Friday, March 30, 2012

Managing risk in a warming world

Deborah Zabarenko in Reuters: One of the most interesting facets of a new United Nations climate change report is what's not in it: much mention of curbing the greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in Earth's atmosphere and in turn can spur some natural disasters. "It is a change," said Christopher Field, a top editor of the 600-page document released on Wednesday. "This report does focus on managing the risks of extreme disasters rather than changing those risks. Changing the risks is the mitigation agenda."

The mitigation agenda was central to a 2007 report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose key finding was that, with 90 percent probability, climate change is occurring and human activities contribute to it.

The latest report from the IPCC focuses instead on how to make people and their assets - homes, farms, stores, office buildings, infrastructure - more resilient to the intense droughts, floods and storms projected for the coming decades.

"We were asked by the governments (of the world) to focus primarily on the time frame that's relevant for disaster risk reduction, which is mostly the time frame of one to a few decades," Field said in a telephone interview. "That's a time frame where most of the climate change that will occur is already baked into the system and where even aggressive climate policies in the short term are not going to have their full effects," said Field, who is director of the Carnegie Institution's department of global ecology....

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