|International climate change policy.
Most nations have joined the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC.
Article 2 of the UNFCCC defines the policy of the Convention:
"Objective: The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."
This statement clearly assumes that the human effect on climate is "dangerous interference." That this effect -- especially warming at higher latitudes -- might on the contrary be beneficial, is simply ruled out.
This single-minded bias is borne out in more detailed UN documents. The most recent and important is The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability, November 1997, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. The IPCC was jointly established by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme in 1988 to assess the scientific and technical literature on climate change, the potential impacts of changes in climate, and options for adaption to and mitigation of climate change. Since its inception, the IPCC has produced a series of Assessment Reports, Special Reports, Technical Papers, methodologies and other products which have become standard works of reference, widely used by international policymakers, scientists and other experts.
The Regional Impacts of Climate Change was prepared in response to a request from the UNFCCC. It claims to address an important question posed by the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, namely, the degree to which human conditions and the natural environment are vulnerable to the potential effects of climate change. The report is voluminous. Its Summary for Policymakers, presented here, is itself a lengthy document, and uniformly negative in its assessment of warming. In fact, in the entire Summary there is basically just this sentence, in the section on North America, to suggest that there might actually be something good about warming:
"Other sectors and sub-regions may benefit from opportunities associated with warmer temperatures or, potentially, from CO2 fertilization,including west coast coniferous forests; some western rangelands; reduced energy costs for heating in the northern latitudes; reduced salting and snow-clearance costs; longer open-water seasons in northern channels and ports; and agriculture in the northern latitudes, the interior west and the west coast."
More typically, even when the Summary admits of a possible benefit, it then promptly negates it, as in this passage from the section on Africa:
"Were rainfall to increase as projected by some GCMs in the highlands of east Africa and equatorial central Africa, marginal lands would become more productive than they are now. These effects are likely to be negated, however, by population pressure on marginal forests and rangelands." That increased productivity in Africa is not a benefit is a shocking conclusion.
Moreover, the Summary is based on wild speculation about the worst possible outcomes, none of which is based on sound science. Most of the horrors it presents are not based upon warming, but upon supposed extremes of weather -- droughts and floods, and rapid climate shifts. There is little scientific basis for these scare stories. Even worse, many of the projected adverse impacts from increased CO2 are based on increasing occurrence and severety of El Ninos, or ENSO (El Nino -- Southern Oscillation) events in IPCC jargon. There is no scientific evidence, or even theory, that suggests that El Ninos are affected by CO2 concentration.
As a cost-benefit assessment the IPCC report on Regional Impacts is simply atrocious.
David Wojick Ph.D., PE
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