UK, US, China and India experts released independent climate change risk assessment.
An international group of scientists, energy policy analysts and experts released a new independent assessment of the risks of climate change on 13 July. The report is designed to support political leaders in their approach to tackling climate change.
The report argues that the risks of climate change should be assessed in the same way as risks to national security or public health. It identifies thresholds beyond which ‘the inconvenient may become intolerable’.
These include limits of human tolerance for heat stress, and limits of crops’ tolerance for high temperatures, which if exceeded could lead to large-scale fatalities and crop failure; and potential limits to coastal cities’ ability to successfully adapt to rising sea levels. It suggests that the risk of these thresholds being crossed could become increasingly likely, especially global of greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, as the report suggests they will in the absence of stronger political commitment and faster technological development.
The report suggests that the greatest risks of climate change may be those that are magnified by the interactions of people, markets and governments. It finds that the risks of state failure could rise significantly, affecting many countries simultaneously.
The report recommends that climate change risk assessments should be updated regularly and communicated to political leaders at the highest level.
Speaking at the report’s launch at the London Stock Exchange, Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay said:
When we think about keeping our country safe, we always consider the worst case scenarios. That is what guides our policies on nuclear non-proliferation, counter-terrorism, and conflict prevention. We have to think about climate change the same way. Unlike those more familiar risks, the risks of climate change will increase continually over time – until we have entirely eliminated their cause. To manage these risks successfully, it is essential that we take a long-term view, and that we act in the present, with urgency.
Fiona Morrison, President of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, a co-sponsor of the report, commented:
As the report shows, adapting to, and mitigating the risk of, climate change is of vital importance for governments. One of the most important goals of climate change policy should be to recognise the possibility of very bad outcomes and a full risk assessment of all possibilities is the best way to achieve this. As actuaries, we see good decisions as being based on exploring difficult scenarios and using this information to mitigate risk. This report will be a very useful tool in assessing the important risk factors that need to be considered and the existential implications, in the coming years, of an increase in global temperature.
The lead authors of the report are Sir David King, the UK Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change; Professor Daniel Schrag, a member of the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; Professor Zhou Dadi, a member of the China National Expert Committee on Climate Change; Professor Qi Ye, Director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Centre for Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University, China; and Dr Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, one of India’s leading climate and energy policy think tanks. In total, the report includes contributions from over 40 scientists, as well as from experts in security, finance, and economics, from eleven different countries.
The report, ‘Climate Change: A Risk Assessment’ is available online
The climate change risk assessment undertaken to produce this report was informed by a series of four meetings, one in each of the countries of the lead authors. In November 2014, experts in energy technology and policy met at Harvard University to discuss the future trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions. In January 2015, a meeting to discuss climate science and risk was hosted by the China National Expert Committee on Climate Change at Tsinghua University in Beijing. In March 2015, a group of senior retired military and diplomatic officers, international security analysts and scientists met in Delhi to discuss the systemic risks of climate change, hosted by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, and facilitated by the CNA Corporation.
The project was commissioned by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as an independent contribution to the climate change debate. Its contents represent the views of the authors, and should not be taken to represent the views of the UK Government.
Co-sponsorship for the meetings and the report was provided by the China National Expert Committee on Climate Change, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Global Challenges Foundation, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, and the Willis Research Network. Specific elements of the project were also supported by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, the UK Government Office for Science, the China Meteorological Administration, and the Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
For more information please contact:
Stuart Adam, Head,
Press and Communications
British High Commission, Chanakyapuri
New Delhi 110021
Tel: 44192100; Fax: 24192411
Mail to: Deepti Soni