IPCC Synthesis Report Briefing: Kerry, Ebi, Lyons, Clapp worth listening to

November 16, 2007 at 2:09 pm | Posted in Audio, Bali, Briefing, Business, China, Climate change, Congress, Global warming, IPCC, Kerry, Leadership, Senate, Synthesis Report, US, US CAP | 2 Comments

Latest IPCC Report Highlights New Global Warming Findings

The latest document from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body of over 2,000 climate scientists, will be released on November 17th. Called the Synthesis report, it prioritizes the findings of the 2007 IPCC. This year’s report marks the first time that IPCC scientists have said these three things: 1) human activity is responsible for global warming, 2) global warming is here now and we need to adjust to to that reality, and 3) many technologies already exist to avert the worst consequences of global warming.

Global Warming Experts Discuss the Final 2007 Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Briefing previews the report release, sets the stage for upcoming United Nations climate conference, and highlighting the importance of next steps for the IPCC

Leading global warming experts and advocates for emissions reductions participated in a briefing on November 15th to discuss the IPCC’s ‘Synthesis Report,’ which is fast emerging as the single most important ‘how to’ guide to bring to the annual U.N. climate conference, beginning in Bali, Indonesia early in December, 2007. The Synthesis Report will accumulate data and findings from three IPCC working groups on known science, adaptation and mitigation, and spotlight the tools and technologies available to policymakers and industry to avert worst case scenarios and confront unavoidable ones.


  • Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
  • Philip E. Clapp, President, National Environmental Trust (NET)
  • Dr. Kristie Ebi, Ph.D. and MPH in epidemiology, chief editor of ‘Integration of Public Health with Adaptation to Climate Change: Lessons Learned and New Directions,’ and lead author for the Human Health chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report
  • Jim Lyons, Vice President for Policy and Communications, Oxfam America

Organised by NET.


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NOVEMBER 15, 2007

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The briefing convened at 9:30 a.m. via teleconference, PHILIP E. CLAPP, President, presiding.


SENATOR JOHN F. KERRY, (D-Massachusetts)

PHILIP E. CLAPP, President, National

Environmental Trust

KRISTIE L. EBI, Ph. D., M.P.H., Senior

Managing Scientist, Exponent’s Health

Sciences, Center for Epidemiology,

Biostatistics, and Computational Biology

JIM LYONS, Vice President for Policy and

Communications, Oxfam America


(9:32 a.m.)

MODERATOR CLAPP: Thank you all for joining us. This is Phil Clapp. I am President of the National Environmental Trust. We are here to discuss this morning the release of the final installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report, the fourth assessment, which is the synthesis report, the final summary of all of the science accumulated in this long five-year process and, in addition, the policy recommendations that go along with it.

This lays the foundation for the negotiations, which will occur in Bali in early December to launch the negotiation, a new international agreement to address climate change worldwide.

I am joined by Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who has long been a leader on climate change in the Congress and who has been deeply involved in international negotiations for many, many years; Dr. Kristie Ebi, who is Chief Editor of Integration in Public Health with Adaptation to Climate Change and the lead author for the Human Health Chapter of the IPCC fourth assessment report; and Jim Lyons, who is Vice President for Policy and Communications for Oxfam.

The way we are going to proceed is I am just going to do a very short introduction. Then we’ll turn to Senator Kerry for a brief statement. And given his schedule, we will go directly to questions for Senator Kerry. And then we’ll come back, and Dr. Ebi and Jim Lyons and I will make additional comments and take questions.

Just as an introduction to what will be released in Valencia, Spain on Saturday, there are several things that stick out as major conclusions here. First and most important, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change flatly says in its opening evidence of warming today is unequivocal. It reconfirms that there is no further question about the science and human causation of global warming.

If there were inaccuracies in the projection of the 1990s, those inaccuracies were on the side of caution. We are observing according to the report accelerated warming. And the impacts outlined are much beyond. They’re proceeding much faster than what was projected in the ’90s.

And the second most important point that the IPCC makes is that this is no longer an environmental issue. It is very clear from the report that this is now a rapidly developing human disaster with consequences for people all over the world, 600 million people in Africa, for example, who swill be subject to water scarcity; hunger in Latin America and Asia. And so we are now looking at a major potential human catastrophe.

So those from my point of view are the two major issues, the two major statements to come out of the report. And we will turn now to senator Kerry.

If everyone would, when we proceed to questions, will people please identify themselves and their publication? And will our speakers also identify themselves when they respond, although Senator Kerry will be talking alone in a sense. Also, there will be an MP3 recording of this call on the NET Web site, http://www.net.org, within about an hour after we conclude the call.

And, with that, I will turn to Senator Kerry.

SENATOR KERRY: Phil, thank you very much. Thanks for helping to arrange this. And thanks also for your leadership. It is a pleasure to be here with you and with other leaders in the environmental movement. It’s a great pleasure to be here.

Phil has well-described sort of the summary of the report coming out of Valencia on Saturday. Let me just put a couple of thoughts there in summary fashion quickly also. And then I would be happy to take some questions.

The synthesis report, as it’s known, is going to accumulate data and findings from three IPCC working groups on the known science, the adaptation, and mitigation areas. And it’s going to spotlight the tools and technologies that are available to policy-makers and to industry in order to avert the worst case scenarios and confront unavoidable ones. They’re sort of two things we need to try to do.

The report is really a how to guide. It’s a very important summary. And it will be viewed by all as the definitive report on the science and the impacts of climate change to date. It is the blueprint for the Bali talks in December.

And each of the reports thus far issued by the IPCC have been really critical in forming the opinion of those of us who are trying to legislate on these issues or respond in various countries in the executive departments. It has had a big impact in helping to both focus us on the issue but also to validate what many of us have been saying for quite a number of years now.

And our policy response needs to be based on what the science tells us. And this synthesis document is going to really serve as a standing guidance on the state-of-the-art, on the science, the adaptation, mitigation responses necessary as we prepared for the international climate change suggestions.

Now, let me emphasize something very importantly. And I preface it by saying Senator Boxer and I will be leading a delegation to those negotiations in Bali.

And we plan to represent the increasingly consensus view in the Senate and the House that our country, the United States, needs to lead on this issue, intends to lead on the issue, and that we need to act to reduce our CO2 emissions as well as adapt to the impacts that are already underway.

It’s very important for people to understand that what is already in the atmosphere, what we have already done and do on a daily basis now creates a challenge to us in terms of impact that we can’t undo, that is unavoidable, and, therefore, will require mitigation steps and other things the government is going to have to think about.

The important point I want to stress above all — and this is one of the most important points we can make here — is as you folks in the press write about this, it is important to establish the right expectations out of Bali. And that is to underscore that Bali is not the place where the framework of how we’re going to all move forward or agree is going to be decided.

Bali is a process-based meeting. And Bali is going to set down the time frame and the steps and the sort of structure of the talks that will take place through ’08 and into ’09 with the hope of concluding those agreements by ’09 so the governments are prepared to move forward before the Kyoto agreement expires in 2012.

So look at Bali as really the initial meeting that will establish the framework, which will encompass the talks that will then negotiate out each of these areas: the science, the financing, the adaptation, and the mitigation. And those will be the key sort of sectors that come out of it.

It’s my understanding from a hearing that I held just a couple of days ago with Paula Dobriansky, the Under Secretary for Global Affairs, that the administration is in synch with other countries at this moment as to how to move forward in that process.

And if so and if that indeed happens at Bali and we can reach that consensus, it will be a very, very important meeting, particularly based on the urgency that I believe this synthesis report is going to create on a global basis.

So let me just end there and open it up to any questions if there are any.

THE OPERATOR: Okay. At this time we will open the floor for questions. If you would like to ask a question, please press the * key followed by the 1 key on your touch tone phone now.

Questions will be taken in the order in which they are received. And if at any time you would like to remove yourself from the questioning queue, press *2. Once again, if you would like to ask a question, press the * key followed by the 1 key.

Okay. Our first question comes from Keith Johnson from the Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.

MR. JOHNSON: Yes. Senator Kerry, I was intrigued by your remark that the U.S. intends to lead on this issue. Basically I —

SENATOR KERRY: I said the Congress. I said the Congress intends to lead. Our message is that the Congress intends to lead. And we will have a new administration, obviously, one side or the other, which will change the dynamics on this issue by ’09.

MR. JOHNSON: Fantastic. No. That’s actually the question that I wanted to ask was in terms of the current energy legislation, which is in committee, and sort of where the progress is for the congressional commitment towards more renewable legislation and the PGC renewals and more incentives for supports and R&D in terms of renewable energies and the like.

SENATOR KERRY: Well, for the first time in an energy bill in the last few years, we have a heavy weighing of incentive toward renewables, towards clean coal technology, and towards energy conservation, energy efficiency.

That bill, as you know, is in discussion right now. Two of the biggest contentious issues are the renewable portfolio standard and the cafe standard. And that struggle is going on.

But I think the gas prices and the per-barrel price of oil have added some juice to those discussions. And it’s our hope that in the December session, we are going to break that out.

MR. JOHNSON: Fantastic. Well, thank you very much.

THE OPERATOR: Okay. Thank you for your question.

And our next question comes from Gerald Kerry from Platts. Please go ahead.

MR. G. KERRY: Yes. Hi. Good morning, Senator.

SENATOR KERRY: Good morning.

MR. G. KERRY: I listened to your hearing the other day with Paula Dobriansky. And, yes, she suggested and you indicated today that they’re in synch with setting up some of the issues that have to be dealt with in this framework or in this negotiation framework that is going to go forward.

But you also expressed some dissatisfaction with U.S. policy. And I think one of the key things is controls on greenhouse gas emissions. Could you speak to that and how you think that would play out in Bali and beyond?

SENATOR KERRY: Well, yes. The Senate subcommittee of the Environment and Public Works Committee has taken an extraordinarily important step in reporting out a bill that has mandatory reduction goals and sets a time frame for those goals with a cap and trade system, not quite economy-wide, but most of the large sectors of the economy, electricity, transportation, et cetera, are affected. And the question is going to be and the full committee is now working with a mark-up schedule to try to move on that bill.

So part of our message to Bali will be that while the administration remains reluctant to embrace mandatory, there is a growing consensus in America, particularly led by American business itself — U.S. CAP, which is the United States Climate Action Partnership, is represented by some of the largest companies in the country.

And I’ve met with these CEOs, like Chad Holliday at DuPont or Lew Hay at Florida Power and Light and the CEO of Siemens and of British Petroleum. And you can go down the list, Lehmen Brothers, Dow Chemical, Federal Express, major companies across the countries that admitted [are committed] now to getting a cap and trade system in place as rapidly as possible because they want the certainty in the economy that comes with that. And they can begin to lay out business plans and long-term investments and begin to get credit for the good things that they’re doing as well. And most people believe that this is the way to move.

We want that message to be loud and clear at Bali that because there is no way that we can meet the exigencies of the science, no way at all that we can meet them, unless there is a global agreement by all to move in this direction.

Now, one thing we also want to emphasize is we don’t have an expectation that less developed countries have to meet the exact same standard as the United States.

We’re admitting a quarter of all the world’s pollution, of all the world’s greenhouse gases. And we are more industrialized. And we are further along.

But what we need to do — and this will be part of the finance and technology discussions that will take place over the next year and a half, two years — we have to set up mechanisms by which we’re helping each other and sharing some of the technology and information, giving people credit for the things they’re doing today.

For instance, China is already setting fuel standards at 36 miles-something per gallon, which is higher than the United States, already doing fuel switching, already doing emissions controls and scooters and things. We need to sort of get them to understand that we’re not trying to restrain their capacity to grow. We just don’t want them to grow making the mistakes that we made. And we all have a stake in avoiding that.

That is the discussion that the Senate is going to try to take. And we haven’t seen the kind of proactive embracing of that kind of comprehensive approach by the administration.

MR. G. KERRY: I assume that’s the message the Senate delegation is going to try to convey in Bali, even if the administration is —

SENATOR KERRY: That is part of the message that we will try to convey. That is correct.

MR. G. KERRY: Thank you.

THE OPERATOR: Okay. Thank you for your question.

Our next question comes from Joe Ortiz from Reuters. Please go ahead.

MR. ORTIZ: Hello, everyone. Senator, do you think that there is a danger that the synthesis report that is being discussed this week will suffer from being a compromise and that it won’t give sufficient impetus to the deliberations at Bali?

SENATOR KERRY: Well, I make two comments on that. First of all, I hope it won’t. And obviously I don’t expect it to. I think the two summary comments that Phil Clapp made are pretty definitively, and they’re very important.

I have heard some rumors. And I raised this issue with Paula Dobriansky about U.S. efforts to try to back it off in a few places. I will wait to see the final report and make a judgment whether or not that happened.

But it seems to me that most people who are following the issue intensely — and, believe me, lots of countries and lots of leaders are — have also followed the science beyond the level of the IPCC report.

There was a cutoff date. I’m told it was November of last year — where this report ceases to take into — you know, it has to have a cutoff date in order to have the peer review and the adequate input on the science. And so they have this arbitrary date.

Since that period of time, those of us involved in this issue have been watching closely while additional reports are coming out from Russian scientists on methane pocket releases in Siberia, from Australian scientists on what is happening with respect to CO2 saturation in the oceans as a sink.

I mean, there are very significant continuing reports coming out. And so there may be a line drawn between those who are trying to be reluctant and, therefore, look to arbitrary cutoff dates and won’t look at the science that is still coming out versus those who are open-minded and looking carefully to try to make smart judgments.

And I think much of that will also be discussed at Bali, no matter what the IPCC report says. People are not going to ignore what they know to be the science that has come out in the intervening period of time.

MR. ORTIZ: Thank you very much.

MODERATOR CLAPP: Okay. I think, Senator Kerry, if you don’t mind, I think we will now turn to our —

SENATOR KERRY: No. I think that’s great. I appreciate it. Thank you all very, very much.

MODERATOR CLAPP: Okay. Thank you for joining us, Senator.

SENATOR KERRY: Thank you. My pleasure. Thanks.

MODERATOR CLAPP: Dr. Ebi, would you like to begin, one of the lead authors of the Human Health Chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report? And I’ll let you start off.

DR. EBI: I appreciate very much the opportunity to talk with everybody. The questions so far have been quite interesting. I would like to add a couple of comments to those questions.

One is that in looking at the IPCC, the focus is on the peer-reviewed literature. And we do know that there is additional literature available from government reports, white papers, some of which is fairly hard to get to and may not be — and often is not reflected, particularly from low-income countries. And so we know that experiences on the ground indicate that people are reporting a lot more change than actually is reflected within the report itself.

I work in low-income countries. You go and you talk to people, and they are reporting a significant amount of change. And some of that doesn’t get reflected in the report because of the way the report is structured and carried out.

The other comment I would like to make is Senator Kerry was talking about some significant research that is coming out from a variety of countries. What he didn’t mention is that the U.S. has actually funded relatively little research.

U.S. is funding research on the climate science but actually very little research on what the possible impacts could be within the U.S. So there is a real deficit of knowledge within the U.S. of what kinds of changes we may see in the U.S. and how it may impact U.S. population.

And other than that, I am more than happy to ask questions as we go forward. So thank you.

THE OPERATOR: Okay. Once again, I would like to remind everyone if you would like to ask a question, please press the * key followed by the 1 key.

MODERATOR CLAPP: Excuse me just a minute. Steve?


MODERATOR CLAPP: We’re going to turn to Jim Lyons from Oxfam first. And then we’ll go back and take questions for all three of us.

THE OPERATOR: Okay. That’s fine.


THE OPERATOR: You’re welcome.


MR. LYONS: All right. Phil, thank you very much.

My name is Jim Lyons. I am the Vice President for Policy and Communications with Oxfam America. Oxfam America is an international development organization focused on reducing poverty and social injustice around the world.

What I want to say today really focuses on the human impacts, the human face of climate change. I think the IPCC report really confirms that poor nations will bear the brunt of climate change.

Parts of the world where climate change will have the most adverse consequences are largely in the Southern Hemisphere and in equatorial regions, which are already among the poorest. And, of course, they are among the poorest nations in the world. They are doubly unable to cope with adapting their lifestyles and their livelihoods to the impacts of climate change.

Oxfam is very concerned about the real and very clear and undeniable threat that climate change poses for some of the poorest people on the planet. We’re working in developing countries where people are already being affected by global warming from floods in Bangladesh to droughts in Africa to glacier melts in Peru and hurricanes in the Caribbean.

Poor people are generally the least responsible for climate change. And, yet, they’re bearing the brunt of the impact in many areas of their lives.

Climate change threatens to increase poverty and quality and to undermine efforts to reach the millennium development goals, which are geared towards trying to lift these nations out of poverty. Solutions to climate change must be designed with poor people’s needs in mind.

Now, it’s clear that people have always adapted to national variability in climate, but human-induced climate change is creating unprecedented climate stress for many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities, thinking weather patterns less predictable, and increasing the intensity and frequency of floods, droughts, hurricanes, and the storms that they face.

In fact, 97 percent of all natural disaster-related deaths already take place in developing countries. The estimates of climate change’s contribution to worsening conditions as described in the IPCC reports are disturbing because it would make matters worse.

The obvious impacts are increases in drought, impacts on agriculture, frequency of storms, and proliferation of flooding. In fact, with regard to water shortages, the report estimates that between one and four billion people could experience water shortages if climate change continues.

In fact, the report stated that up to 250 million people in Africa are projected to be exposed to an increase in water stress due to climate change and that some countries’ yield from rain for agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent by 2020. In fact, the IPCC notes, “This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition.”

Oxfam has joined the international scientific community. Organizations and others are calling for post-2012 binding targets that would keep warming as far below the 3.5-degree Celsius mark as possible. And there is widespread consensus. As highlighted in the IPCC report, the ramifications of global warming rising above 3.5 degrees would be catastrophic.

Finally, we also think it is critically important, as the Senator suggested, the United States lead in addressing the already recognizable impacts of climate change through an investment in and support for adaptation strategies.

The Senator alluded to legislation moving through the Environment and Public Works Committee, America’s Climate Security Act of 2007, which provides an important first step in U.S. commitment to dealing with climate change.

However, one of the critical elements that thus far is missing in the legislation is a provision to deal with the resources needed in the framework that will be essential for providing assistance to the developing countries will already be impacted by climate change.

We think that is an essential element that needs to be added to the bill if the U.S. is truly going to meet the commitment to retain its leadership in helping the world deal with the consequences of climate change, many of which are a result of the economic growth and prosperity that we have realized here and in other countries in the developing world.

That I’ll end and turn it back to Phil.

MODERATOR CLAPP: Thank you, Jim.

I just want to add two comments coming out of what Senator Kerry said. There was a question earlier about Bush administration and what we look forward to in Bali.

Bali is essentially the parallel to what was called the Berlin mandate meeting in 1995. And it will launch and set a timetable and framework for negotiating an agreement to agree to meet in 2009.

The key question in Bali will be, will the administration block the timetable and framework that calls for the negotiation of a new round of binding international commitments? That is an issue that lies in front of the administration and that all the other governments are deeply concerned about.

The administration has the capacity as a ratifying partner to the U.N. framework convention on climate change to veto any framework that would call for a new international binding agreement. And they did that in December 2005 at the negotiations in Montreal. They finally backed down, but they came very close to blocking such an agreement. So that is the key question to be looking for as to whether the Bush administration is going.

Second, we are looking at a new realm of negotiations beyond the negotiation and binding commitments for reductions, the one that Jim alluded to in terms of what the developed world is willing to do to assist he poorest people in the world, who will be impacted by climate change.

There is an enormous amount of debate about the future role of China, whose emissions are touted by one study to be equivalent now to the United States.

All of that ignores one simple fact, more than 50 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere that will cause the huge human impacts outlined in the IPCC report being released on Saturday. Over 50 percent of that pollution came from Europe and the United States, with minor contributions from Japan, Australia, Canada, and the other developed countries. It’s fundamentally a problem created by Europe and the United States.

And the people who will be paying the price for that pollution are the hundreds of millions in Africa, in Asia, all over the world who live on $2 to $5 a day.

So there is now going to be a very large issue on the table, which is how do we address that looming crisis, for which there is a fair case that the developed countries and, in particular, the United States and Europe are fundamentally responsible? And that is going to be put directly in front of the delegation as we go forward.

And, with that, I’ll turn to questions for any of the three of us. Please identify yourself. Steve, can you please identify yourself as well?

THE OPERATOR: Okay. I would like to remind everyone if you would like to ask a question, press the * key followed by the 1 key on your touch tone phone.

Okay. And our first question comes from Douglas Struck from the Washington Post. Please go ahead.

MR. STRUCK: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

MODERATOR CLAPP: Where are you?

MR. STRUCK: I’m in the U.S. I’m in Boston, actually.

MODERATOR CLAPP: Okay. It’s still daytime in Washington.

MR. STRUCK: Oh, you’re in Washington. Okay. I apologize.

This is Doug Struck with the Washington Post. I wonder if any or all of you just might briefly address what you think the significance, of what you think the effect of the report that will come out Saturday will be, particularly in view of the fact that a lot of the information has already been out there. The consequences are being discussed pretty widely. People if they are at all paying attention are already getting the message, at least in the public, if not the administration.

So I wonder what more you think this report will add to that process.

MODERATOR CLAPP: I’ll defer to Kristie and Jim first, and then I’ll follow up. Kristie?

DR. EBI: This process is supposed to synthesize across the three working groups. Working group 1 talks about the climate science, made it very clear that anthropogenic climate change is taking place. Working group 2, which works on vulnerability and impacts, that this change in the climate science is then having impacts on all aspects of our society. And working group 3 separately talked about mitigation and what one can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This report, then, is going to synthesize across all three to make the links more clear and to provide a document that will be more accessible to people who don’t follow the science as closely as you do.


MR. LYONS: I guess I would respond by suggesting that what is important about this report is that it is, in fact, a synthesis report. It pulls together the evidence that helps to demonstrate this is [the physical,] economic, ecological, and social consequences for the first time and I think places added emphasis on the fact that climate change and the impacts of climate change are being felt today.

You know, while I think much of the world sees climate change as a problem affecting glaciers and Polar bears, these reports now bring focus to the real human consequences of climate change.

And, in fact, consequence is already being felt bye people around the world, most especially people in the developing world and forces, I think, others to begin to contemplate what the consequences may be of failing to deal with these issues, resulting in a worsening of poverty and, with that, greater instability in the economies of developing countries, greater insecurity, and the consequences that follow.

So I think this report forces people to focus on the fact that climate change is not only being caused by human beings, but human beings are suffering the brunt of the consequences.

MODERATOR CLAPP: Yes. And I would add to that. This report is only partially a summary of the other report. It’s not like the panels got together and just sort of cut and pasted pieces from the rest of the report.

There are some key conclusions drawn here from the earlier portions of the report released earlier this year. Two I would point to are that the issue of abrupt or irreversible climate change; in other words, events that could occur that would be abrupt and drastic changes that we have not foreseen, is emphasized very strongly here, in a stronger way, actually, than it was in earlier portions of the report.

It is very clear that scientists are drawing from the lessons of the 1990s that the linear models that say if Greenland melted from the top, X amount of water would go into the ocean and now we’re discovering that, in reality, the ice sheet is sliding into the ocean, that scientists are increasingly looking at system after system around the Earth and saying there are potentially catastrophic triggers here beyond which we couldn’t predict what would happen.

So I think there’s a much greater emphasis on the uncertainty of abrupt and catastrophic change and the risks that are run by failing to cut emissions.

The second is that the emphasis on adaptation, while you saw it start to emerge in other parts of the report, is even stronger in this report and says clearly, the IPCC says clearly, that emergency adaptation measures — and maybe I should rephrase that but just emergency measures are necessary if we are going to protect not only millions of people around the world but entire countries from significant economic harm. And that is one of the things that comes out in the report: the vulnerability of the world economy to climate change.

And, then, finally, the last one that I think is clearer here than anywhere else, although you saw shreds of inflation, it costs less to reduce emissions today than if we delay longer and have to go to some more radical cut in emissions 20 or 30 years from now. We save a dollar with every moment we act earlier is the way I would put it. So I think those are the three things that are much clearer in this report than they have been.

Next question?

THE OPERATOR: Okay. Thank you for your question.

Once again I would like to remind everyone if you would like to ask a question, please the * key followed by the 1 key.

Okay. Our next question comes from Keith Johnson from the Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.

MR. JOHNSON: Thank you. Phil, I guess this might be for you. The last point that you raised and one of the things that is attention-grabbing in some of the drafts of the synthesis is, in fact, that it’s not really an economy buster the more modest regimes and mitigation. And I know that was one thing that the administration, the U.S. administration, had quibbled with were the numbers to be used as well as the presentation of those findings in the draft synthesis.

I am just curious to see if you have any more insight into that particular section of the draft synthesis and what is going on in Valencia in terms of the impact debate that is going on out there. You could call it kind of the Stern-Nordhaus debate.

Some people are more in favor of acting now in order to save a dollar, as you said. Other people are in favor of kind of waiting until the world is richer and better technologies are in place.

I just wonder if you have any sense if the final version of the synthesis report will put a little bit more emphasis in detailing and explaining the economic impacts and its conclusions.

MODERATOR CLAPP: Well, I don’t know. I have to tell you that, I mean, I don’t know blow by blow and day to day what the administration is negotiating in Valencia. So I can’t quite comment on that.

What I can say is that I have heard from a variety of governments that the administration has indeed raised this issue that some of the economic discussion in their view deemphasizes the costs of mitigation may benefit.

But I think you’re likely to see that as an argument on the margins or any changes you see to the drafts as being relatively on the margin because there is a very strong consensus. And it comes clearly out of the IPCC base reports and research on this issue.

There really sort of is no economic data to support the administration’s position in any serious way. And if you look at the Stern report, it’s probably one of the most extensive economic literature reviews done on a broad scale on the world’s energy economy.

Nick Stern was indeed originally when he was appointed to that role a skeptic. He was, if you wanted to phrase it this way — I’m not sure he would, but he was more in the Nordhaus camp when he started emission and ended up with a report that said, “Wait a minute. It is very clear that there is massive inefficiency in the world’s energy economy. The costs of reducing that inefficiency are very low. And, as a matter of fact, in the developed countries, there are net economic gains.”

And so, you know, the mitigation measures that we would take in the early decades, you know, literally through 2020 to 2025 are far cheaper than anybody would ever believe. The costs come later, as with the development of newer technologies or commercialization of technologies that already exist, like carbon sequestration. So, if anything, you might see it get a little more vague.

I mean, this administration doesn’t tend to argue for sharper language when they are in the minority. They tend to argue for vagueness. And that is what they might try to get to. But I don’t think you’re going to see the major thrust of that argument change.

MR. JOHNSON: Interesting. Thank you very much.

THE OPERATOR: Okay. Thank you for your question.

And our next question comes from Kim Krieger from Argus. Please go ahead.

MS. KRIEGER: Hi. I have not been able to go through the IPCC final report, but I was curious in terms of the policy. Does it look at what Europe tried so far to cap and trade CO2? Does it evaluate that at all and talk about ways that that might be improved or a different way in which the world might use that system or a different one?

MODERATOR CLAPP: No. I’ll take that one. The report doesn’t get down to that level of specificity. It looks at much broad macroeconomic questions.

The only real issue with Europe — I mean, I know that there is a trend that people would like to run out and say, “Oh, my heavens. The Europeans tried. They failed the first time around.”

The reality is they did what every government did, which is they’re experimenting with how you set up a cap and trade system. That is exactly what happened in the U.S. through the acid rain system originally. They over-allocated to their polluting industries? The NET Commission came out last week and corrected that.

And so we’re designing a complex system. And it’s going to take time to do that. But there is no assessment of that in tho report that is coming out.

MS. KRIEGER: Okay. Thank you.

THE OPERATOR: Okay. Thank you for your question.

Well, Mr. Clapp, at this time there are no further questions.

MODERATOR CLAPP: Okay. Thank you to our speakers. Thank you, Jim, thank you, Kristie, for joining us. And we appreciate you all joining us. And, as I said, there will be an MP3 recording of this call on Web site, net.org, and a transcript available.

(Whereupon, the foregoing matter was concluded at 10:12 a.m.)



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  1. Here is a link with key passages from the synthesis report –


    of particular interest –
    Greenland Ice Sheet and Sea Level Rise

    “Contraction of the Greenland ice sheet is projected to continue to contribute to sea level rise after 2100. Current models suggest virtually complete elimination of the Greenland ice sheet and a resulting contribution to sea level rise of about 7 m if global average warming were sustained for millennia in excess of 1.9 to 4.6°C relative to pre-industrial values. The corresponding future temperatures in Greenland are comparable to those inferred for the last interglacial period 125,000 years ago, when paleoclimatic information suggests reductions of polar land ice extent and 4 to 6 m of sea level rise.”

    and comments from the NYTs coverage –

    “One novel aspect of the report is a specific list of “Reasons for Concern.” It includes items that are thought to be very likely outgrowths of climate change that had been mentioned in previous reports, like an increase in extreme weather events.”


    “A relatively modest degree of warming — one to three degrees — spells a lot of trouble and I think that was not clear in the previous report,” Dr. Oppenheimer said. He said part of the reason for the lack of clarity was that governments had “messed around” with the language and structure of the report during the approval process.

  2. Dear Jay,

    Thanks for the quotes and link that’s new to me.
    I do think the NYT remark is strange—I mean, not only is the wording a little bizarre, but the Reasons for Concern already existed in the Third Assessment Report WGII contribution. I guess they have finally made it to an SPM, so can be ignored no longer 😉

    There is a lot more to say on Reasons for Concern than the NYT likes to admit, but the more attention is drawn to RfC, the better.

    I just read Nature’s latest:

    IPCC talks tough

    which is a clever title. Anyway, it is worth reading, if only for this sentence:

    Featured in the report is a discussion of “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” — a phrase that was absent from previous IPCC publications because of objections from some political delegates to the panel’s conferences.

    These are exactly the two points (key vulnerabilities/reasons for concern and the definition of ‘dangerous’ climate change) that the US Administration wanted to dodge in its press briefing that I posted here.

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