How would you break down the misinformation from the disinformation about those who are in denial?
Are some of them just wrong or do some of them know they are wrong and are deliberately sending out disinformation
to throw sand in your eyes, because they are interested parties?
I can't look in their brains to know if they know that they are wrong.
But a lot of the deniers have a political agenda.
And because of that political agenda, they actually confuse the science
and cherry pick some of the scientific papers to make their point.
And this happened historically in tobacco for instance.
This happens all the time. This happened with tobacco.
This happened with acid rain, with all of the issues, intensive agriculture at the moment,
vaccination programmes, you see it over and over again.
And I think that's also the strength of an assessment like IPCC
where a lot of scientists come together,
where these written documents are reviewed over and over again,
so you really get a consensus type of, this is what we know,
but also a very clear message on the certainties or the robustness of that knowledge.
Yes, a question here.
Thank you very much. A very interesting talk. My name is John Hazel.
I am a statistician in Trinity College. I have been looking at the paleo climate for a while.
What are your thoughts on abrupt climate change?
I am thinking of the Younger Dryas. I am thinking of Levant.
But I am also thinking of Taleb's Black Swans.
If we look at abrupt climate change Younger Dryas won't happen again.
That was very much because of the big lake North America
and the freshwater into the North Atlantic where you got the shift in the ocean currents.
So Black Swans could definitely happen. We have already seen them.
Sandy was one of them.
Hurricane Sandy weakened but then came along a warmer ocean current,
picked up a lot of energy, and then there was a blocking event,
so it actually went west very very broad and brought an awful lot of rain.
So there are elements in there which are linked to the warming.
There are elements in there of the natural vulnerability which made it worse.
We have seen the very big heat wave in Europe in 2003, which was also a kind of Black Swan.
I showed in one picture of it the dike breach in the Netherlands.
And in the middle of the summer I woke up one morning and it was on the radio,
we have a major dike breach. How is that possible? It was not high water.
In the Netherlands we have about 4,000km of peat dikes.
And the peat was dry. And if peat is dry it doesn't have any resistance even to the lowest level of water.
Those kind of surprises will happen. If we look at ….
A lot of those are cases of Younger Dryas
Yes, but they are eye openers.
But do we talk about them enough or are we scared to talk about them, because talking about disasters ...
I don't know.
There is a whole discussion on these tipping points.
And some of the ice related, permafrost related issues are tipping points.
If you look for example at the permafrost in Siberia,
people say that will melt and suddenly all the peat will be released
and we get a lot of methane and a lot of CO2 in the atmosphere and you get a runaway greenhouse effect.
Personally if I look at Siberia it's a very very big area.
And the permafrost will melt slowly going north. So there is a transition process.
That will not happen within two or three years.
Yes, there could be other surprises which we don't know.
But I am not so convinced that big changes will happen this century.
Maybe they will be triggered by the processes.
We don't know for example how fast the Greenland ice sheet could melt.
Most people say that will take several thousands of years.
Maybe there are processes that could accelerate,
and you get a very rapid increase in sea level rise,
and also a shift in the ocean currents with a big shift in European climate because of that.
We don't know. We can't model it etc.
And scientifically you first have to observe it
and to understand it etc. before you can put it into the models.
But these things happen. And you also see it with extreme events on a smaller scale.
The recent paper by Jim Hansen in PNAS really showed
that it's not just a shift of the statistical distribution,
the normal distribution of extreme events, now it's actually a widening of the distribution.
So very extreme heat waves, storms, that occur more frequently. And that's frightening.
Another question here.
Thanks very much. My name is Pauline Conway.
I am a development researcher.
Professor, thank you very much for a fascinating presentation.
At the moment we have got the preparation of the sustainable development goals by the U.N.'s open working group.
We are also looking at the review of the Millennium Development Goals by the U.N. General Assembly next September,
and moving towards preparation of the post 2015 development framework.
And obviously Ireland as the EU Presidency has a big role to play in preparation of both processes.
Do you see this as a good time for trying to get the climate change messages,
which you have been outlining here very clearly this evening, into the political process?
And would you have any messages for Irish policy makers as to how the best way they should go about doing that?
That's very very difficult, to really look at the Irish conditions I don't know,
it's my first visit to Ireland this time.
But if you look at the broader issue, the most vulnerable people live in developing countries.
They have to develop because there's poor sanitation,
there's no food security, there's no water security etc. etc.
Climate change is definitely a threat to them.
And they have not been part of the whole historic level of emissions.
So if you look at the big environmental problems that is biodiversity,
ecosystem services, climate change, if you look at the solutions
you actually have to very very strongly integrate them and put them into a development perspective.
Yes, a question down at the back.
Thank you very much for a very succinct wonderful paper.
Paul Leech, Ecotecture.
My question is touching on your graph of the slump in emissions with the catastrophic failure of the financial system.
Most governments recoil in horror, including ours, from this fact.
There's a huge dichotomy between wellbeing, economic wellbeing and climate change crisis.
And we are told by Professor John Sweeney this week, who is a member of IPCC,
that in an informed opinion, that we now have eight years.
My question is, can you please map for us
how our present government can possibly reverse its avowed policy of return to growth
which is catastrophic if it's business as usual.
Can you talk on the topic that Colm Keena in the Business pages this week,
suggests that these two things overlap.
That the resurgence of an economy can be consistent with tackling climate change.
What is that economy?
In principle I can't answer that again for Ireland.
We have the same problems in the Netherlands,
maybe even worse with our housing systems and banking system at the moment.
But if we start looking at trying to find a solution,
both for the economic crisis and the climate crisis in traditional thinking
you probably or likely will fail.
So I just want to refer to Obama's speech, the State of the Union speech a few weeks ago.
He made a very very strong plea that we should not have the development of renewable energies
and all the methodologies and all the innovations of smart grids etc. left to China, India and Brazil.
We really should take a very very strong role for European countries,
for North America, to actually do that ourselves.
And I think in those kind of industries with a lot of innovation,
and also thinking about how can we adapt our housing system.
Of course we have to heat them in winter, heating can be done very very efficient.
But within a few years, a few decades, we have to start thinking how to cool our houses in the summer.
Now if we already start doing that in an innovative way at the moment
and build an industry to do that and redevelop the architecture to have a passive cooling and heating system
you actually can build new market, new economies etc.
And if you start looking at the Rio Plus20 meeting last June it was not very successful,
it was not very strongly broadcasted in the media.
But one of the elements which was on the agenda there was the green economy.
And green economy is not an issue in Europe.
Yes, there are some people who pay lip service to it, some politicians who do.
If you look at Asia the green economy is booming.
I just got a consultancy last year with the Ministry of Green Economy in Mongolia,
just to help them with scenarios etc. to green the Mongolian economy.
And there's quite a lot of pollution in Ulaanbaatar etc.
They have their local issues as well. The same with China.
There's a big report, a big book out with how to actually green the Asian economy.
They are miles ahead of us.
And I think there is actually a lot of possibilities with smart grids,
with different housing with different transport systems
which really could invigorate our economies again.
But not in the traditional way.
Yes, a question here.
Hi, Oisin Coughlan from Friends of the Earth.
Thank you first, like others have said, for the clarity of your presentation.
It was stark, but in some senses a relief to see it so clearly presented.
My question touches on some of the themes that have just been raised.
You speak that one of the things you do in your work is try to communicate the science to policy makers
at the UNFCCC and elsewhere in a way that catches their imagination and urges them to action.
Can you say a little bit more about what in your experience works?
What is it that will switch them on to acting on climate change?
And I know the question is a general one.
The context here is one where one of your slides really hit home for me,
which was the one that said, can you please restate that in a more vague way that we can all understand and accept.
Because our policy process here seems very much headed that way.
We recoil from the implications of setting clear targets.
For example as the EPA Director General mentioned earlier,
if we don't have a clear objective it's hard to know how you are going to get there.
So what works in communicating to policy makers?
If I would have the recipe then we would have implemented that and there wouldn't be any problems.
With policy makers there are an awful lot of lobbyists talking to policy makers.
So you can give a lecture. That lecture will have an impact.
How long it will last is always a question.
I think that you have to continue to do that.
And you have to build the trust with policy makers,
on a national level, on an international level,
and continuously engage them in the debate and show them the new science and the emerging science,
and how it actually fits within the broader picture.
So there is no one single solution on how to do that.
It's a continuous dialogue.
And unfortunately our universities do have very very little incentives to talk to policy makers
because you don't get credits, you get credits for scientific papers.
So we have to change those types of incentive systems,
that more scientists actually talk to society, to policy makers, to other stakeholders.
But it takes an enormous amount of investment.
But in the democracies, which wouldn't be all of the map that we are talking about,
but in the democracies the politicians want to be elected next time.
That's their focus. Mustn't you go the route of vulgarising this agenda
to the point where the electorate expect them to deliver?
Because if the electorate want them to do it they are more likely to.
And work on their vanity and on their …
Yes. But then you also have to, in that dialogue, not only focus on the problems,
and identifying the problems, you also have to focus on the solutions.
And help them to actually implement the solutions and give them a narrative for the electorate so they will be elected.
One example from the Netherlands, where I do most of my work,
we actually had a group of people convened by ICN, the International Council for Nature.
And ICN had been lobbying very very strongly in the Netherlands with members of Parliament,
with ministers etc. but didn't get anywhere. They thought it was too slow.
And they actually three years ago changed their focus to the CEOs of the bigger companies,
Unilever, the bigger banks, etc. etc.
And when we had the elections and most of the issues in the elections were very important,
like immigrants and security, etc. etc. these CEOs actually said,
we want to have sustainability on the agenda.
And together with some of the scientists we had a dialogue, how do we do that.
And there was a big open letter in the newspaper of those CEOs, 70 CEOs of big companies.
And actually that helped to put sustainability on the new coalition government very very strongly.
But it was also because it was targeted in an open letter in the newspaper and all the editorials have,
what's happening here, business is overtaking government on the left.
And so it was one of those surprises again. But as part of the dialogue involving the private sector.
In Holland you would have the advantage, wouldn't you?
That it is a matter of great importance, rising sea levels matter in Holland more than in Switzerland or in Ireland.
In Holland the rising sea levels is very very little of an issue, if you ask the people.
There was a big discussion recently of 20 big chestnut trees on a dike.
And the dike authority said we have to cut them because if they fall over they will damage the dike.
The local people who are living below sea level, and if the dike would breach they would be in trouble,
were more worried about the landscape and the view of those trees than the safety of the dikes.
So yes, it is an issue but we believe that we are safe because we have the knowledge.
Hi, thanks for your talk. My name is Shane Bergin. I am a physicist from Trinity College.
I know we didn't cover it this evening in great detail about solutions to reduce our carbon dioxide.
But I wonder …and I guess this is particularly apt for an Irish audience,
what's your opinion on nuclear power as a way to reduce our CO2 output
and perhaps I say this in the context of a recent Prime Time debate I saw with Professor Wade Allison
who said that how we determine our safe levels of nuclear activity in the environment is extremely conservative.
And perhaps in light of the fact that the probability of
colossal damage from the continued use of fossil fuels is close to one,
what's the risk of an increased or indeed any nuclear programme in Europe?
Now interesting enough in a lot of the energy models from the IPCC
nuclear is part of renewables, because it doesn't release CO2. I haven't mentioned it.
Nuclear doesn't release CO2 so it's very very positive.
And maybe some of the developments with thorium reactors make it much much safer.
The current reactors still have the waste problem and the proliferation problem.
The main issue that I am personally against nuclear power is that it's a top down technology.
You need big science for it governed by big companies and that blocks innovation.
If you look at facebook, if you look at the internet, that was all garish type of approaches.
Individuals who could actually innovate and then develop big companies from those.
And I think we have to have an energy system…
if we want to have that innovation which is needed in the coming 30 years
we need an energy system where every brain,
and we have 7 billion of them on this planet at the moment, can actually help to innovate.
And these big technologies like nuclear fusion or nuclear fission don't provide that.
Because you can't do it in your back yard.
And I think if we start working with smart grids, if we start working with renewables,
there will be a lot of innovation.
Because you can do it, I can do it, everybody can help in setting those innovation steps.
On the other side, if you have nuclear it's a big plant, it's one cable to consumers.
You don't build smart grids either.
So it's a block to a certain technology which I think is not very fruitful.
But that's my personal opinion.
A question here in the front row.
Hi. Michael Connolly is my name. I am not currently a member of any organisation.
I have a bit of a problem in that, and the fact that we are here is part of the problem.
We define climate change as a problem where in fact it's actually a symptom of a problem.
And I think global industrial civilisation is eating the planet.
And that is actually the problem.
If you went to your doctor with headaches and he found a tumour in your brain
and he only ever treated your headaches you wouldn't think him a very good doctor.
So should we be actually thinking about doing something about global industrial civilisation
rather than just treat the symptoms.
Yes, definitely. And that's why I also plea within the different research programmes I am involved in,
and especially the new research programme, Future Earth,
that we actually have to focus on sustainability.
So bringing together…and it comes back to the earlier questions…
development issues into the context of biodiversity, climate change,
and some of the other environmental problems, but also how do we actually feed 9 billion people.
How do we provide them with proper sanitation, water etc.?
How can we close the different nutrient loops so that we don't pollute etc.?
And that should be part of one system
and indeed if we have a Ministry of Climate Change then there's a group focusing on climate change
and you take it out of the context. So you probably won't solve it that way.
A more integrated approach, not only with science, but science with stakeholders,
much more co-designed, co-production, is I think the solution.
And the international programmes are moving in that direction at the moment.
But it is difficult, and there's quite a resistance in crossing boundaries.
Has any systematic effort been made to integrate some of the key messages of this agenda
into the children's text books in any countries that you know?
You know, where they are given a math…I mean we all went to school,
and a mathematical problem, if the water coming out of the tap is going at so many gallons per minute
how long does it take to fill the bath, that sort of ….
so that you are getting the grammar of this agenda into the minds of the younger….
just naturally as part of geography lesson and mathematics and what have you.
I don't know about text books.
I know about a programme which my group is involved in, and it's called Nature's Calendar.
We actually have 40,000 school kids who note when certain plants flower, when certain tree leaves …
and we call it climate change in the back yard.
Because they go to Google Earth, they note down their observation
and they actually see within the coming three weeks I already saw the flowering here.
I am a little bit jealous of your early Spring.
But in the coming three weeks you see in the Netherlands on the map
that the sun part of the Netherlands flowers earlier than the middle part.
And that's all because the school kids actually collect their own data, put it on the web, etc. etc.
And it helps to set the scene and to have that discussion.
So there are a series of activities there and the global activity is a very similar one
which actually does it globally with school kids and outreach etc.
OK. Yes here.
Eric Conroy, An Taisce. I am not sure about this two degrees.
I don't believe that two degrees is right. I think it's too high as a tipping point.
I think actually one and a half.
You are too close to the microphone.
Sorry. One and a half degrees like the island nations in the Pacific,
who feel they are going to be submerged, they feel two degrees is too high.
Is there not a tipping point already happening in the arctic with the sea ice level and the albedo effect?
That's a very difficult discussion.
Two degrees is not a stringent stepping stone. There is a very very gradual change.
As an ecologist I would say one degree would be the max,
because between one and one and a half degree we will lose the majority of our coral reefs.
As an ecologist I find that not acceptable.
But the two degrees is looking at a whole set of evidence, at some of the certainties etc.
Now one of the Irish economists, he's actually Dutch,
was involved in that discussion on the two degrees in the IPCC report, Richard Tol.
And he really argued from the economic side that we cannot go at the lower levels.
So if we look at some of the pressure systems, like coral reefs, like mountainous ecosystems,
then one, one and a half degrees is already providing a lot of negative impacts.
Two degrees is one of those measures which is a compromise between a lot of different evidences.
So some people say we can handle easily four degrees.
Other people say three degrees. But you can't scientifically state the point.
There's no threshold. It's a gradual change. And some people are risk averse.
Some people like risks etc.
But it's all to do with the term dangerous in the objective of the climate convention.
In 1992 the statement of the objective of the climate convention
– we want to prevent dangerous climate change.
What I find dangerous, what you find dangerous, what other people find dangerous,
that's a political choice or a personal choice.
Science can inform it by certain systems, but if we want to keep everything
then we have to actually move to half a degree.
We are already past that. That's maybe a tipping point. I don't know.
But…things change. But we are still here, alive.
We still have our food, our beers, etc. etc. So how vulnerable are we?
And then the attribution of some of the impacts is extremely difficult.
Is that because of mismanagement? Is it because of climate change etc.?
So it's a very very complex issue.
The arctic, yes, I am not an arctic scientist or a physicist.
Yes, if the ice melts there will be a shift in albedo
or there will be more heat absorbed by the polar ice sea
and that will actually be a positive feedback speeding up the melting of the ice.
I will take two final questions. Yes, here.
Denis Lalor, Brown Bin Rescue, encouraging households to use their brown bin.
You touched on a number of areas there, a very broad spectrum.
And you are preaching to the converted here, pretty much in this room as it is.
But the one that's the thorn in my side is incineration.
I am working with a company at the moment in the UK who are unique.
They have come in from Canada, and you said it yourself, robust accepted science.
This company went to the UK, proved that the science of recycling disposable babies nappies,
proved that in a 36,000 tonne plant they could take out 25,000 tonnes of gas
which is primarily methane and carbon dioxide.
It went from being one plant constructed in 12 months to an order in for ten plants.
So it's a billion of commitment by this company coming into the UK.
I then went with that idea over to here and went into the Department of the Environment,
and was told there was a cost.
And the one thing I was going to have to beat was the €80/tonne of Irish waste leaving Ireland,
going to Belgium for incineration.
Now when you were saying earlier on about our emissions, their emissions,
you also have Sweden burning Norway's waste to heat their houses,
give them back the ash so they can make concrete,
which you were saying was one tonne to one tonne of carbon.
And Norway hasn't got enough waste.
So it's now gone to countries outside of Europe who don't have recycling facility in taking their waste.
So the one thing that wasn't mentioned here is incineration.
And if we trying to compete with €80/tonne,
which is not linked to landfill rates, which are constantly rising, of course they are rising,
it's diminishing. But it doesn't matter if we can throw it out the back door.
So my question would be, where is incineration in all of this?
If we are going to be talking about emissions, then whose emissions are they?
Unless they stay within the country of origin then it's not a level playing field.
Scientifically it doesn't matter where CO2 is emitted.
If it gets into the atmosphere it's mixed within a year in the northern hemisphere,
within three years between the northern and southern hemisphere.
And CO2 sits in the atmosphere for at least 100 years. So it's a very very long term gas.
Methane is much much shorter. So if you stop producing methane that has a much more immediate effect.
But then you have the long term effect of CO2.
So within the climate convention the discussion is also,
yes, we can have this joint implementation or the clean development mechanisms.
If we can do things more efficiently, economically in other countries
we should do that because the atmosphere is one and the same.
So you are pushing with incineration a shift between countries, a problem which for the climate system is a non-problem.
For the politics, for the companies it's a big problem.
But it's also resource depletion. Because once you burn it you can't get it back.
When it's recycled you have an end product which is of high value.
OK. A question here, yes.
Yes, my name is Jim Monaghan. I am from Sinn Fein.
I want to ask about the effect on the food production, world food production,
because it's a globalised market.
We had the drought in North America, we have had droughts in Australia,
we have had wet summer.
What's the likelihood of large price spikes in the cost of food due to climate change, say in the next ten years?
45.6% with a range +/- 50%. I don't know.
The price of different food commodities is not only derived from climate.
It's actually the regional distribution of the different droughts.
It's the market for biofuels. It's some of the …how you call it, the people speculate with the prices.
It's a very very complex system.
If we get large scale droughts in some of the main areas of the world,
for example, Ukraine and Russia, together with the American midwest then there will be an increase in prices.
If you see it coming they will be maybe not so much.
So that's a very very complex system. But if there are big impacts prices will go up.
Do you foresee that people are going to be more conscious of the food chain
and of air miles and of buying locally and sustainably
and paying actually more to local producers for good quality food
rather than to Dutch multinationals
who are said to put salt and water into the bacon before it comes here and so on?
I don't think they will do that because of climate change.
I think they will do it because of horse meat and those kinds of things etc.
OK. On that point we will conclude.
I would like to thank, on your behalf, very very much, Professor Rik Leemans for his contribution.
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Prof. Dr. Rik Leemans, Environmental Systems Analysis & Earth System Science Groups Wageningen University
A Time for Giant Steps Q&A