Research Proposal: Improving Carbon Management to Mitigate Climate Change

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Improving Carbon Management to Mitigate Climate Change

Introduction of global climate change situation

The aim of this green paper is to improve carbon management, helping the transition towards a low- carbon economy in the UK. Although this green paper represents a tentative government report of a proposal without any commitment to action, it is the first step in changing the law to improve carbon management to mitigate climate change. The growing body of evidence concerning the reality of global climate change demands action today (Lindsay 2005; Lynas 2004). The implications of global climate change, even in the relative near-term, are profound. In this regard, Jenkins emphasizes that, "Many people are intensely interested in predicting the likely consequences of global climate change during the next 50 to 100 years. These consequences include many changes in natural environments, as well as potential effects on human health" (2004, 11).

Indeed, some scientists believe the world is a ticking time-bomb and time is running out for the human race (Mank 2005; Hogue 2007). While other researchers caution that things are not as dire as the "Chicken Little" alarmists might believe (Behreandt 2006; Michaels 2004), the fact remains that there is incontrovertible proof from around the globe that the earth has become warmer by about one-half a degree Fahrenheit over the past century or so (Schueneman 2009). For example, Jordan emphasizes that, "The evidence is overwhelming that the Earth's surface is warmer today than it was a century ago. Research by thousands of scientists strongly suggests that the cause is the largely uncontrolled and still increasing release of anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gases. Yet there remain a few scientists who oppose these conclusions" (2005, 24). In its most recent report on global climate change, the U.K.-based Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change stated: "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level" (quoted in Jones 2010 at 2).

Although that may not sound like much, this slight increase in temperature -- together with the continuing emission of greenhouse gases by humanity -- may have set into motion a series of irreversible events that threatens the future of all humankind. For example, the polar ice caps are melting and the permafrost that covers much of Alaska, Canada and Siberia is also melting. The former phenomenon is causing global ocean levels to rise, threatening coastal cities, while the latter may release an incalculable amount of additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere further accelerating the global warming process. As can be readily discerned from Figure 1 below, overall global temperatures have been on the increase for the past century and more.

Figure 1. Global Annual Mean Surface Air Temperature Change

Note: The data for the line plot of global annual-mean surface air temperature change for the base period 1951-1980 was derived from the meteorological station network; uncertainty bars (95% confidence limits) indicate the annual and five-year means.

Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 2011 at http://data.giss.nasa. gov/gistemp/graphs/

As can be readily discerned from Figure 2 below, although both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres have experienced higher temperatures over the past century and a half or so, this increase in temperatures has been far more pronounced in the Northern Hemisphere where the industrialized nations of United States, China, Japan, Russia, the UK and European Union are located.

Figure 2. Annual Mean Temperature Change for Hemispheres

Note: Annual and five-year running mean temperature changes with the base period 1951-1980 for the northern (red) and southern (blue) hemispheres.

Source: NASA 2011 at http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/

According to Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia (UEA), these temperature increases have set a number of records in recent years, including the following:

1. The period from 2001 to 2009 (0.43°C above 1961-90 mean) measured 0.19°C warmer than the period from 1991 to 2000 (0.24°C above 1961-90 mean).

2. The warmest complete decade in the series was the 1990s.

3. With a temperature of 0.55°C above the 1961-90 mean, 1998 was the warmest year of the entire series.

4. The past 14 years have been among the 15 warmest years in the series have occurred in the past 14 years (1995-2009).

5. The single year among the last 14 years that was not recorded with the warmest 14 years was 1996, which was replaced in series by the year 1990 (Jones 2010).

Although the earth has experienced cyclical climate changes throughout its multibillion-year history, a growing consensus of authorities agrees that the temperature increases that have been experienced over the past century and a half have been caused by anthropomorphic (e.g., manmade) activities that largely followed the introduction of the Industrial Revolution. In this regard, Jones emphasizes that, "Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. Most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations" (2010, 3). These manmade changes to global temperature patterns have had broad-based implications. For instance, Jones notes that, "Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns" (Jones 2010, 2-3).

Besides the incontrovertible foregoing evidence, other changes in the physical environment also support the conclusion that the earth is becoming warmer. In this regard, Jenkins notes that, "The worldwide decline of amphibian populations that has been documented in the past 20 years is an early symptom of pervasive effects of global climate change on natural environments" (2004, 54). Taken together, it is reasonable to suggest that global climate change is a harsh reality that confronts all humankind, and the decisions made by policymakers today will have vitally important implications in the coming decades, particularly in countries where climate change has been particularly pronounced such as the UK which is discussed further below.

2.

Background and climate change situation in UK

On the one hand, the trends in climate change that have taken place throughout the UK over the past century and a half or so represent an immediate as well as a long-term threat to the environment (Allen, Seaman & Delascio 2009). On the other hand, though, the UK also stands to benefit in substantive ways from global climate change. In this regard, the UK government reports that, "The global market for low carbon and environmental goods and services is already worth £3 trillion. The UK has led the way in taking the opportunities that this market presents, and by the middle of the next decade over a million people in this country could be employed in the low carbon and green manufacturing sectors" (Miliband, Mandelson & Denham 2009, 2). Moreover, the UK is well situated to contribute to long-term initiatives designed to mitigate carbon emissions domestically as well as around the world. For example, Milband et al. also note that, "Our strong regulatory framework already makes the UK a leading destination for green investment which coupled with a tradition of innovation, world leading universities and a skilled workforce gives us the potential to lead the world as a low carbon economy" (2009, 2).

In order to achieve the mutually beneficial goals of contributing to the solution to global climate change while reaping an economic return on these investments requires a thoughtful approach. In fact, the UK is well placed to embrace these opportunities. For example, according to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, during the period between 2008 and 2009, the world's sixth largest Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services (LCEGS) sector was in the UK with an annual value of about £112 billion representing a yearly increase of 4.3% versus comparable numbers for the period 2007-2008. The LCEGS sector in the UK is also responsible for employing almost one million workers (about 910,000 people), a current figure that is expected to swell to more than a million employees by 2015 (a low-carbon UK 2001, 2). Likewise, the Department of Energy and Climate Change has also taken steps to encourage organisations of all types and sizes to reduce carbon emissions and recognize the growth opportunities represented by global climate change through (a) regulatory avenues; (b) the establishment of market-based mechanisms, (c) the provision of incentives; and (d) the dissemination of relevant and timely information, advice and support to facilitate the development of low carbon goods and services and promote their adoption throughout the UK (a low-carbon UK 2011).

Given the heavily industrialized nature of the UK economy, there is clearly an inextricable relationship between actions taken to mitigate carbon emissions and economic productivity throughout the country. The picture that quickly emerges from the growing body of evidence concerning climate change is grim, particularly the pace of change that has been experienced over the past three decades as can be seen in Figure 3… [END OF PREVIEW]

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