s the way we use energy, the way we use our
resources, and when we look at our planet from space, we can now see the human impact on our planet, just looking from space. And in particular, we can see the impact of lights, and lights are really an
indication of the use of electricity, which is fundamental, it’s driving our society, and not only is it driving our society from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, this energy use is fundamental
to the cause of the problem, and that’s increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
When we look at what a number of major political leaders have said about climate change, there are a range of different perspectives, in particular when we look at climate change.
Ban Ki Moon, secretary general of the United Nations, has said that "climate change threatens development that has occurred in particularly developing countries over the last three decades. Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity. it threatens to undo 50 years of our development work and it will impact the
poor in the greatest sense.
Barack Obama: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would
betray our children and future generations.”
Kevin Rudd: “Climate change is ‘the greatest moral,. economic and social challenge of outré time.”

There’s been major improvements in many developing countries,
improvements in food supply, improvements in reductions in poverty amongst poorer people all around the world, but climate change threatens that. And this is really an aspect of the North South divide, where in fact, developed countries have primarily contributed to the problem but the impacts of climate change will mainly affect the poorer people and poorer countries.
Barrack Obama, two years ago in his inauguration speech says that climate change is an intergenerational issue, it affects younger people and future generations and he’s identified
climate change from this perspective of the long term impact of the climate, on current and on future generations.
And then finally, Kevin Rudd was candidate for Prime Minister for Australia in an election campaign in 2007, nd he said that climate change is the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time. And he won that election, he became Prime Minister but in fact climate change has been a political challenge in Australia and in many other countries, because Kevin Rudd lost the prime ministership in Australia because he failed to act on climate change.
The different perspectives of climate change can be illustrated by a couple of slide
When we look at the temperature variations over the last forty years in global average temperatures, we see that temperatures have increased. But actually there’s a lot of variability. and when we look at different periods like the last 10 years,some people, so called climate change skeptics, say there’s been no warming, but there’s also many other decades or periods like the period in the 1970s when you could say there was no warming.or the period in the 1980s where there’s no warming, but in each case these periods of no warming
are stepped warmer than the previous decade and in fact when we look at each decade, each decade over
are stepped warmer than the previous decade and in fact when we look at each decade, each decade over the last four decades, has been warmer than the previous decade, and warmer than all decades in the 20th century,
So it’s actually better to look at the whole record, to snow that yes we know there’s lots of natural variability in the climate system. but there’s been a pronounced warming, and we’ll assess in this course, what is the best explanation of that warming,
As I said, there’s been a range of scientific assessments of climate change, we’re going to look at that in this course,
Their conclusions were that in fact the scientific understanding of climate change has improved, there’s no doubt that the climate system, that the Earth is warming, the climate is warming, and that the evidence of that is overwhelming and also, that the human cause for this observed warming over the last 100 years is beyond any reasonable doubt, in fact there are already impacts, economic impacts, social impacts, agricultural impacts, impacts on biodiversity, that can be seen around the world from climate change.
The pst difficult part is knowing what options there are in terms of responding to climate change. Either to adapt to the hotter conditions, or to respond by removing the causes, and it’s critically important. This subject will address the responses to climate change, the causes to climate change, and will really provide an important background to you. What is happening to climate change and what you as individuals can do.
1.3 Climate change is a social problem
Prof. John Barnett
climate change and the social aspects of climate change. One of the key things or one of the key messages of these lectures is that while we tend to think about climate change as a, as a big natural science problem as something that is to be understood through general circulation models and models that are seeking to show the way these big systems and ecological systems are going to change in response to climate change. And,
we tend to think of this as an environmental problem, as a natural problem, as, as a force of nature about which we can’t do very much about. I want to show you, and I’m going to explain to you that actually, it's very much a problem
about people. It’s very much a social problem.
about people. It’s very much a social problem.
Then, it's not a natural problem at all. It’s actually a problem about social
systems and the way they work. And I’m going to argue in a sense, that
climate change is a social justice problem, and actually, there’s lots that
we can do about it. Even in the case of very small islands like this, in the middle of the Pacific. Not many people living in them, theoretically not many resources at their disposal, yet there’s still things that can be done, and it’s still very much a story about people.
So in these lectures, I’m going to use examples from places like this, these are little islands in the main atoll called Funafuti and Tuvalu. I’m going to use these examples to explain theories. Ways of trying to explain the problem of climate change and who’s going to win and who's going to lose from it. Today, I’m just want to make a basic overview of this argument that I’m going to work through in the next three weeks, that climate change is a social problem.
It’s a social problem because, it’s our activities that are causing the emissions, that are enhancing the greenhouse gas effect. Yes, there’s some degree of natural greenhouse effect absolutely, that's very important. But the
enhancement of that that’s making the planet warmer and changing the climactic cycles, making extreme events more extreme and so on, are actually from human activities particularly since the industrial revolution.
So we caused this problem. Now if we caused this problem, then presumably we can solve it.
But, and it’s a very important point of course that not everybody makes greenhouse gas emissions in equal degrees of responsibility. And we tend to think about that in terms of countries and we, when we talk about this in the climate change convention we say, some countries produce more emissions than others. But I tend to think of this in terms of class, that it’s about rich people and poor people with degrees of incomes and how much they as individuals are responsible for producing emissions. And we’re not certainly, the audience of this subject, certainly won’t be equally responsible for the amount of emissions they produce.
So here are a couple of examples.
We know this is a city in China. Lots of emissions because China is industrialising but historically that city hasn’t produced anywhere near as many emissions as a city like London which has been producing lots of greenhouse emissions for 250 years now.
To this farmer in East Timor who has no electricity whatsoever and produces almost no emissions from his activities. So different degrees of responsibility makes us think that maybe the solutions we need to think about, who has a right to emit. Who has the right to produce emissions and who doesn’t have such a right to emit any more.
That’s a social justice problem, it’s a distribution problem.
Climate change is a social problem too because it puts at risk things that we value. So here for example, there’s a picture of a cemetery in the island of Majuro in the Marshall Islands. And in Majuro and many islands of the Pacific people bury their ancestors it shows their attachment to the land. It signifies the ownership of land it’s showing respect for their ancestors a very important part of their identity.
Now sea level rise, and stronger storms are causing erosion and, causing damage to these cemeteries and that’s just one sample of many things that we value that climate change puts at risk. We hold different sorts of values, and we’re not all equally at risk.
Climate change is a Social Problem.
Because responding to climate change requires social changes.

To reduce emissions
To adapt to avoid damages arising from changes in climate and to both mitigate and adapt in ways that are socially just

Climate change is a Social Problem. Because responding to climate change requires social changes. It’s our emissions that cause this problem. It’s our social systems that mean that some people are more vulnerable than others.
And so it’s within our control, and it’s a product of our social systems. Requires us to adjust and to change to deal with this problem. We have to change the way we live to reduce our emissions to some degree in different places. We are going to have to change the way we interact with the environment, the way we interact with each other. The way we organise ourselves in order to deal with these changers that are coming that are posing risk to us. We;re going to have to adapt in some way and that too is a problem of social organisation.
We don’t want to have solutions to climate change that make inequality greater. We don’t want the rich people to get sicker and the very poor people poorer in our responses to climate in terms of reducing emissions or in terms of adapting.
Thinking more about risks:
Climate change may impact on the things that are needed for people to live good lives.
Risk to basic needs, for example:
Health (e.g. malaria, dengue fever, diarrhea, disasters...). there will be very significant public health impacts in much of the developing worlds. Climate change will create new vectors of illness and disease countries including Australia.
Food security (e.g., agriculture & fisheries production, incomes, prices, nutrition, ) particularly in developing countries but not exclusively so. Production of food from the land and from the sea. Cause changes in people’s incomes, food prices, greater problems of hunger and malnutrition
Clean water (e.g., saline contamination, drought, )

Risks to development, for example to:
Settlements and infrastructure (e.g. damage to buildings, roads, energy systems, water supply systems, ) at risk from rising sea levels and extreme events.
Jobs and economic growth (e.g. from tourism, fisheries, agriculture, ) All of four economies rely on the exploitation of our environment

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Cost of living (e.g. increased scarcity drives up costs)
Cost of living (e.g. increased scarcity drives up costs)
Risks to social values, for example to:
Communities (e.g. from land loss, impelled or forced migration, mortality, damage to infrastructure ) to social networks that give meaning to people’s lives
Culture (e.g. from impacts on material culture, sacred sites, population changes)
Cost of living (e.g. increased scarcity drives up costs)

Climate change is not an environmental problem, it is a social problem (but with environmental elements)
1.4 Vulnerability Prof. Jon Barnett
“Vulnerability is the degree to which a a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate change and variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity.”
IPCC WGII.2007:883
I will discuss Exposure, Sensitivity and Adaptive Capacity Exposure: In harm’s way
If you live in a tiny island like this, Funafuti in Tuvalu, you can see a few houses on a very narrow strip of land. Very exposed to sea level rise, big waves and storms. Fresh water system also exposed.
We can begin to think about vulnerability and how its distributed around the world, by thinking about where they live, and how exposed those places are to climate change.
Sensitivity: susceptible to damages which might arise due to climate change.Sensitivity of the people, and the way they live their lives, to those changes.
Adaptive capacity: the ability to get out of harm;s way, or reduce susceptibility to damage.
Social vulnerability is the vulnerability of people and groups that arises from their inherent characteristics:

wealth, voice, gender
which means that vulnerability os n to equally distributed (differences within countries, islands,

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vulnerability arises from social processes as well as environmental ones. And while it may be quite hard, to change the large scale environmental drivers of vulnerability, it’s going to take us a long tome to turn around our emissions and greenhouse gas emissions, it may not be that hard actually to maintain our societies fairer and to reduce and to control some of those social processes that cause vulnerability. Vulnerability depends to large extent on how our societies are organised.
Other drivers of vulnerability and social vulnerability include violent conflict. War and violence is a very powerful cause of vulnerability. And it’s a social process. It’s people who kill people.

Most climate change research has aimed to answer these questions:
Does climate change exist?
How much of a problem is it?
What are its environmental consequences? What does it mean for birds? Corals and so on?

And we’ve done these in order to:
Prove the problem is real and significant problem to generate political interest. It’s given us a convention on climate change.
Encourage and set targets for mitigation

These “top down” approaches are not much use for answering the following questions:
How will climate change affect people? Different kinds of people. We have to study social systems and how they interact with the environment. Or a general circulation model or a general equilibrium model of the economy can’t tell us that.
How can they adapt? What options are available to different groups who might be vulnerable. What can they do to maintain dignified and meaningful lives.
How can policies and programs help reduce vulnerability?

Vulnerability to climate change is only partly about changes in climate and location, It;s also very much about the distribution of social opportunities: jobs, work, voice
Reducing vulnerability does not only mean reducing greenhouse gas emissions-
It also means reducing inequality. We need to address the drivers of inequality within the social system


1.5 Climate change in the South Pacific
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Exposure varies:
Five different island morphological
From nigh continental (e.g. PNG) to low lying atolls (e.g. Marshall Islands) and some volcanic islands

Regional climate patterns don’t affect places equally. For example, El Nino tends to bring drought over to the Western pacific, bu no where near as much sought in the Central Pacific.
From the Fourth assessment Report of the Inter Governmental Panel in Climate Change
Heat waves will become more frequent
it will rain less often and more intensely, greater problems of flooding and more drought. Storms will become more intense

Exposure: Temperature
.99 to 3.11 degrees Celsius by 2099
more intense hot spells Precipitation:
-14% to +14.6% by 2099
More drought and more flood Storms will probably be more intense
Not certain about changes in frequency Seal levels will rise by 9-88 cm by 2100
Increased frequency of coral bleaching because of the problem of ocean acidification
Uncertainly about effects on ENSO (
El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, refers to the effects of a band of sea surface temperatures which are anomalously warm or cold for long periods of time that develops off the western coast of South America and causes climatic changes across the tropics and subtropics.
The impacts of which differ across the region.
Sensitivity, e.g.:
Crops are rarely irrigated

And are susceptible to drought, flood, damage from wind, disease and salinity. Most people in the Pacific, most of the food they get is grown locally or the refers and the ocean. Very little, almost none of the food produced is from irrigated areas. No dams. No sprinkles or irrigation. They rely on rainfall to get water.
The response of coasts depends on their morphology (cliffs, rocky substrate of various types, coerces of sediment, etc)
It also depends on coastal developments (wharves, sea walls, sand mining increase the likelihood that coastal systems will be damaged by climate chafe).

Many people in the Pacific depend on climate-sensitive natural resources for their livelihood: Farmers, fishers, people who work in tourism
Per capita fish consumption up to 100kg per year in atolls.

Adaptive capacity: Adaptive capacity varies widely across the region urbanization:
Between 13% in PNG and 100% in Nauru: easier to provide amenities like water in urban areas GDP Per capita, per worker
Between $1,020 in PNG
$27,000 i Cook Islands
Percentage of population below poverty line:

13% in Niue and 53% in Marshall islands maternal mortality per 100,000 births
0 in Palau and 711 in PNG Adaptive capacity:
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Adaptive capacity:
Public spending on health, per person:

Between $32 in PNG to $1,000 in Palau
Percentage of students completing primary schooling: between 57% in ONG and 100% in Niue
Percentage of households with electricity: between 12 % in Solomon Is. to 100% in Tuvalu
Vulnerability is by no means uniform across the Pacific Island
Exposure differs by island typo and climate system
Sensitivity varies widely according to the nature of ecosystems and people’s dependence on them for their well-being
Adaptive capacity varies widely according to a range of factors, such as wealth, access to land and access to health care and education

1.6 Climate change and development in the South Pacific
Human development is a composite principally of educational attainment, health care and income:

The Pacific Islands are ranked in the lower half of countries in the world for human development
In some countries human development is low: e.g. Kiribati, PNG, Solomon Is., Tuvalu
Most economies are dependent on primary production (agriculture, fisheries, forests) and many people’s livelihoods depend to a large degree on natural resources. As a general rule, the primary production sector of economies in the Pacific Islands, agriculture is quite a large share of GDP, fisheries in many countries, forestry in some countries. And that means the people’s incomes and livelihood are quite dependent on these forms of primary production. And these are the things that are most sensitive to climate change. Fisheries tend to move around according to temperature in the oceans and the health of coral reefs. Agriculture is highly sensitive to temperate and rainfall, and to extreme events, and so on.

Risks to human health:
Increased rick of malaria and dengue fever: there’s good scientific evidence that in waker periods these mosquitoes breed and infection from those mosquitoes, malaria and dengue fever, increase.
increased contamination of fresh water: damage due to extreme events. Water supply get damaged. Sometimes after disaster, systems that treat sewage get damaged and sewage gets into fresh water systems. Also contamination because of salinity from rising sea level
fish poisoning: toxin that people get for eating fish, reef fish, linked to El Nino events
heat stress
skin diseases: Various legions and infections on the skin are related to climate, related to water, water is sensitive to climate
hunger and malnutrition: about the process of food most people in the Pacific purchase some of their food

Risks to infrastructure:
From coastal erosion and coastal flooding
From storms (floods, winds)
From extreme heat events
Houses, hospitals, business activities, roads, bridges, railways, telecommunications, energy, water

Risks to employment & income:
Risk to employment in tourism, fisheries and agriculture and in industries dependent on these activities,

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Risk to employment in tourism, fisheries and agriculture and in industries dependent on these activities, e.g., craft sales, tuna canneries, sugar refineries
Decreased revenues from sale of household production of foods
Disruption to markets due to infrastructure damage

Risks to food security:
Food production, transport and storage, crops, fish, and systems for harvesting, transporting, storing and selling
Access to food (income & food prices).. combined effects of rising prices due to scarcity and falling income
Food utilization (function of health, energy, water)... increasing costs of energy and disruption in supply, water contamination and die seas.

Majuro, Marshall islands:
Estimates cost to protect against slew level rise: greater than 4X GDP

The economies of the Pacific Islands are vulnerable to climate change as are many people’s livelihoods.

1.7 Risks to culture, populations and nations
There are intangible but important things about islands that are leo at risk from climate change. 1. their unique culture
2. Their populations
3. Their sovereignty
In the Pacific Islands, Culture is about:
The land: it’s not the land belongs to the people, but the people belong to the land.
The sea
community - extended families, kinship, systems of reciprocity and support
Religious institutions: predominately Christian churches and Sundays and the role of the church is very important in maintaining culture and tradition

Climate change may:
Reduce production from the land through droughts and floods and storms
Reduce production/increase the costs of marine-based activities: fishing part of identity; may change predictability of deep sea fish and catch
Influence migration decisions

Important substitutes for land and marine products Less enjoyment of the unique aspects of island life
Climate change and “forced” migration” from islands:
Livelihood stresses may impel more movement in the future
Disasters cause short-term displacements
Anticipation of future stresses may cause preemptory movements
But barriers to movement significant: distance, cost, entry requirements Most moves will be internal

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Actually, we don’t know much in the South Pacific:

Actually, we don’t know much in the South Pacific:
About when climate change will effect ecological and social systems in islands About what adaptation can achieve
About nhow people view the risks and opportunities associated with staying/moving

Evidence is scarce, piecemeal and inconclusive
Alarmist predictions may lead to inappropriate responses.

There are five countries in the world comprised entirely of low-lying atolls, where there is no high ground: Every tide above sea level is two meters
The Maldives
The Marshall Islands Tokelau

That which makes islands unique is at risk from climate change:

Homes and maybe even countries as are many people’s livelihoods 

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