Thank you very much indeed, Chris,
and compliments on the use of those two absolutely magic cartoons.
I really think it’s very often the case that
there’s a truth in a cartoon which can only be captured in that medium.
And I certainly think the first one is terrific.
Now I am going to take the first question from UCC.
And it asks –
“How can the scientific community most effectively sway public opinion,
when they are up against pseudo-science?”
The goal of the IPCC is to provide information and not advocacy.
IPCC can lay the foundations for productive discussions
on dealing with climate change,
but it can’t carry those conversations to their ultimate conclusions.
The problem of climate change needs to be dealt with by individuals,
by governments, by international organisations.
And there need to be millions of conversations that are sustained.
In the IPCC we tend to be pleased if
every time we release a report it’s in the media for a few days.
But this isn’t a problem that’s going to get addressed with
a few days of media coverage here and there.
It’s a problem that’s going to be addressed
by being a key priority across all levels of society over an extended period.
I hope the IPCC can be a foundation,
a starting point for those conversations.
But I also hope that all of you will join in in bringing them to their conclusion.
And why do you say it’s not your role,
advocacy is not your role,
when you are the guys with the credibility?
Because you have established the facts.
Well the goal of the IPCC, the mandate of the IPCC
is to provide an unbiased, comprehensive assessment
of what we know and what we don’t know in science.
Deciding what kinds of actions societies can take
I firmly believe should be grounded in science.
But it also involves a whole bunch of other priorities,
priorities on which I personally have opinions,
but each of you has opinions, there may be others.
These are opinions about values,
the relative emphasis we should be placing on
overall economic growth versus equity,
the relative emphasis we should be placing on the present versus the future,
the relative importance we should be placing on economic assets versus natural assets.
All of those dimensions need to be built into a discussion
where my opinion is no more important than any of your opinions.
And I think that the essence of the discussion
is that you know we can’t get the right conclusions
if the information and opinion come from the scientists.
It needs to be a broad-based discussion,
because science is only part of the answer.
But are you allowed to ….are you encouraged or tolerated,
or do they acquiesce if you take off your…that hat, and speak as yourself?
Well you know there is no taboo for IPCC contributors in speaking with their own …
from their own voice and their experience.
And I am certainly happy to do that.
But the information that I want to share is
that I actually think the best path forward isn’t for you to hear my opinions,
it’s for you to build on the information,
and make sure that you understand it,
and that you can carry it forward in each of your own domains.
OK. Questions. Yes.
I will ask those who want to ask a question to capture the microphone.
If they waive the microphone at me.
The second row here.
I will call them in all the sooner. Yes. Just here, yes.
My name is Gerard Coughlan.
Do you think CCS power plants using carbon capture and storage
has the potential to mitigate fossil fuel emissions
and ocean acidification? Thank you.
So right now I think it’s too early to pick the technologies
that are going to be the winners and that are going to be the losers
in producing a non-emitting energy system
and particularly a non-emitting electricity generation system.
There are two important constraints, however.
One is that the scale of the energy system is truly vast.
And it’s hard to imagine a small set of technologies,
a subset of the available candidates really addressing the problem
on the timescale that it needs to be addressed.
The second is that we have a huge existing deployment
in the energy system, including…
well it’s mostly based on fossil fuel,
more than 80% based on fossil fuel.
So that if we can continue to capitalise
on the ability of that system to generate needed energy,
at the same time we make it non-emitting,
there would be profound advantages.
The technology for carbon capture and storage is widely deployed today.
It’s deployed on industrial scale,
something like 5% of global emissions are currently pumped underground in order to do…
it’s in order to do enhanced oil recovery.
And don’t laugh, we know how to move CO2 around at scale.
We know how to pump it underground.
We know that it stays there when we pump it there.
And just in the last month, the very first electricity generating plant,
it’s in Canada, went online with CCS.
Now they are using their CO2 that they capture
in order to do enhanced oil recovery.
But at least they are beginning to push the technology.
And I think we really won’t know until we have explored much further
whether or not CCS will be a big part or a small part of the solution set.
Yes. The gentleman with the microphone here.
Thank you. Thank you, Professor Field.
I have been coming to these talks for the last…
almost all of them since they started.
And by and large they have said much the same thing,
except that the certainty of human cause has improved with each IPCC report.
And now there’s no doubt.
Nevertheless, the most depressing slide you showed was the one
which showed the emissions actually increasing in the last decade.
And what this report is suggesting is a really big fundamental change
in how we produce our energy and how we live our lives and consume.
I suppose my question is,
do we have the international organisations
that can force or put pressure on governments
around the world to make such a change?
Yes. So it’s a great question.
It was posed in terms of….
do we have the international mechanisms
to force big emitters to decrease their emissions?
I think I would like to turn the question around and say,
do we have the technologies and the institutions
to make non-emitting approaches the attractive ones for meeting the…
legitimate energy aspirations of countries around the world.
And I think we are missing two things to be perfectly honest.
One thing we are missing is a level playing field.
We still live in a world with massive subsidies for fossil.
And we still live in a world where the damages
that are coming from fossil energy emissions
aren’t being reflected in the price.
So we need to address those two things.
At the same time we need to see the costs of
non-emitting technologies driven down.
There’s been a remarkable decrease in the cost of
photovoltaics over the last decade.
And the progress continues to be really good.
And it will only improve with the scale of the deployment.
So I think the best way to think about the
transition from growing emissions to falling emissions
is to think about it in the context of
meeting the legitimate energy aspirations of societies
around the world but meeting it with a combination of
getting the price right on fossil and getting the price down on alternatives.
So, we have such a question here actually, from twitter.
You are arguing that carbon taxes is one instrument that ought to be used.
Well I don’t argue "ought"
I am speaking from an IPCC perspective,
and what I am saying is that,
if it is the case that we want to transition away
from our current fossil based energy system
to one that’s based on alternatives,
we need to do these two things.
We need to level the playing field,
so that we are really paying the true costs of the fossil emissions,
and we need to find a way to make the energy alternatives cheaper.
There is a wide range of policy tools that could be implemented,
and they could be carbon taxes,
they could be cap and trade systems,
it could be regulatory approaches.
There’s not a single pathway to reflecting the true price.
But somehow the true price has to be reflected
if we are going to have market-based solutions that are compelling.
Yes. Here…can I have a microphone here.
And while the microphone is coming, I will ask you….
I will favour the man here with the microphone.
Sorry, I will come to you, Paddy, then.
Marcus Stewart, EcoEye.
Sorry, it’s slightly off the direction of where you were going with this one.
But we have spoken to a lot of glacial scientists
and read a lot of reports, oceanographic reports
and things like that over the last recent months.
And they are saying that
the sea level rise for this century might have been underestimated,
and the level of lubrication under the ice, you know, is an issue.
Is there a concern with the IPCC that you might have underestimated
the upper level of what we could be facing this century,
particularly with the West Antarctic ice sheet?
That was a first question.
No, just go for one question.
No, I will ask him to answer that question first, yes.
Yes, OK. Well it’s good you only asked me one
because I would forget that one before we got back to the next one.
So one of the real advantages in the risk based framing
that I talked about, is that now we can be very explicit
about acknowledging that there is a possibility of outcomes on the tails.
For the high emissions trajectory
for the 21st century the IPCC best estimates
are sea level rise with a high end of the range
at about one metre above current or that makes it about 1.2m above pre-industrial.
There have been a number of estimates using other approaches
that say the number could be higher.
It could be two metres or even more than two metres.
And when we do the risk based assessment
we try to build in the understanding that science uncertainty
does allow for these lower probability,
in many cases the probabilities aren’t well constrained,
but non-zero probability of very very high consequence impacts.
The papers I have been reading recently
indicate that the maximum sea level rise
that is consistent with the physics
is probably in the neighbourhood of two
or a little more than two metres during the century.
Is that business as usual?
Well that’s if you followed baseline right, that you could with …
I don’t know, from the human perspective,
everything going wrong in terms of accelerating the ice melt,
for both the western Antarctic ice sheet and Greenland.
The probability is not well constrained at this point.
But it’s worth thinking about.
One of the things that of course is very sobering, let’s say,
about ice sheet melt, is that the commitment to loss
of one or both of these continental ice sheets
probably doesn’t take anything like 4c.
And the best estimates are in the 2c to 3c range
for commitment to eventual loss.
And you know people say, …why would it be a commitment?
And it’s easy to understand with Greenland.
The Greenland ice sheet is about three kilometres thick.
And you know it’s actually really cold
if you go up in the atmosphere three kilometres.
If you melt down one kilometre it’s a lot warmer.
So it’s as if you get whatever the climate warming is,
plus all the warming from making the ice sheet thinner.
And that’s the main reason that you get this lock-in,
with the effect of the loss of a major continental ice sheet.
That would be catastrophic, wouldn’t it?
Well it certainly would be catastrophic for areas
that are within a few tens of metres of sea level.
That’s a lot of people.
Sorry, the second part of the question…..was….
Is there any risk that you have left out some feedback loops in the science,
for example, permafrost melt,
it looks like there could be issues there with big holes up in the Antarctic.
Potentially…I mean just to say….is there a chance you have left that out?
So in the diagram that we call ‘burning embers’,
the reasons for concern diagram,
we have tried to incorporate all of those large
single important kinds of earth system feedbacks
into the large scale and singular events.
And there are quantitative estimates underlying those risk assessments
for all of the classical sort of tipping point,
the Lenton tipping point ideas that have been in the literature.
And just as a framing on where we are,
best estimate is that we could see the addition of
300-500 billion tonnes of CO2 added from ecosystem processes
on top of whatever the human emissions are during the century.
And those are enough to really complicate the issue.
But at this point it doesn’t look like those are
large enough to be the dominant actors in the next few decades.
David Robbins on twitter asks,
“What role do you believe the media has to play in promoting change in this agenda?”
You know, I have talked a lot about different ways the issue could be framed.
And one of the things that I have heard people say
after I have given other talks is,
that the problem seems so bleak that it’s hard to think of anything to do
other than just go outside and kill yourself.
And I really don’t want that to be the message.
I think that what’s really clear from the IPCC reports
is that there are not only a wide range of solution options available,
but there is a wide range of attractive solutions
and options available at modest cost.
And I do think that presenting the issue fairly,
so that people have a chance to understand that,
is really a key requirement, moving forward.
Do we need more focus, discreet topics addressed in that fashion,
about the industrial opportunity, the inventive opportunity for economic development,
in reaching solutions rather than the macro question always being asked,
and people being fairly pessimistic?
Absolutely. You know, the solution set for addressing climate change
is going to come from a million small investments.
Hopefully there will be some national scale and international scale guidance
that helps people have the certainty they need in order to make good decisions.
But the actual implementation is going to be inventors
who are improving photovoltaics
or thinking of new ways to control building energy,
thinking of new building components
that don’t have as much embodied emissions.
It really will be a very large number of individual components
helping identify what those are and
providing a fair level playing field for them to come forward.
And also thinking about the research enterprise
that’s required to empower that sort of new generation of creativity.
We tend to think about climate as just deployment of existing technology.
But a lot of the technology improvements that are required,
including improvements in scaling,
are really going to require some substantial investments
in research and development.
And that’s a place where governments can really make a difference.
Thank you. Dr. Field, we had a king called Brian Boru,
who, luckily we have discovered, spent 40 years at a 1990 temperature.
Now this is Mangshan et al, the PNAS….
This is a thousand years ago, you need to know.
Yes…so 960…yes. But I mean for 40 years it’s what….
the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences have published this in 2008.
So that was a 1990 temperature, just 0.2 degrees less than now.
Yes, you are holding the microphone too close.
Sorry. With 45 sun spots he managed that temperature.
Now we have just had 75 sun spots for 70 years,
the hottest sun in 9,000 years.
Why wouldn’t we have enough energy to get the extra 0.2 degrees centigrade
from the sun rather than CO2?
It’s one of the things that the IPCC has worked really hard on
is characterising the extent to which any kinds of natural processes
have contributed to recent warming trajectories.
And what we have seen is that since the beginning of the industrial revolution,
the net contribution of variation in solar output to the temperature change,
the 0.85 degrees we have talked about, has been essentially zero,
less than a tenth of a watt per square metre,
where the contribution of the greenhouse gases,
including both the aerosols, which have a net cooling effect,
and heat trapping gases, has been about 2.35 watts.
And let me add one other piece of this puzzle that’s interesting to think about.
You know, when we burn fossil fuels that actually releases heat directly,
and we can measure that heat, right.
And how much has that contributed to the problem?
If you add up all of the heat released in the global energy system,
the heat directly, not from the greenhouse gases,
but the actual heat, that amounts to about 1% of the climate forcing
that we see on a day by day basis.
That climate forcing,
which is too small to measure and too small to influence the temperatures
in any significant way, is substantially larger
than the contribution from natural variation in solar output.
They had 45 sun spots, and that was a 1990 temperature,
which officially we were told, up until this evening,
needed a strong CO2 input, because only since 1980
has the CO2 been the unique forcer.
That means you have half the increase since 1980
can be assignable to the sun with no problem.
45 sun…now we have 75….the hottest sun in 9,000…
why didn’t you tell us that we have just had the hottest sun in 9,000 years….for 70 years.
There is no reason why the sun shouldn’t explain it.
The question is, is the audience really convinced…
or do they think you may be using…an agreeable flannel if you like?
Because let’s face it, we are thinking citizens….and must ask questions.
We have the ability to very very accurately measure the sun’s output,
with remarkable accuracy, both from surface mounted stations and from satellites.
And we actually know the answer to your question.
And the answer to your question is that solar output
has not varied by an extent that is large enough
to explain more than a tiny fraction of the warming that has occurred.
The hottest in 9,000 years.
Yes, we have your point, and thank you for it.
Thanks for the question.
It’s something that we have been able to address in tremendously fine scale detail.
You know, I was involved in the original seminars
by the Commissioner in promoting the Kyoto Agreement.
And at that stage people thought
this was very strange business altogether.
If you see how far
Kyoto has gone in Europe now,
it just shows that it’s very possible
to actually alter a whole way of looking at things quite quickly.
I am just saying that is the concrete situation,
Europe is much more advanced than anywhere else,
in a commitment to alternatives as the source of energy.
Now of course, one of the things that’s not referred to is that
a lot of our emission dropping in Europe is due to the fact that
the things we use are made in Asia.
like our computers and all these things.
I would say the optimistic.
Now one of the feelings I have is that,
there should be more acceptance of the need for adaptation.
If you just keep saying mitigation, mitigation…
and you see the temperature rising,
then you are obviously failing in that sense.
Yes. Have you a question, Paddy?
Yes, I do, yes. I am coming to it.
My question would be
should more research be put into adaptation technologies?
Now if you don’t do…and on the funny side in some sense…
the example of our capacity in adaptation technology
has been demonstrated by the fracking fraternity,
where the oil industry has the great potential of the need for more energy.
OK, we have your question.
Now…so that…I am not saying….
The oil peak was registered as a problem in climate change.
That has gone off the agenda.
And we now have a surplus of oil.
You know, this is phenomenal
Yes. I think you are determined, Paddy,
to answer your own question.
But it’s Dr. Field who is here to answer the questions.
I agree that we need additional investments
in adaptation for a couple of reasons.
You know, I showed you the map of the solution space for adaptation.
There are lots of compelling options.
But another reason that it’s so important to invest
in adaptation and adaptation research comes in…in…
I showed you that the climate changes we will experience
over the next few decades are basically already baked into the system.
And we are already seeing widespread consequential impacts.
And we need to adapt because
whatever we do with mitigation is not going to address those impacts
that are already baked into the system.
It’s a really important part of the reason
that the agenda moving forward
needs to have a balanced emphasis on adaptation and mitigation.
I would love Professor Field’s view.
Over the last number of years the jet stream has tended to move a little bit further south.
And at what point is it likely or possible that either the jet stream
and/or the gulf stream may move semi-permanently?
If you go directly west from Galway you hit Moncton in New Brunswick
which is has a radically different climate.
And what would be the implications.
Thank you very much, a wonderful lecture. Thanks.
So there are a number of important features of the global climate system
that have a profound impact,
especially on the movement of heat from the equatorial regions to the polar regions…
and the gulf stream or in the fancy scientific term is the meridional overturning circulation.
And we know that there are some periods in the past,
especially a period called the Younger Dryas,
at the end of the last ice age,
where for some centuries that meridional overturning circulation
suddenly stopped and then started up again.
And we think the reason it stopped is
because all of a sudden there was a bunch of fresh water
that flooded out across the north Atlantic,
and meant that as the salty water moved north
it didn’t lose heat to the atmosphere,
because it went down underneath the fresh water
that was the result of the melting ice.
So for a long time people have said,
well if we are melting a lot of the arctic,
doesn’t that mean there’s going to be a bunch more fresh water up there
and maybe we will stop that meridional overturning circulation,
potentially even cool Europe.
And so that’s been explored with a large number of model exercises now.
And the consistent result is that
a large amount of warming can slow or even potentially stop
this meridional overturning circulation,
at least the bulk of the evidence, the most likely outcome
is that that would occur at a warming greater than
even the continued high emissions warming
that I talked about through this century.
But it is a possibility should we completely ignore this problem into the next century.
The implications of stopping the meridional overturning circulation
for temperatures in Europe is that Europe would have warmed
so much by then that what we would see with the stoppage
is a slowdown in future warming.
We wouldn’t see a cooling.
But it would have profound effects on the distribution of heat around the earth system.
Yes. A gentleman at the back there.
I have a quick question,
I suppose an extension of what John asked at the start.
Looking forward to next year, and I understand the role of the IPCC
is not to advocate a specific policy,
but there are a couple of single points of failure
in terms of having a global agreement.
One might be the Australian Prime Minister,
another might be the incoming Chair of the U.S. Environmental Committee,
who for example says, you’re a hoax, not just
what policies you might propose are not accurate,
but the fundamental science that you are saying is a hoax.
Is there something more that science can do
or are there things that scientists can be more dramatic about
in order to get the truth of the science,
not so much to the policy options, to the actual truth of the science across?
Yes. That’s a great question.
I wish I knew the answer.
I had a conversation recently with the then Congressman,
now Governor Jay Inslee of the state of Washington in the U.S.
And he said, well, why don’t you scientists set your hair on fire
and run around to tell people how important this is?
And it is a good idea, but….
my feeling is that there needs to be somebody in this dialogue
that is viewed as credible across the widest possible range of perspectives.
And I feel really strongly that the IPCC has a unique opportunity
to be this trusted representative of science.
And I am concerned that if we notch up the communications….
very much beyond where it is now,
we risk losing the ability to effectively communicate
with many of the stakeholders who need to be contributing to solutions.
And you know I feel like in the last couple of years
we have really begun to make progress with key people
in some of the energy companies, key people in utilities around the world,
key people who are water managers and in government at all levels.
And at least for me personally I put a lot of value on
protecting the ability to continue those dialogues,
but I also totally respect my colleagues,
and people in other organisations,
who feel that the most important next steps are to
move into the streets and chain themselves
to the power plant gates and things like that.
It’s just that this discussion, it can’t have everybody doing that and be successful.
And are you optimistic or otherwise?
Well I am an optimist…you wouldn’t be in this business if you weren’t an optimist.
But I look at the opportunities, the opportunities for investments,
the opportunities for adaptation to build more sustainable societies,
and it’s hard not to see those as compelling.
But then you look at the trajectory of the recent emissions increase,
and see how long it’s taking to get our arms around the problem.
If the problem is going to be solved,
it’s going to be solved as a result of widespread participation in pressure for solutions,
and pressure from all of you, supported by the scientific community.
And I have had a lot of conversations recently with people
who really feel like the landscape is beginning to change.
But it’s not going to change without continued pressure at all levels of society,
but particularly pressure from the bottom up,
from individual stakeholders around the world.
In democracies politicians want to be re-elected,
and basically they are usually in a four or five year cycle.
So how possible is it to persuade them to take hard decisions
which are going to hurt their electorate and without the electorate changing first?
That’s a great question.
Let me say, I think there are three components to the solution.
Lifestyle, emphasising efficiency, vote style,
looking for politicians who understand the issue
and are willing to make the sometimes hard choices,
and invest style, where each of us,
who is building a business, or managing our pension or personal investments,
looks for companies that can help build the sustainable solutions.
We already have that for instance in things now…
it’s no longer possible for pension funds, I think,
to sometimes invest in the tobacco industry, or in certain…
it’s just no longer politically acceptable
to the people who are on the pension.
So do you think we need to proof some of these issues,
like we gender proof our legislation now.
Do you think climate change has to be brought in there?
Or sustainability brought in there into those sort of decision makings?
Well I do think that people should be demanding
that their investments be managed in a way that’s consistent with their values.
Yes. Duncan Stewart, yes.
Have you got a microphone? Yes.
Professor, thank you very much for a really good talk.
But if we take the big picture of where we are,
and we look at what you have said here today,
by the latter part of the century,
and we look at our children on the planet growing up,
and we look at what they are facing with climate change,
we look back over the past five assessment reports of the IPCC,
and every five years later we have been on the worst trajectory.
It looks like now we are clearly on the RCP8.5
and our emissions are going up.
And the ice now is melting at a rate triple the melt rate of 20 years ago
in Greenland and double in the Antarctic.
We look at the big pressures, if you like,
of business and all of those vested interests
that are in denial of climate change, the big fossil fuel industries.
John brought up the issue of governments not being able to act.
Are we not in a situation that we are heading straight for a disaster,
and what you mentioned there, and we saw in the cartoon,
of looking back at what we could have done 50 years ago?
Are we not in a state of emergency?
And should we not be treating this like we do treat a state of emergency?
Are we not stealing from our children’s future
and from all of those in the developing world and all those other species?
Is this not the case that the IPCC should be making it clear
that we are on an incredibly unsustainable path,
and we are heading into a disaster, a catastrophic situation?
I am saying it because I know that we need to be positive.
I know we have to reach out there.
I do appreciate all of the positive,
and the huge opportunities that go with the change.
But we are heading straight into a catastrophe?
Is that not true?
Well I mean you saw my figures, right.
I mean many of the points you raise were the points I made exactly.
We are following the business as usual trajectory about the same as RCP8.5.
With business as usual emissions we end the century
with what we characterise as severe pervasive and irreversible impacts.
I mean what do you want us to say?
I mean I think that the message from the IPCC
is about as clear and about as succinct as we can make it.
But I do want to say something about the …
as a personal philosophy on the sort of dynamics of social action.
If I look back through history I don’t typically see problems
being solved at the first indication of a problem.
Usually it takes a while. It takes people a while to recognise that the issue is really real.
It takes a while to figure out how to deal with the vested interests
who choose to ignore the information and push for a different approach.
And I think the fact that we have not been successful in the past
can’t be taken as compelling evidence that we won’t be successful in the future.
But I hope we have discussed here a lot of the steps
that are going to be essential for transitioning to being successful in the future.
And it does mean a lot of things are going to have to be different
than they have been over the past 25 years,
when the IPCC has consistently said,
this is a problem, pay attention, this is a problem, pay attention.
And now as a consequence of listening, as a consequence of understanding,
as a consequence of carrying on the discussion,
the set of actions I hope has the potential to really take a different direction.
Yes. The gentleman over here, yes.
Frank O’Sullivan, Veterinary Ireland.
Professor Field could you comment on the Irish situation,
where 30% or up to 30% of our emissions come from agriculture?
We are very well aware of this in the agri-food industry
and our farming methods and the technologies
attempt to reduce the carbon emissions from our animals.
But we are also aware of the other imperative
that we have to produce enough food to feed our world.
And Ireland is an exporting nation of food, that’s badly needed, now and in the future.
So our attempt to mitigate this risk is more efficiency at a farming level,
which is better for the farmer, because he’s more profitable perhaps.
But could you comment on this apparent contradiction for Ireland….
different from the rest of Europe, where
30% of our emissions is agricultural based.
That’s a really good question.
And while I am not an expert on Ireland in particular,
I have thought some about the challenge of
greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture enterprise.
And it’s true that they are substantial.
The sources are in some ways, manageable.
The two main greenhouse gases that come from agricultural practices
are methane from wetland, especially rice cultivation, from animal agriculture,
and nitrous oxide, which comes essentially from over-fertilisation with nitrogen fertiliser.
A lot of the most compelling opportunities for emissions decreases
are in management of nitrous oxide,
where more intelligent fertilisation, better management of manure,
can really yield dramatic improvements.
The issue with methane release, especially from animal production,
is going to be a challenging one.
And I can’t predict what the solutions are going to be.
There are people who are working on changes in the microbial content…
the microbiome of the animals, people who are thinking about changes in the food composition.
It’s hard to know.
But there is also a wide range of very attractive agricultural practices
that increase stabilisation of carbon in soils.
And in many parts of the world more intelligent management of agriculture
can actually produce net carbon sinks, offsetting some of the emissions.
And so while I would say the dimensions to the solution aren’t entirely known.
I think there are some attractive opportunities for agriculture
to be a part of the solution as well as part of the problem.
OK. The man in the centre here.
You mentioned the importance of scientific research.
Given the long timescales than can happen in research
to go from say basic insight through to diffusion and widespread adoption,
would you care to mention perhaps three areas of research
that if you had unlimited resources,
that you would put money into now in order to achieve whatever…
within whatever timescale you think is reasonable, given your other work?
Yes. Sure. That’s a really great question.
So I think that one of the biggest challenges we face today
is integration of the energy system.
How do you manage an energy system that has large amounts of renewables,
especially wind and solar, that aren’t providing energy all of the time?
And we know that you can do some of that by having different styles of solar,
some with concentrating solar with storage and some without,
and we know that have the appropriate location can stabilise wind.
And we know that there are some things can be done through demand management,
but we don’t really have a comprehensive picture.
We also don’t have a very good picture of
what the capability of different storage technologies are.
Whether we should be looking at battery storage, pumped hydro…
how to make an energy system that really works as a unit.
And I think that’s a researchable problem.
Another area that I think is really really promising is an area
that’s often called solar fuels.
And right now the hydrocarbons that we burn in petrol in cars
are a result of photosynthesis, you know processes where plants
took CO2 from the atmosphere and converted it into hydrocarbons
hundreds of millions of years ago and it was converted into petroleum.
So that’s essentially an electrical reaction.
And we know a little bit about how to use electricity
to make hydrocarbons using CO2 from the air now.
I think that’s a really promising set of technologies.
And if we can figure out how to do that efficiently and at scale,
that would have a couple of tremendous benefits.
One, it means we could continue to utilise much of our existing fossil fuel infrastructure
without net emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
And it would also mean that we had a really potent way to store chemical energy,
that we could then convert back into electrical energy for the grid.
And I think that’s just an incredibly attractive option.
And then the third area where I would be investing was actually the…
it comes from a question over here….
and it’s investments in trying to figure out what kinds of adaptations really pay off.
And we are beginning to get a lot of experience with adaptation.
And it’s actually really hard to do it in an experimental way,
where you say, this worked and this didn’t.
And we could be a lot more systematic in setting up investments in adaptation,
so that we really did learn what were the governance mechanisms,
what are the resource levels,
what are the institutional mechanisms that led adaptation to be successful.
A question here from Katie Carroll on Twitter –
“How important is it to communicate the new report to the public
and not just to policy makers, but to make it tangible to people?”
That’s a really great question.
And my feeling is that the science on the topic, including IPCC,
really needs to speak with equal intensity
to two very different stakeholder groups.
One is the governments, the negotiators,
who have to make these policies work
at a national scale and at an international scale.
And the other is the general public
who needs to provide the pressure to get the policy makers to do it.
And governance is something that happens as a result of bottom up pressure
from voters around the world.
And unless people understand and unless they are mobilised to
be effective in democracy,
the governments aren’t going to have the commitment to find the solutions.
We have seen some examples, tobacco and public health is one.
Over the last 30 or 40 years there’s been a huge change on that,
and people now expect their governments
to support a decrease in tolerance of tobacco,
consumption and advertising and marketing.
Do you see issues of that?
Does that give you any reason for optimism, the bottom up approach?
And the other point about tobacco, by the way,
which is hugely important I think, is that
initial policy was based on the precautionary principle,
not that people knew that it was definitely bad for you,
but such was the dramatic evidence,
and so fearful were the consequences,
that we should be taking action now.
And of course the science came in a little bit later to clinch the argument.
So there are some parallels.
Is there anything in there which would
give you any reason for optimism, that we might get a bottom up approach on this one too?
There are many wins in environmental activities.
Certainly action on smoking, action on air and water quality in most developed countries,
the Montreal protocol to control ozone destroying gases was very effective.
The Montreal protocol was addressing a problem
that’s many folds simpler than the climate problem.
But we really do have a lot of experience with information,
combining with public will, to produce solutions.
This is a hard one, and it’s got challenging international dimensions,
it’s got challenging inter-generational dimensions.
But we have a whole bucketful of past victories
that we should be able to use to draw
on the kinds of resources we need to come up with solutions.
It’s a really hard problem.
I don’t want to minimise the fact that it’s a hard problem.
But we know it’s important.
And we also know that the solutions include a lot of options
that are attractive and compelling and empowering.
I think you know the real thing we need to do is
to just get on with deploying some of these solutions,
so that we can see whether or not they work
and whether or not they provide the full range of benefits
that will make them look more and more attractive to stakeholders around the world.
If we only get to the stage of having discussions,
even though this has been a really nice one,
that we are not going to have the information
that’s necessary in order to scale the deployment up, as it will need to be.
I think that’s a very good point on which to conclude,
because it comprehensively captures your key points.
I would just say in conclusion that I hope you can bargain for the rights
of that latest cartoon in the Washington Post,
and use it as effectively as possible,
particularly in school text books.
But thank you very much indeed.
0:00:00 / 0:00:00
Chris Field, Co-chair, WGII. IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, WGII, WGIII, Synthesis Report
IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Q&A