Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are responsible for global warming, the long-term worldwide average warming experienced since the industrial revolution. GHGs arise from human use of fossil fuels for energy. Major emitters of GHGs include both industrialized countries and, in recent decades, developing countries as well. Higher global temperatures cause the extremes of hot and cold, and wet and dry, weather of recent years. This blog examines global warming and its effects.
See the Tabbed Pages for links to video tutorials, and a linked list of post titles grouped by topic.
This blog is expressly directed to readers who do not have strong training or backgrounds in science, with the intent of helping them grasp the underpinnings of this important issue. I'm going to present an ongoing series of posts that will develop various aspects of the science of global warming, its causes and possible methods for minimizing its advance and overcoming at least partially its detrimental effects.
Each post will begin with a capsule summary. It will then proceed with captioned sections to amplify and justify the statements and conclusions of the summary. I'll present images and tables where helpful to develop a point, since "a picture is worth a thousand words".
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
The Risky Business Project Report: a Business Perspective on Global Warming
Risky Business Project, headed by the prominent businessmen Michael Bloomberg, Henry Paulson, Jr., and Thomas Steyer, working with a multidisciplinary team of
experts, recently issued the report “RISKY BUSINESS: The Economic Risks of
Climate Change in the United States”.The
report describes historical patterns of changes brought about by global warming
in the U.
and projects future changes up to the year 2100 based on risk analysis as used
in the business world.
The report projects
that, especially if emission of greenhouse gases continues unchecked, the harms
brought about by intensified global warming will have significant negative
effects on U.
socioeconomic development.This includes
agricultural yields, labor productivity, human health and mortality, incidence
of violent crime, energy demand, and coastal infrastructure affected by sea
Risky Business advocates
addressing global warming using the tools of risk analysis common among
corporate and financial leaders.This
approach will lead to pathways easing the future effects of global warming by identifying
investments in mitigation measures and adaptation strategies.
important reports documenting the worsening of global warming in recent decades
and projecting significant further increases have been issued in the past few
months.Examples include the Fifth
Assessment Report (5AR) of the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U. S. government’s National Climate Assessment
(NCA).The last of the three sections of
appeared in April 2014, and the NCA was issued in June 2014.
The Risky Business
Project issued its report, “RISKY BUSINESS: The Economic Risks of Climate
Change in the United States” (RB) on June
24, 2014.The principal authors of this report are drawn from the financial and
business world, and represent both Republican (R; U. S. conservative political party) and Democratic (D; U. S. liberal political party) points of view.They are Michael R. Bloomberg (R), founder,
Bloomberg Philanthropies; former Mayor of the City of New York, and founder,
Bloomberg L.P.; Henry M. Paulson, Jr. (R), Chairman of the Paulson Institute, former
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and former CEO of Goldman Sachs; and Thomas F.
Steyer (D), retired founder, Farallon Capital Management LLC.They oversaw a bipartisan group of seven
former U. S. legislators and cabinet members, a former academic and a
corporate executive (the Risk Committee) in preparing the document.RB in turn is based on a more detailed
technical report issued by the Rhodium Group, a consulting firm, entitled “American Climate Prospectus, Economic Risks in the United States” (ACP)
and written by a group of twelve experts from the Rhodium Group, Risk
Management Solutions, Inc., and academic scientists.As was the case for earlier reports, the RB
draft was reviewed by outside experts, whose comments were taken into account
in preparing the final version.
of RB lies in the fact that
it was prepared by business and financial executives, with the assistance of
former federal government policymakers.Earlier
reports have stressed the scientific basis for documenting past global warming
and projecting scenarios for future changes, and have sought to mobilize public
opinion and policymakers by force of scientific and technical findings.RB, on the other hand, and NCA in part as
well, adopt a business-driven, risk-oriented analysis of global warming and its
effects on the United States, providing the public and our elected
policymakers with practical, economic reasons for addressing the effects of
from Global Warming in the U. S.RB defines risk as “the
likelihood) of an event combined with the severity of its consequences”.High risk requires significant contributions
from both factors.Assessment and
management of risk is an integral part of business management.
Modeling of future
climatic and economic impacts of further global warming was done using the same
suite of models as was employed in earlier reports, including AR5 and NCA (see
Details at end of this post).Modeling
of future temperature trends has been presented to the public many times
already (e.g. in AR5 and NCA), and will not be repeated here, even though they
are summarized verbally and graphically in RB.Rather this post focuses on economic, health-related and social impacts
arising from these projections.
Risks arising from
global warming can be diagrammed as a shift in the likelihood of an event
occurring, such as to the “right” in the graphic below.
representation of how global warming shifts the likelihood of the occurrence of
climate events (such as global average temperature, extreme precipitation, or
drought occurrence).A shift in the
occurrence of an event is shown, and assumes that the rightward shift to the
“new normal” is damaging or harmful. In
the new normal the likelihood of occurrence of red-shaded extreme events increases,
compared to their likelihood under “normal” conditions, whereas the likelihood
of occurrence of blue-shaded extreme events is reduced.
consequences with significant effects on national economic activity are
projected in RB, using the emissions scenario in which no significant effort is
made to reduce the rate of emissions of GHGs (RCP 8.5, see Details below).
sea level will continue rising
unabated in this scenario.By 2050 US$66-US$106
billion worth of coastal property present today will likely be below sea level
nationwide, increasing to US$238-US$507 billion worth of property below sea
level by 2100.Gentle coastlines are
more susceptible to loss than steep ones, and the Southeast and GulfCoast regions may be most affected.Northeast coasts and cities are also at high
risk, with sea levels risking rising by 2-4 feet by 2100.
surges are made worse with rising sea levels.This factor risks being significant in the Southeast.
Extreme heat will
significantly impact the central regions of the country: the Southwest, the
Southeast, and the Upper
over the nation as a whole, it is projected that there will be 27-50 days over
95ºF by mid-century, more than three times the average for the past 30 years;
by 2100 this number could be 45-96 days.These extremes are expected to be much more severe in the Southwest, the
Southeast, and the Upper
heat will lower productivity of workers who have to be outdoors, by about
3%.When the temperature and humidity
combine to exceed healthy levels, outdoor workers and those confined without
cooling will be at risk of increased mortality.
worst impacts of a hotter climate will be felt disproportionately among the
poor, who frequently work outdoors and cannot afford air conditioning in their
output, especially in the Southeast, lower Great Plains, and Midwest, will be impacted.
2100 crop yields in these regions could fall 50-70% for corn, soy, cotton, and
wheat in the absence of agricultural adaptation measures.Further north, yields could increase slightly
in part due to the higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the air acting as
a growth fertilizer.
farmers will be impacted because they will likely need to switch crops to grow,
entailing investments in new know-how and equipment.
Demand for energy
is projected to increase.
need for extra electric energy to run air conditioning may not be adequately met;
addition of new generating capacity will be needed.RB estimates that to meet peak demand up to
95 GW of generating capacity has to be built over the next 25 years, roughly
the equivalent of 200 new fossil fuel plants.New energy needs risk adding US$8.5-30 billion to the nation’s energy
bill by mid-century.
products is an important industry in the Northwest.
warming risks damaging lumber stock.Worsening drought increases the incidence of forest wildfires and
enhances forest destruction by insect pests which will be able to survive the
warmer winters better than presently.
business leaders to take an active role in addressing global warming and its
harms.As detailed above and in other findings in
the report, various sectors of the economy, and differing regions of the
country, will be economically impacted over the long time frame extending to
the end of this century.Robert E.
Rubin, former Secretary of the Treasury and member of the Risk Committee states
have to begin by recognizing the reality and severity of [global warming] to
our economies, both United States and globally, and really to life on earth
more broadly as we know it. ….[T]his problem needs to be dealt with now. We
cannot wait because greenhouse gases, once [emitted], remain [in the atmosphere]
for centuries so that” the accumulated total of atmospheric greenhouse gases
increases each year.
RB recommends using
the assessment that global warming risks serious harm to economic progress as a
reason for undertaking steps to manage that risk.It urges corporate leaders and investors to
extend strategic time frames from the short term to the long term in order to
counter expected damages.The failure to
invest in managing risk that might have been made 10-20 years ago has its
consequences in the warming the world is currently experiencing.Risk management going forward likewise must
be undertaken with comparably long strategic time lines.In particular, RB finds it is distinctly the
role of business leaders to support establishing national policies at the
federal level because, to date, there has been insufficient
government support, resulting in a virtual ‘unfunded mandate by omission’ to
deal with climate at the local level. [The authors] believe that American
businesses should play an active role in helping the public sector determine how
best to react to the risks and costs posed by climate change, and how to set
the rules that move the country forward in a new, more sustainable direction.”
ACP projects effects of mitigation on several
socioeconomic sectors, and discusses adaptation in some hypothetical situations.Importantly, it points out that, since the earth climate system has an
extended thermal inertia built in, warming that was under way as long as
perhaps 15 or more years ago still affects today’s regional climates.Similarly, any changes in global warming
arising from mitigation of emissions begun “now” will not produce significant
results for at least one or two decades. For this reason ACP emphasizes the projected effects of
mitigation for the last two decades of this century.In the sectors of agricultural yield, labor
productivity, health (as reflected in mortality rates), violent crime rates and
energy expenditures, the worst effects are found with the “business-as-usual”
(RCP 8.5) scenario, and the mildest consequences are projected for the most
stringent mitigation (RCP 2.6) scenario.
both changes in behavior and investment in infrastructure and buildings.In ACP adaptation measures are merited to help
reduce exposure to climate risks during the inertial period explained above in
which mitigation has not yet shown its effects, i.e., in the near and medium
term.Individuals can reduce their exposure
to high temperature, relocate to other, more benign, locales, and so on.In agriculture, the choice of crop to
cultivate can be changed, and crop research may produce more hardy strains.Investment in flood and storm surge abatement
can be undertaken.Investment in more
energy-efficient appliances and in upgrading housing and office building stock
for greater efficiency are also important.
action in three strategic areas
while deliberately avoiding making recommendations to implement any specific
policy.First, business practices have
to adapt to make economic institutions and infrastructure more resilient.Such actions include, for example, altered
patterns of agricultural production, or coastline reinforcements undertaken by
local and regional governments because private insurance companies are
retreating from covering these areas.Second, investors and business managements have to incorporate risk
assessment and management into capital investments and financial planning.For example, the U. S. Securities and
Exchange Commission recently issued Interpretive Guidance for voluntary
disclosures of risks from climate change.Third, the public sector, especially the federal government, must
respond to mitigate future warming and to implement adaptation programs.Various alternative policies can be
implemented to further these objectives.RB urges the “American business community to play an active role” in
developing mitigation and preparedness strategies.
avoids making specific policy recommendations.But Henry Paulson, one of its principal authors, published an op-ed in the New York Times on June 21, 2014.In it, he advocates putting a price on carbon
in order to promote the mitigation of emissions.A price on carbon, he says, will build in
price incentives to develop alternative energy sources, and promote reaching an
agreement worldwide for the abatement of emissions.Such an agreement requires the leadership of
and China, the world’s biggest emitters.
The IPCC’s 5AR, the
U. S. government’s NCA and the present ACP with its summary RB are among many recent
reports detailing historical global warming, its projected development in
future decades, and its damaging socioeconomic effects.The NCA and RB are written to stress the
importance of risk assessment and risk management in humanity’s efforts to cope
with global warming and its effects.The
RB is particularly significant because it was prepared not by climate
scientists and academics from related fields, but by businesspersons and
financiers; furthermore the RB addresses its evaluation directly to the audience
of its peers in the corporate and business world.
global warming and its consequent harms are necessarily imprecise.Climate models generate a large ensemble of
individual simulations, which are then aggregated and analyzed in probabilistic
terms.Socioeconomic consequences of
warming likewise are assessed by models that produce results couched in terms
of probabilities.For these reasons, our
understanding of future trends is neither absolute nor certain.In such situations it is appropriate to
discuss the future in terms of risks, assessment of their potential harms and
management of their consequences.
These form the
essence of a businessperson’s approach to managing a corporation or other large
organization on the trajectory along its future path.Businesspersons seek to minimize risk so that
they can optimize growth and earnings in future years.This motivation informs both their near-term,
tactical, decisions as well as their long-term strategic choices.RB urges businesspersons to incorporate
climate risk assessment and management into their planning, especially in the
long term. On longer time scales (e.g. toward the end of this century and
beyond) benefits will accrue that will offset capital expenditures and reap
world community of climate scientists has developed several global climate
models seeking to project future behavior of the earth’s climate system.These are now conventionally included in the Coupled
Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) having an ensemble of 35 different models, which may
differ in the way they characterize different aspects of the earth’s climate.A subset of these, developed within the U. S., focuses on behavior in America, and permits analysis of trends by region
within the country, as done in RB and NCA.Trajectories emphasizing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases
are used for climate projections, identified by “RCP” numbers: RCP 2.6, RCP
4.5, RCP 6.0 and RCP 8.5.The higher the
RCP number, the more greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and the more
intense warming will be across the face of the planet.RCP 2.6 represents a trajectory with the most
stringent limitation on future emission rates, while RCP 8.5 characterizes a
trajectory with essentially no limitation on future emission rates (sometimes
characterized as “business-as-usual”).