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Climate Change and Challenges in China

2007-11-28author:R.K. Pachaurisource:

  Your Excellency, Vice Premier, Your Excellency, Mr. Minister, distinguished Vice Chairpersons of CCICED, Members, ladies and gentlemen,

  It is indeed a great privilege for me to be given this opportunity to speak before such a high level and distinguished audiences. Let me at the very outset convey my deepest gratitude for your words of congratulations, your Excellency Mr. Minister. I must emphasize the fact that this is the recognition of collective efforts by thousands of scientists, and of course all the governments that form the decision-making body of IPCC. And I would like to place on record my gratitude and appreciation to a large number of Chinese scientists and experts who indeed have contributed enormously to the success of the IPCC. I would also like to appreciate the support of the Chinese Government, the delegations of all IPCC meetings that have been extremely supportive and extremely helpful, and most notably their participation in the last meeting of IPCC in Valencia, Spain, where the synthesis report was approved on November 16.

  I shall be presenting mainly some findings from the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report that I mentioned was completed with the approval of the synthesis report in Valencia, Spain earlier this month.

  The contents of my speech are essentially going to reflect the fact that climate change is unequivocal. I will discuss some expected trends and impacts, then attempt to describe the impacts of climate change in China, the challenges China is facing in my view and the cost of mitigation as well as key technologies. Now if you look at the slide, the last time the Polar region was significantly warmer than present for an extended period. And this was about 125,000 years ago. The reduction in polar ice volume led to 4-6 meters of sea level rise. Of course that warming took place for very different reasons. But it is important for us to know what the consequences were at that time. The warmth of last century was unusual in at least previous 3000 years.

  Now if you look at the record of observations, we find that global average temperature has increased as shown in the top part of this diagram, and you can see global sea level rise in the second part. In the bottom part of this diagram you see the decline in northern hemisphere snow cover. During the 20th century, we have estimated that the average temperature increase has been 0.74. This is of course more than what was estimated in the Third Assessment Report just 6 years ago where it was 0.6. As the sea level rise during the 20th century has been about 17 cm, you can see the decline in northern hemisphere snow cover. The observed impacts are shown by these pictures here. What you see on the left are the results of extreme precipitation, which is increased in intensity as well as frequency. So you get large quantities of rainfall in short period of time. Heat waves are common, droughts, floods as well as cyclones. And this trend is likely to continue.

  Now if you look at the projections for the future. The IPCC suggests a large number of scenarios. If you look at the low-end of scenarios, the best estimate we get is the increase of 1.8 by the end of this century and the other end of the scenarios is 4 in the same period. Now this combines with 0.74 increase took place in the 20th century clearly imposes a very difficult challenge for the world. So as I am going to elaborate later, it is absolutely essential the world gets into a vigorous program for reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases.

  To reduce these emissions, we would have to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If you look at the top row of this table here, you will find with this level of stabilization shown in the left hand column, we will get global mean temperature increase at equilibrium of 22.4. Now this would require that emissions peak by the year 2015. So we have window opportunity of 7 years globally. We can allow emission to increase at most for 7 years if we want to stabilize temperature increase at this level. But after that, they have to be declined. But even with that, what I would like to submit, and this is a new finding which I would like to highlight, the global sea level rise above pre-industrial period from thermal expansion alone will be 0.41.4 meters.

  Now this clearly means bad news for a large number of small island states and several coastal areas including parts of China. Large impacts can be expected due to past emission, so I think we have to be conscious of the fact that we are not only creating problems for the current generation, but we will pass on serious problems for the next generations. Vulnerability of the poor regions is well established, I won’t spend too much time on this. This can be seen in the poorest parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. May I say that developed countries are not in exception. If you look at what happened in the case of City of New Orleans with hurricane Cartrina, it was the poorest of the poor who were the worst victims. They were the most vulnerable of the lot. And of course vulnerability is aggravated by existing stresses, which are listed here-poverty, limited access to capital, degradation of eco-system, disasters and conflicts, and failure of government system to respond effectively.

  We also know that climate change is producing major impacts on natural eco-systems. Climate change will reduce biodiversity and affect the functions of most eco-systems. As a matter of fact, of all the species we assessed in IPCC, we find that 20%30% of larger animal species will be subject to extinction if we increase global temperature exceeding 1.52.5. This is very serious finding. And of course some eco-systems are more vulnerable than others. Some are mentioned over here. Coastal settlements will be more dangerous. The most vulnerable of these will be the mega centers in Asia. These include cities like Shanghai, Dakar, Calcutta and others.

  You see in this map a listing of different locations, which shows extreme risk, high risk and medium risk. Of course the bulk of these risks are in Africa and most of them in Asia. We also know that there will be increase in the frequency of heat waves. I now refer specifically to the changes in China and the impacts, increase of number and intensity of strong cyclones, 74% increase of flood since 1950s, 20%36% increase in rainfall in northeast since the 1950s. There has been increase in the areas affected by drought since the year 2000. So these are issues that largely concern all of us. Because the impacts of climate change in China need to be anticipated, we have to set up adaptation measures. We also know that productivity is at risk due to high temperature, drought, soil degradation, we could have a decline in productivity.

  We estimate 2 increase in mean temperature could decrease rainfall of dry field by 5%12% in China. I have been following the research that has been done in this field in India, and there is now growing evidence that wheat crop in particular is suffering as a result of climate change and their decline is easily measurable. Water availability in China, glacier melt water will be affected in the next two to three decades, about a quarter of a billion people depending on this water supply will be affected in China by 2050. Increasing salinity of groundwater is a problem, particularly along the coast due to sea level rise.

  Human health will be addressed, increased debts, disease and injury due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts. Endemic morbidity and mortality due to diarrhea are primarily associated with floods and droughts. Every official knows that when a flood breaks out, the biggest challenge, you see, is to prevent the spread of the disease. The toxicity and abundance of cholera will also be aggravated due to increase in coastal water temperature. Now we know that there are serious challenges for China and your Excellency, the Vice Premier has told us about the remarkable efforts that have been made. But primary energy demand is projected to double by 2030. Coal demand will still dominate in power generation that requires a major shift in the technology of the use of coal. Renewable energy is growing very rapidly. We are happy to learn some of the targets in the 11th Five-Year Plan.

  On energy related CO2 emissions, this is the picture from International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook. Here I would like to emphasize the common but differentiated responsibility principle that Your Excellency the Vice Premier reminds us about. The Indian Prime Minister when he went to Haligen Town Summit, he made a statement. These are here that we show you that our emissions on per capita basis will never exceed those of developed countries. And that I think it lays a challenge for developed countries to bring down their emissions per capita so that developing countries can always living below that. We are very happy to see the German Councilor has recently been emphasizing the per capital criteria for looking at what responsibility that each nation should carry.

  Now of course, China has the challenge of sustainable development. May I emphasize that climate change is only a symptom of a larger problem. We are not on unsustainable path of development. If we had been on the path of sustainable development, clearly climate would not have been affected by human actions to the situation we experience. We require minimizing GHG emissions, promoting equity by spreading the benefits of economic growth and enhancing poor people’s capacity to adapt to climate change. Here I would sum up that the rapid growth in China is perhaps the best insurance foreseeing that communities and people can get the ability and capacity to adapt to climate change and impacts of climate change.

  Really speaking, globally, mitigation is not an expensive proposition. It has been admitted on the part of several people to say that it is expensive. Because if you look at what we have estimated in the IPCC for the scenario we projected earlier which limits the temperature increase to 22.4, the total cost in terms of GDP loss by 2030 would be less than 3%. That only means the level of prosperity that the world will reach in 2030 with best report by a few months and maximum of a year. On annual basis these represent a reduction in GDP by 0.1%2%.

  If we have the right policies, research and development activities. new technologies will be involved, that will actually lower the cost. And if you look at how these seem over a period of time, this line indicates the GDP without any mitigation. If you look at stringent mitigation to bring about the reduction that I talked about, you only shift the line a little bit, which usually tell you that is not a high cost to pay for human society.

  Specifically we are predicting some serious impacts that have already threatening several parts of the world, most particularly the small island developing states and low coastal areas. We have a range of key technologies that I would not be going through. We will necessarily have to target energy supply, transport & buildings. Buildings in particular are very important with huge construction boom that is taking place in China and to a lesser extent in India. We necessarily have to see that buildings constructed are energy efficient and environment-friendly. That requires regulations and policies by which architects, builders and others adopt means by which we can improve the efficiency of buildings. This can be done with all buildings. The picture you see at the bottom is the major joint complex. My institute in New Deli has used no power from the grid. And it is cheaper to run this building and easier to provide the comfort we expect with renewable energy and good architectural design than to use fossil fuels.

  Key policies and measures. Of course we need incentives for development of technologies. We heard about some of them as far as China is concerned. What is most critical is to provide a price on carbon. The most important factor, if we want to bring about the shift to low carbon technologies, is to place a carbon price. And I hope the negotiators in Bali in a week time will take some steps to see how this could bring into agreement or plans of agreement into the future.

  Investments are long-term investment. Therefore I think we need to take into account a much longer time horizon in planning these investments than it has been the case in the past. We also assess this time that lifestyle and behavior changes are absolutely critical. They are important part of mitigation strategies. Each society will have to define what these life-style changes are.

  National policies have to be linked with, development policies have to be linked with mitigation policies and those that address poverty and employment and others. In other words, climate change in some respect has to be mainstreamed with development policies. CO2 mitigation potential for 2010 without net loss in China was estimated by us to be 15%-20%. Now essentially I think developing countries in particular will have to adopt new development path that is in keeping with our natural resources and government, also in keeping with our traditions, culture and heritage. And this will require changes of a number of areas economic structure, technology etc, which I do not need to spell out because there I think will be surely discussed in the Council.

  I would like to quote these two statements from Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission: “We must reconcile the need for development with the need for environmental protection.” And hope China we will take a new path toward industrialization, which will be different from the rest of the world. China today is giving so much in terms of economic logic and economic leadership to the rest of the world. I think China was to set an example of the model of political power that it would have over the rest of world and others following this path would be enormous.

  Thank you very much! I am very grateful for this opportunity.

  Based on recording



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