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Climate challenge – the safety´s off

Pressmeddelande   •   Dec 01, 2009 14:38 CET

According to the UN Climate Panel the earth is getting warmer, very probably because of human emissions of greenhouse gases, and this warming is related to rising sea levels, shrinking ice masses, and the risk of rapid and unpredictable changes. But when does man´s impact on the climate become dangerous, and what is at stake? Are EU policies for energy and the climate toothless? Is carbon capture and storage a solution or just a smokescreen? Formas' new book Climate challenge – the safety´s off takes a broad look at the climate issue in a global perspective.

The book contains articles written by some forty researchers about the scientific underpinnings, about climate impact, adaptation, and vulnerability, and about measures to limit climate change.

Scientific underpinnings
Modelling and measuring are the most important tools that climate researchers use. Both have their limitations, but they do complement each other, and climate models are the best for scenarios for the future.

“Constructing a climate model is like balancing many different factors on the edge of knife, some that we know a lot about and others that we don't”, writes Michael Tjernström, Stockholm University. “Clouds are one Achilles heel, and particulates another. What's more, there are things we don't yet even know that we don't know.”

“Scientific forecasts do not always come true, and most of us cannot personally examine the state of the climate. Nevertheless, we should believe in climate change. We rely on science as a process, and since there is a consensus about this, then society must take this as something we know. There is no other way to deal with it”, writes Sverker Sörlin, Royal Institute of Technology.

Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability
“When we are to establish emission limits for carbon dioxide, we have to live with several uncertain factors. It is uncertain what the rise in temperature will be when the content of greenhouse gases increases and what effects a global rise in temperature will have”, writes Daniel Johansson, Chalmers University of Technology. “Nor is it perfectly clear what is 'dangerous' human impact on the climate. If we want to be relatively sure that we will achieve the EU two-degree target, we need to start reducing emissions drastically right away”, he maintains.

“What measures are we willing to take to reduce 'dangerous' climate effects? Here values play a self-evident role. Science can elucidate the consequences of various courses of action and what is needed to achieve established goals, but it can't provide us with any ultimate answers about what we should do. Nevertheless, we must make decisions”, writes Markku Rummukainen, Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI).

“For instance, we need to decide what to do about our exposed coastal areas if and when the water level rises as a result of climate change. Societies have to adapt by making long-term investments. It is costly to do nothing, in both economic and human terms. The best way to limit costs is to prevent, and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases”, writes Annika E. Nilsson and Richard J. T. Klein, Stockholm Environment Institute.

Measures to limit climate change
“In the rhetoric surrounding EU climate and energy policies, the conflicting goals of society are not visible. The EU lacks regulations and any democratic mandate to change the societal direction of energy systems, transports, and consumption patterns toward a low-carbon future. EU climate and energy policies are paper tigers”, writes Karin Bäckstrand, Lund University.

The end of the book presents possibilities following the Copenhagen conference. Björn-Ola Linnér, Linköping University, and Bo Kjellén, Stockholm Environment Institute, write about climate cooperation from Rio to Copenhagen. If the results from Copenhagen in December 2009 are paltry, we will probably face a debate about the Climate Convention. Is the UN path the right one? Is there too much market and too little political control in today's climate efforts? What principles should apply?

For more detailed information about the book:
www.formasfokuserar.se, where the book can be ordered for SEK 51 (incl. VAT, excl. shipping). For review copies, please contact lena.jansson@formas.se, phone: +46 (0)8-775 40 65.

For more information:
Birgitta Johansson, The Swedish Research Council Formas,
birgitta.johansson@formas.se
Emilie von Essen, Swedish Research Council Formas, eve@formas.se