Climate change negotiations
Our climate is changing. National and international climate policy negotiators need information on the consequences of different climate mitigation policies in order to compare options and to estimate the impacts remaining after the implementation of emissions reductions. This helps policy makers to make decisions on climate mitigation policy and also on adaptation policies.
Research into the impacts of climate change across the global scale at the University of Reading's Walker Institute has involved a number of activities. It has developed global-scale impact models, and ways of constructing, generalising and applying global-scale climate scenarios from global climate models. It has also estimated the impacts of climate change under a variety of assumptions about the future emissions of greenhouse gases, considering not only uncertainty in future emissions of greenhouse gases, but uncertainty in the spatial pattern of change in climate. These activities have been funded through two projects: a NERC consortium grant led by Reading known as QUEST-GSI, and the DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) AVOID programme.
The QUEST-GSI project has concentrated on impacts across the globe under a series of emissions and socio-economic pathways which make different assumptions about population and economic growth, but which do not incorporate the effects of climate mitigation policies. The impacts component of the AVOID project built on this research, and used emissions pathways which make a set of plausible assumptions about future reductions in emissions. This has enabled the assessment of the impacts which could be avoided by following specific climate mitigation policies.
The QUEST-GSI project clearly demonstrated that the impacts of un-mitigated climate change can be very substantial, and that these impacts vary from place to place. The research showed the approximate magnitude of the consequences of un-mitigated climate change; the extent of uncertainty due to uncertain projections in the spatial patterns of climate change; and the linkages between impacts in different sectors and different regions. The work undertaken in the AVOID project used the same methods, this time with climate scenarios which represent the effects of different climate mitigation policies.
The AVOID research directly informed DECC's understanding of the potential consequences of unmitigated climate change, and the benefits of reducing emissions. The UK government remains committed to seeking to develop a global climate policy which curbs the increase in temperature to 2°C. This commitment is informed by - amongst other pieces of research - DECC's understanding of the global-scale impacts of unmitigated and mitigated climate change, which has been enhanced by this research. The 2°C target is currently being reviewed as part of international climate negotiations, and the AVOID research contributes to this review. A presentation on the global-scale impacts of climate change at different levels of warming is being made to a negotiating workshop in May 2013.
This research contributes to the confirmation of climate policy targets, and hopefully therefore also to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the reduction of the adverse impacts of climate change for economy, society and the environment. The immediate beneficiaries of this research have been are policy-makers nationally and internationally - who have been able to use scientific evidence to support policy decisions.
This research has been funded by a NERC consortium known as QUEST-GSI, also by the DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) AVOID programme, which is led by the Met Office. The research which has taken place at Reading has concentrated on the hydrological impacts (river flows, water resources and floods) and agricultural impacts (crop productivity) of climate change. The University of Reading also led the larger NERC consortium and led on the impacts component of the AVOID consortium, which brings in other sectors such as terrestrial ecosystems and the coastal zone.