IPCC sidesteps question of what constitutes dangerous climate change in AR3

2002-06-05 AOSIS Download PDF

Topic: Climate

Samoa, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) welcomes the
opportunity to submit some views on priority areas of research and questions for the
scientific community arising from the Third Assessment Report (TAR) of the IPCC.
AOSIS has already commented on the TAR at the 7th Conference of the Parties, and those
views should be considered as complementary to this submission. AOSIS reserves the
right to make further comments in light of views submitted by other Parties.
AOSIS wishes to express its warm appreciation to the outgoing Chairman and Members
of the IPCC for the sterling work that they have carried out in recent years. AOSIS is
confident that the new Chairman and Members will continue the fine tradition set by the
IPCC of independent and well formulated scientific advice. AOSIS would again note that
the TAR represents the culmination of the best scientific work available on climate
change and its effects, and the elaboration of scientific findings in a manner that
stakeholders and decision-makers can easily understand and relate to. It is imperative that
this continue.
AOSIS experts have carefully studied the TAR, and have made certain recommendations
on the basis of the reports of the three working groups. Following these sections AOSIS
will make recommendations on possible activities that IPCC could undertake in support
of the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol.
Working Group I, Climate Change 2001 – Scientific Basis
The WG I Report on the Scientific Basis highlights the fact that ‘an increasing body of
information gives a collective picture of a warming world’.
AOSIS is particularly concerned about the implications of the following main
conclusions from the Report.
▪ The global average surface temperature increased by 0.6 degrees centigrade over the
twentieth century.
▪ Sea levels rose by between 0.1 and 0.2 meters over the twentieth century.
▪ Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have increased by 31% since 1750. The present
concentrations have not been exceeded in 420,000 years and likely not in the past 20
million years. About three quarters of the anthropogenic emissions of CO2 to the
atmosphere in the last twenty years are due to fossil fuel burning, the rest due to
▪ Despite some reservations, confidence in the ability of complex physically based
climate models to project future climate has increased.
▪ In the light of new evidence and taking into account remaining uncertainties, most of
the observed warming over the last fifty years is likely to have been because of an
increase in GHG concentrations due to human activities. Furthermore human
influences will continue to alter the climate in the twenty-first century.
▪ The global average temperature is predicted to rise by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees centigrade
▪ The global seal levels are predicted to rise by 0.09 to 0.88 meters by 2100. (This is
lower than earlier predictions, but has a stronger degree of certainty) and would
continue to do so for many centuries after atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations
are stabilized.1
▪ For mid-range stabilization scenarios examined by the IPCC models project that the
Greenland Ice sheet could melt yielding around 3 metres sea level rise in 1000 years2
▪ Anthropogenic climate change will continue for several centuries after atmospheric
stabilization, as many long-lived GHGs have a lasting effect on atmospheric
concentration, radiative forcing and climate.
These figures and findings highlight the need for immediate action from Annex 1 Parties,
not only by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol and meeting their targets, but, most importantly,
by taking action well beyond those targets. Many Small Island Developing States and
low-lying coastal areas will be severely and dangerously affected by the effects of these
The recent presentation by the Maldives of its first National Communication to
the FCCC impressively shows the destruction of its capital Male under these scenarios.
These findings also invalidate the position taken by the largest emitter in regards to the
notion that there is an incomplete state of scientific knowledge of the causes of, and
solutions to, global climate change.
Working Group II, Climate Change 2001 – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
The WG II Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability reiterates and reinforces the
earlier conclusion that those with the least resources have the least capacity to adapt and
are the most vulnerable. The effects of climate change are likely to be the highest in
developing countries in terms of loss of life, land and other natural resources, and impacts
on investment and the economy for any level of warming.
In relation to Small Island Developing States, the report underscores the following.

▪ Adaptive capacity is low; they are likely to be among the countries most seriously
impacted by climate change
▪ The projected sea level rise would cause enhanced coastal erosion, loss of land and
property, dislocation of people, increased risk from storm surges, reduced resilience
of coastal ecosystems, impact on cultural sites, saltwater intrusions into fresh water
resources and high resource costs to respond to and adapt to these changes.
▪ Future sea surface warming would increase stress on coral reefs, leading to increased
frequency of coral bleaching events and result in increased frequency of marine
▪ Limited arable land and soil salination would make agriculture highly vulnerable to
climate change.
▪ Tourism and other economic activities would face severe disruption.
AOSIS is concerned that the impacts of climate change will, with increasing scientific
certainty, be very severe for Small Island Developing States and low-lying coastal areas.
AOSIS countries are among those that will be most seriously impacted, and among those
that will be impacted first. IPCC WGII shows that the level of greenhouse gas
stabilization has important equity implications with the poorest countries and peoples
suffering substantial damages at even low levels of warming with some richer countries
not projecting net market damages until warming exceeds two degrees. In addition, the
acknowledged lack of capacity for planning, research and adaptation in AOSIS countries
raises great concerns about the ability to take effective adaptation response measures. A
gigantic task lies ahead, not only for all AOSIS countries, but for the entire world, to
provide the technical and financial assistance necessary to allow AOSIS countries to

Working Group III, Climate Change 2001 – Mitigation
The WG III Report on Mitigation stresses the fact that climate change mitigation
activities will be affected by and have impacts on broader socio-economic policies and
trends, such as those relating to development sustainability and equity. It recognizes and
highlights an important issue of equity, that the challenge of addressing climate change
can create or exacerbate inequities both within and across nations and regions.
The report outlines a series of options for mitigation, and concludes that:
▪ Significant technical progress has been made since the Second Assessment Report
relative to GHG mitigation and this has been faster than anticipated.
▪ The choice of energy mix over the next decades and associated investments will
determine, whether and if so at what level and cost greenhouse gas concentrations can
be stabilized. Currently such investment is directed towards discovering and
developing more conventional and unconventional fossil resources.
▪ Economically feasible technologies are available that could allow global emissions to
be reduced below 2000 levels in 2010-2020 at zero net costs, with about half of this at
negative cost. Hundreds of energy efficient technologies and practices can contribute
to improving efficiency, but much of this potential will require Government policies.
▪ Forests, terrestrial ecosystems and agricultural lands offer significant GHG mitigation
potential. Although not necessarily permanent, conservation and carbon
sequestration may allow for time for other options to be developed.
▪ Social learning and innovation and changes in institutional structure could contribute
to climate change mitigation.
▪ Some sources of GHG can be limited at no cost or no net negative cost to the extent
that no-regrets policies can be exploited.
▪ On costs of compliance, the majority of global studies indicate that in the absence of
emissions trading, there would be a estimated reduction in projected GDP in the range
of 0.2 to 2% in 2010 for different Annex B regions. With full trading between Annex
B Parties, the estimated reductions are likely to be between 0.1 and 1.1 % of projected
▪ Emissions constraints in Annex I countries will have spillover effects on non-Annex I
countries. Estimates for the possible impact on the OPEC vary widely. One study
estimates that with Annex B trading there will be less than 0.05% reduction in
projected GDP for non-Annex I oil-exporting countries in 2010.
AOSIS is concerned that the major and most intense emitters have not taken appropriate
note of these findings, nor has the recommendations of the report been adequately
addressed by the SBSTA in its decisions. AOSIS has been aware for some time that there
are readily available technologies and policy options at the present time that could
significantly reduce the emissions of GHGs. The report has underscored that these can be
implemented at relatively low costs, and that there are numerous win-win or no cost
options available. In addition it is now clearly demonstrated that the projected doomsday
losses of revenue are exaggerated. This vindicates the view held by AOSIS countries, and
advocated at previous sessions of the FCCC, that such projections were spurious.
AOSIS is also concerned that these findings be seriously considered in the context of the
review of articles 4.2 (a) and (b) of the Convention. These findings give added urgency to
develop strategies that would reduce Annex 1 emissions well beyond the targets
contained in the Kyoto Protocol.
IPCC TAR Synthesis Report
The IPCC included a synthesis report as part of the TAR. The purpose of the synthesis
report is to provide a policy relevant, but not policy prescriptive, synthesis and
integration of information contained within the TAR. The synthesis report is crafted
around a series of policy relevant questions submitted by governments.

One of the questions, for instance, is, what can scientific, technical and socio-economic
analysis contribute to the determination of what constitutes dangerous anthropogenic
interference with the climate system as referred to in FCCC Article 2? The IPCC
responds at some length to this question but essentially argues that the basis for
determining what constitutes dangerous anthropogenic emissions will vary among
regions and depends on adaptive and mitigative capacity. In so responding, the IPCC has
collapsed together the two distinct issues of how dangerous climate change might be
prevented with the question of what might constitute dangerous climate change.
AOSIS is of the view that this response does not adequately reflect the issue, and that in
future sessions of the subsidiary bodies the IPCC may be asked to elaborate on these two
topics separately.
Possible activities in support of the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol
As mentioned above, AOSIS is of the view that a consideration of the issues raised by the
IPCC warrant consideration under the review of articles 4.2 (a) and (b). AOSIS would
also be interested to hear the views of the IPCC experts in the discussions on adaptation
and the generation and use of funds for adaptation, including those generated under the
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
In conclusion, AOSIS is extremely interested in seeing the continuation of the
relationship between the Convention processes and the IPCC, and would view with great
concern any attempts to downgrade or invalidate the advice provided by the IPCC.

Sub Topic: Science


Meeting: SB16