Climate Change: Winter 2008
This is a course on problem solving in climate change.
The ctools web site is
AOSS 480 001 W08 This requires UM ID and Password. This is the official archive for lectures.
Lectures and Readings
Lecture 1 is a basic introduction to the course and discussion. Some bullets from the discussion are included in the posted lecture notes.
Lecture 2 revisits the introduction to the course, and then starts what is effectively a preface for the course.
Lecture 3 finishes the preface of the course, and then starts with the scientific-foundation of climate change. In the class we discussed both the role of policy in the climate-change problem as well as the impact of the U.S. not participating in the Kyoto Protocol. Summarizing bullets are included in the posted lecture.
Lecture 4 discusses in more detail the oscillation of the climate from ice age to temperate periods. This oscillation is the "natural" climate of the last million (or more) years. Hence, climate is not really tuned to this current temperate period in which we thrive. It changes, and the natural variability would say it is likely to get colder. The natural cycles have been profoundly changed by the addition of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. Examining the climate of the last 1000 years, there are sustained warm and cool periods, which have had important impacts on people. The turnaround between temperate and ice age periods is revisited and the role of the ocean is investigated.
Lecture 5 starts with more discussion of the variability observed in the ice age-temperate cycles. In particular, the plausible role of the ocean in absorbing carbon dioxide from and releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is discussed. The carbon cycle and the oceanic and terrestrial sources and sinks are highlighted. The greenhouse effect of water and carbon dioxide holding heat near the Earth's surface is introduced. Then using the conservation principle, introduced earlier, the radiative balance of the Earth is investigated.
Lecture 6 discusses the greenhouse effect and how adding greenhouse gases changes the heat loss rate in the conservation equation. Then the radiative balance of the atmosphere is discussed, by following the solar energy through atmosphere. There are only two things that can happen, energy is absorbed or not absorbed; effectively, it is reflected. Once absorbed the solar energy, primarily visible radiation, is partitioned into radiative thermal energy (infrared), the energy involved in phase changes of water (latent heat), and thermally forced motion of the atmosphere and ocean. The ocean and atmosphere act to move heat, which is received in excess in the tropics, towards the poles. The different components of the Earth's physical climate system, the atmosphere, the ocean, the land, and the cryosphere are discussed in terms of their role in absorbing, reflecting, or transporting heat from the Earth's surface into the deep ocean or land. There is a brief discussion of the Younger Dryas - an example of abrupt climate change.
Lecture 7 starts with a discussion of the form of the project and discussion of the possible projects. We go around the class and introduce ourselves. Then we return the radiative balance of the Earth, and introduce the idea of feedbacks. That is, once the Earth is heated by the Sun, and reaches some sort of dynamic equilibrium, and then we change the absorption or reflection how does the balance change.
Lecture 8 starts with a discussion of what we would ask Warren Washington if Warren Washington were to visit our class on Tuesday, February 5. Then the lecture revisits the idea of feedbacks and discusses the positive and negative backs present in the atmosphere. The discussion moves to aerosols, particulate matter in the atmosphere, which is the final bit of radiative forcing to be considered. Then models are introduced: what they are and how they are used.
Lecture 9 is about models and modeling. What is the foundation of models, and how are numerical experiments designed? Volcanic eruptions are used to demonstrate how production and loss terms are determined. Volcanic eruptions are also posed as one of the best "laboratory" experiments to test climate models. Then internal variability is discussed. Internal variability is demonstrated by El Nino, which is an exchange of energy between the atmosphere and the ocean. Then with the model, the role of natural and anthropogenic forcing of climate in the last 150 years is discussed. Then the contribution to radiative forcing from the different production and loss terms is presented. The concept of climate sensitivity is introduced - that is, how much will the surface temperature change for a given amount of radiative forcing increase due to CO2.
Informal discussion with Warren Washington. Warren is one of the first climate modelers. He has been adviser to five Presidents. He is a scientist who knows the interface with the larger community.
Lecture 11 talks about models and how models are used to help disentangle "natural" variability and "anthropogenic" variability. The climate record for the last 150 years is modeled using only natural forcing and natural plus anthropogenic forcing. Both are found to be important, but in the last 50 years the observed warming cannot be explained without the heating due to the increase of CO2. There is discussion of consistency of recent observations and phenomena predicted by model simulations. Following discussion of the last 150 years, predictions for the next 100 years are discussed. For the next 100 years, there is more uncertainty in the predictions related to the assumptions of population, energy use, and technology development, than there is related to our understanding of the principles of the physical climate. Finally, the idea of abrupt climate change is introduced, and in particular, the analysis of how the Gulf Stream could change due to melting of Greenland ice sheets.
Lecture 12 is an extremely brief look at what the surface temperature and precipitation look like. A point of emphasis is the observing system, how well the observing system samples the Earth, and how the observing system has changed with time. There is also an excursion into the vertical temperature structure of the atmosphere, and the challenges of measuring the climate above the surface. The balloon network is described. The strengths and weaknesses of satellite observations are highlighted. Following this discussion of the observing system, observations of both the physical climate and ecological systems are introduced. (This is a poor man's Inconvenient Truth.) The observations are consistent with a warming planet, and biological systems responding to the warming. Is this evidence coherent and convergent? Most of the information is consistent with global warming, but attribution relies on correlative information provided by models and theory.
Lecture 13 is where we seriously start to leave the science of climate change. There is an unstated notion in this lecture to get the class to start to think more seriously about projects! First the impacts of climate change are taken from the last two lectures. These changes are increasing temperature, sea level rise, changes in water resources and weather. With these changes there are many parts of society that are impacted, agriculture and public health, for example. These impacts motivate responses in fields such as law and policy. This stands in contrast with the analysis presented in the beginning of the course. In the beginning there was the start with the generation of knowledge about climate change, its communication, and people's response based on a range of interests. This impacts-based and knowledge-based approach is a fundamental divide between how people evaluate and prioritize the importance of problems. There is, in this an element of a classic tension between long-term and short-term factors in problem solving. This motivates a more in depth discussion of mitigation and adaptation and, again, the conflict between the long-term and the short-term move to the forefront. These ideas lead to the more consideration of vulnerability, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. This is an interface to people, population, and societies. One way to structure and formalize these ideas is presented, and it becomes clear how adaptation to climate change varies widely from country to country, city to city, region to region, rich to poor. Ethics and, de facto, law are injected into the problem of climate change.
Lecture 14 is where we define the project teams. Once again the "form" of the project is discussed. The goals: a complex problem with competing interests; separating what we know, from what we don't know, what we believe, what we want to believe; what are the externalities to the problem, to what is the problem related, how is it related; what are the impacts; what are the possible paths to solution? It is important to think about time scales, near-term versus long-term. Think of evolving towards solutions, not defining the solution at the first moment.
Lecture 15 is about energy: Current and Past Energy Use. Jasper Kok is the primary author. The beginning of the lecture introduces the primary sources of carbon dioxide emission, fossil fuel burning, deforestation, and cement making. These sources are then detailed. With regard to fossil fuels, the roles of coal, oil, and natural gas are highlighted as a function of time. Of special note is how coal use changed in the 1950s as both Europe and the United States were suffering major public health problems. Residential use of coal in cities was virtually eliminated; clean air acts were initiated. (Two things to think about: Compare China today with U.S. and Europe 60 years ago. What is the impact of "clean air" on climate change?) The use of fossil fuels is directly related to population, but more important, for the past emissions, is the relationship to gross domestic product; there is a strong correlation to consumption. Alternative sources of energy are introduced, but deferred until a future lecture. The use of energy by economic sector and end use is highlighted. These different cuts through the energy use reveal both leverage points in addressing energy consumption as well as showing the complexity of reducing energy use. Finally, external costs of energy are introduced, international stability, national security, and public health are at the top of the list.
Lecture 16 starts with a summary of current energy production, and explicitly shows that coal-electricity, oil-transportation are the points where it is easiest to get a handle on carbon dioxide emissions. A number of granularities come forward, regional-global, centralized-distributed emissions - one solution does not fit all situations, and there are specific places where we get the largest impact with our actions. Energy security is more urgent and more demanding of attention than climate change mitigation. Many strategies to achieve energy security are neutral to negative to climate change. If we are going to address climate change, then we need, ultimately, a policy that addresses the buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a natural response of society to address the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The science-policy interface is introduced. The formal way that scientists inform governments on climate change policy is through assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is supplemented in the U.S. by the Climate Change Study Program and reviews by the National Academy of Sciences. While these formal processes do evaluate scientific information and inform governments, that information is ultimately used in concert with many other competing pieces of information and motivators.
Repeatedly, we are brought to long-term / short-term tensions and local / global tensions. An overview of policy responses is introduced, starting with global policy focussed on mitigation of climate change. The concept of "dangerous" climate change is introduced, and attempts to quantify dangerous climate change are discussed. To date, our efforts have not effectively curtailed the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The Kyoto Protocol is discussed, and the fact that market mechanisms are built into the protocol is stated as important. Regional, state, and local policies are developing, based on many factors, most often on some aspect of local economic incentives.
Lecture 17 revisits the climate-policy interface and concludes that the development of policy does not stand, alone, as an adequate response to the challenges of climate change. (This is meant to move beyond, for instance, the fact that the U.S. did not sign Kyoto is what has kept us from developing a policy, much less a solution to the problem.) Further, an examination of the climate-policy interface shows that it is difficult for policy to develop on the weight of science-based knowledge alone. Science generates both knowledge and uncertainty and the uncertainty. In the absence of a policy motivator or catalyst, those with non-scientific interests in policy can use the uncertainty to keep policy from converging. Catalysts might include, for instance, public health risk - or a "smoking gun" like the ozone hole was for the ozone problem.
Economics is often a motivator for the development of policy at the regional, state, and local level. On a global scale economic motivators are far less clear. For the U.S., all statements of climate policy have been linked to the requirement that any action on climate change must not interfere with economic growth --- generally, expected to be 2-3% a year. This is an expectation of exponential growth, and exponential growth and exponential discount rates are central to the economic analysis of climate change.
The Stern Report is introduced. This is a large report commissioned by the British Government that, compared with previous reports on the economics of climate change, concluded that the cost of ignoring climate change was very high - on the order of 10% of Gross Domestic Product. This 2006 report was such a radical re-framing of the economics of climate change that it motivated many critical analyses. At the core of these analyses was that Stern used a very low discount rate, thus valuing the future much more highly than empirical economic information justified. This is a challenge of conventional wisdom, and for the moment the conventional wisdom seems to have won the credibility battle. Economics is, perhaps, a less compelling motivator for policy, at least global policy, than scientific knowledge.
In the end, all agree that the cost of carbon dioxide must be integrated into our economy. Many converge upon the idea of a carbon market, currently the favored policy vehicle.
Lecture 18, Mandatory and Voluntary Carbon Markets in 2008, Justin E. Felt. This is a description of market principles and the motivation of using a carbon market as an environmental policy tool. Then there is a discussion of how the Kyoto Protocol was written and modified in negotiations in anticipation of a carbon markets. The lecture ends with a summary of current carbon markets and discussion of the possible future of carbon markets.
Lecture 19 starts with the relationship between scientific investigation and policy. Scientific investigation produces both "knowledge" and an estimate of "uncertainty" about that knowledge. In the absence of some compelling external situation, the uncertainty can always be used to keep policy from converging. This introduces the concept of needing some type of "catalyst" to motivate the formation of policy. (This also suggests an "uncertainty fallacy," the idea that reduction of uncertainty is the key to policy formation.) This lecture also suggests that economics stands in much the same relationship to climate policy as climate science; economics is NOT the catalyst.
This lecture is the first introduction of a framework for organizing problem solving in climate change. This framework requires considering spatial scales (regional or global?), temporal scales (near term or long term (>50 years), and wealth (rich or poor).
Then the lecture considers the role of the legal system in the climate change problem. There is an introduction to the basic laws that stand at the possible foundation to build up climate change litigation. Of special interest is Massachusetts versus the EPA and the unfolding rulings that CO2 is a pollutant that can be addressed with the Clean Air Act. As of this class session, California is trying to compel the EPA to address emissions from automobiles.
Federal Climate Policy and Your Leverage on It, Paul Higgins. Lecture 20 discusses the current status of the development of policy at the federal level. Much of the discussion is related to the development of a carbon market, and the premise that a fee (i.e. tax) is a market mechanism. This stands in contrast to the popular discussion that often places the market and taxes as "opposite" policies. The lecture focuses on the design of a cap and trade system. Price safety valves and climate safety valves are introduced as mechanisms to manage the impact on the economy and the climate. The lecture also talks about the ways that citizens can influence the development of policy and the availability of internships and policy fellows in Washington.
Lecture 21 is about energy and complements Lecture 15. Jasper Kok is the primary author. The lecture starts with a return to the concept of "dangerous climate change," and the growing conclusion that beyond a change in surface temperature on the order of 2 degrees Celsius, the impacts of global warming are mostly negative - hence, dangerous. The conclusion is, therefore, that we must develop a plan to limit the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Hence, we must address, straight on, the use of energy.
Carbon dioxide reduction can be achieved by using less energy or finding alternative forms of energy that do not emit carbon dioxide. In the short term, by far the most effective way we have of reducing emissions is through more efficient generation and use of energy. The lecture spends significant time on the work of Pacala and Socolow, who argue that with existing technology and focused practices and policies, that we can reduce our emissions, stabilize the amount that we emit, and ultimately start to reduce emissions. This is the concept of wedges, the linear increase of reduction that comes from, for example, increasing use of more efficient lighting. A portfolio of possibilities to make wedges to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions is discussed.
Following this, the potential of renewable energy and biofuels is introduced. While sources such as wind energy are becoming cost effective, often with the need for policy-based incentives, there is a limit to how much of current and future energy demands can be met with these sources. Yes they are important; no, they are not THE answer. Solar energy is the source with greatest potential, but faces some technological challenges. While these challenges are likely to be tractable, they will require time.
The growing realization that our current methods of biofuel production are more than problematic is, next, discussed. Specifically, land use and competition with food crops stresses an already stressed resource of production and use. Plus, it is increasing clear than many of current and near-term biofuel strategies release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than current fossil fuel energy sources.
Finally, an important issue is introduced - the link between water resources and energy. Energy exploration, acquisition, and production place great demands on water resources. Again, this is an already stressed resource, which climate change and energy production will amplify.
How Do We Know That Human Activities Have Influenced Global Climate? Ben Santer. Lecture 22 is on how we determine whether or not observed climate change is due to natural variability or industrial greenhouse gases. First sources of "natural" and "non-natural" variability are described. Since we do not have the ability o run controlled experiments in the atmosphere, a strategy that uses model predictions is developed. In a model, experiments can be run that have only "natural" forcing and only "non-natural" forcing and the sum of "natural" and "non-natural." It is possible to determine "fingerprints" of different types of forcing; for instance, solar heating versus well-mixed greenhouse gas heating. Then it is required to use the observations and to determine whether the observed heating more closely resembles "natural" or "non-natural" forcing. Because of the complexity of the climate and the enormous consequences of attributing climate change to humans, it is necessary to find multiple signals. Atmospheric, oceanic, land and ice signals have been identified.
After this, a set of the "myths" about climate change is explored. Such myths are that the ocean is cooling, that models can't simulate the oceans, and that models can't simulate the observed atmospheric temperature changes. These myths are explained in terms of observations and facts. Places that require more attention are discussed.
Here is a set of my Blogs on Attribution of climate change.
Lecture 23 (and the start of 24 it turns out) were 15 minute presentations and discussion on the projects. This was a time to review how the projects were coming along and getting feedback.
Lecture 24 is on climate change and public health, but it really uses public health as a problem type to reveal the attributes of climate change problem solving. (First, however, in the lecture is a review of the important concepts of attribution and fingerprinting.)
Climate change is expected to impact public health through several mechanisms. These include increasing exposure to heat, more extreme weather, changes in the ranges of diseases, and, possibly, an increase of refugees. There are also some potential benefits, less exposure to cold. There are some characteristics of the public health challenges worth noting. First, all of these problems currently exist. Climate change might amplify them, but they also reflect problems of population, resource distribution and wealth. Second, there are strategies to address the problems and assets often in place to address them. Therefore, the most effective response is often in the use (and better use) of these assets. Third, the response to these problems is often in the spirit of improving the use of existing assets or with solutions that might be in the spirit of "engineering" or "technology." For example, use of mosquito nets or more insecticides. (This also means that this class of problems is not likely to be the policy catalyst (See Lecture 19))
Finally, a research project into heat waves is discussed which shows how environmental information is linked to geographical information and population information. This shows the mixture of information that is required for effective problem solving.
Lecture 25, ultimately, focuses on the business community and the role the business community has in addressing the challenges of climate change. The lecture arrives at the front door of the business community after doing a synthesis of the material presented in the course.
The scientific background that motivates concern about human-induced climate change is introduced, and this knowledge motivates us "to do something." Doing something often first focuses on the government and the development of policy to fix the problem. In the case of climate change doing something pervades society, and it is naive to imagine that there is a simple policy solution. The challenges of climate change sit in relationship with population and consumption and energy and, hence, wealth. Acquisition and preservation of wealth is of central, urgent, importance to societies, to people - often, even if you think you disdain wealth. Considering the interface between all of the communities vested in climate change introduces granularity. Recognizing and using that granularity is important to developing paths to solution. That granularity can be viewed as near term and long term, local and regional and nations and global, poor and rich. For problem solving, an important set of time scales are those associated with accumulation of a lifetime of wealth and those associated with expenditures in infrastructure such as refineries and power plants and bridges. Fifty years is long, and anything longer than fifty years is very long. Climate change is viewed, by most, as a problem of the VERY long term.
The lecture revisits the climate-policy interface and the idea that uncertainty, a product of science, can always be used to keep policy from converging - especially in face of a problem that is VERY long term and that impacts, potentially, wealth. Policy is, however, an important component of the paths to solution. For policy to develop, there needs to be a reason, a motivator, a catalyst. An intuitive motivator for policy is the economic impact of climate change. But economics is a big beast, with long term and short term aspects, and any information on the long term is derived from models, and associated with those models in uncertainty. Therefore, economics is like science, a mixture of knowledge and uncertainty. The models of economics do not have the benefit of a physical foundation; the uncertainties are far larger. Economic considerations do not, in the near term, provide a strong catalyst for the convergence of policy.
The lecture considers the roles of impacts such as heat waves and water resources as motivators for policy. The role of law. These considerations do not, obviously, lead to the convergence of policy. They often lead to the fragmentation of policy, and the fragmentation of policy is, often, an accelerator of policy.
With the link of addressing the challenges of climate change to energy and to economic success, connectivity between all of these communities comes from monetary valuation. Hence there is a propensity, in this wealth-centric view of the world, to head towards market-based approaches to the problem. Hence the business community is an essential community in developing paths to solution
(Much thanks to Andrew Hoffman for introducing me to the business aspects of climate change.)
This final lecture is a class synthesis that is anchored around a putative carbon market. Much of the formal presentation revolves around whether or not the elements that are needed to make a robust market exist. It is argued that incentives are needed to bridge the cost gap between conventional sources of energy and new ("alternative") sources of energy. Similarly a way to provide valuation to efficiency is needed. On the abatement side, both the terrestrial and oceanic sinks are not well quantified and ecological impacts are likely to be enormous. Then the work of Pacala and Socolow is revisited. Since their original paper in 2004, which concluded that seven "wedges" were needed to stabilize CO2 in the atmosphere. Now in 2008, there has been no reduction in CO2 emissions, and 10 - 15 wedges are needed for CO2 stabilization. Finally an analysis from McKinsey is shown which shows the cost of implementing the strategy of Pacala and Socolow. Many of the implementation tactics, in fact, save money. Some recent papers are mentioned as well as emerging initiatives.
Rood's Narratives (Blogs and Essays)
Many of these follow directly from class. At times they are almost lecture notes.
Here is a complete (up to date) organization of All Blogs.
These are primary references and sources of information. They are a good place to go look for comprehensive material.
These are the readings assigned in the class, and the lectures where they were assigned. Often the readings are only a few pages in the document. The readings are sometimes for the particular lecture or anticipating what's next.
Additional Relevant Readings
These are chosen to be accessible readings that provide more information on the subject of the moment. As above, the lectures where they were assigned is listed, and they are part of the diaspora of the course.
Especially Interesting Readings
A set of recent papers that are interesting in their implications about climate change.
Readings for QuikClimate (AOSS 605 Physical Climate Path)
As of late February QuikClimate has moved to its own wiki: QuikClimate: Physical Climate Course (Winter 2008)