Climate Change

Communicating Climate Change and Motivating Civic Action: Renewing, Activating, and Building Democracies

Susanne C. Moser

Introduction

Governments are critical for bringing about the transition to a more sustainable human interaction with the environment as they set priorities and policies and may model new behavior. Yet, civil society is also indispensable in bringing about change. It is no small challenge to communicate effectively in order to engage civil society in this task. Many argue that the federal governments of North America are failing to provide needed leadership on climate change. In the absence of committed top-level leadership, bottom-up pressure is building to force policy changes at the federal level. This volume provides convincing evidence of growing action on cli- mate change at various levels and in different sectors of North America (Farrell and Hanemann, this volume; Gore and Robinson, this volume; Rabe, this volume; Selin and VanDeveer, this volume). At the same time, a social movement for climate pro- tection is beginning to emerge (Moser 2007b).

Broad sections of U.S. and Canadian societies, however, are not yet fully on board regarding the need for comprehensive climate change action and meaningful behavioral changes (Rabe, this volume; Stoett, this volume). In Mexico, civic mobi- lization around climate change has been barely evident at all in the early years of the twenty-first century (Pulver, this volume). This chapter examines civic mobilization around climate change primarily in the United States, and to a lesser extent in Can- ada and Mexico, in relation to climate governance efforts in public and private sec- tors from local to international levels. It focuses on how greater civic engagement on climate change can be fostered. Civil society can play at least two critical roles in climate change governance: (1) it can mobilize to push for policy changes at any level of government, and (2) it may enact behavioral changes consistent with needed mitigation and adaptation strategies.

If North American societies are to engage in these two types of civic responsibil- ities, however, communicators of climate change must go beyond merely conveying climate change knowledge and more effectively encourage and enable individuals to take part in the societal transformation necessary to address climate change success- fully (Moser and Dilling 2004, 2007a). Climate communicators have not yet fully taken on this challenge, but climate change presents an opportunity to renew U.S. society and democracy with greater civic engagement, build enduring democratic institutions in Mexico, and activate civic engagement more fully in Canada. The next section explores and compares public opinions about climate change across North America, demonstrating that deeper civic engagement has not yet been achieved in any of the three countries.

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Health and climate related ecosystem services provided by street trees in the urban environment

 

Jennifer A. Salmond1*, Marc Tadaki2, Sotiris Vardoulakis3,4,5, Katherine Arbuthnott3,5, Andrew Coutts6,7, Matthias Demuzere6,7,8, Kim N. Dirks9, Clare Heaviside3,5, Shanon Lim1, Helen Macintyre3, Rachel N. McInnes4,10 and Benedict W. Wheeler4 

Urban tree planting initiatives are being actively promoted as a planning tool to enable urban areas to adapt to and mitigate against climate change, enhance urban sustainability and improve human health and well-being. However, opportunities for creating new areas of green space within cities are often limited and tree planting initiatives may be constrained to kerbside locations. At this scale, the net impact of trees on human health and the local environment is less clear, and generalised approaches for evaluating their impact are not well developed.

In this review, we use an urban ecosystems services framework to evaluate the direct, and locally-generated, ecosystems services and disservices provided by street trees. We focus our review on the services of major importance to human health and well-being which include ‘climate regulation’, ‘air quality regulation’ and ‘aesthetics and cultural services’. These are themes that are commonly used to justify new street tree or street tree retention initiatives. We argue that current scientific understanding of the impact of street trees on human health and the urban environment has been limited by predominantly regional-scale reductionist approaches which consider vegetation generally and/or single out individual services or impacts without considering the wider synergistic impacts of street trees on urban ecosystems. This can lead planners and policymakers towards decision making based on single parameter optimisation strategies which may be problematic when a single intervention offers different outcomes and has multiple effects and potential trade-offs in different places.

We suggest that a holistic approach is required to evaluate the services and disservices provided by street trees at different scales. We provide information to guide decision makers and planners in their attempts to evaluate the value of vegetation in their local setting. We show that by ensuring that the specific aim of the intervention, the scale of the desired biophysical effect and an awareness of a range of impacts guide the choice of i) tree species, ii) location and iii) density of tree placement, street trees can be an important tool for urban planners and designers in developing resilient and resourceful cities in an era of climatic change. 

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The regenerative approach to model an integrated urban-building evaluation method

Abstract

In this paper we focus on crucial issues concerning the effectiveness of evaluation of sustainability in the built environment. The paper argues that we need to rethink the evaluation of urban-building sustainability from an integrative perspective. It advances a theoretical and methodological model based on the regenerative approach, which opens up a new way to deal with the sustainability of the built environment. An enlarged definition of urban metabolism is used to carry out the integrated evaluation.

Central in it is the concept of reliability, which expresses the ability of products and processes in the built environment to be adaptive, resilient and regenerative. We use reliability in a transversal manner through the process of making the built environment sustainable, referring it both to buildings and the regenerative process triggered by sustainable actions addressed to buildings. Holistic indicators allow assessing it quantitatively or qualitatively.

Through reliability we bring regenerative thinking from a theoretical to an operational level. When referred to buildings, reliability allows considering sustainable performances not usually assessed in current evaluations. When referred to processes, it helps to understand directions of change in relation to sustainability of the built environment. Our method can be easily associated to current evaluation systems exceeding their boundaries.

1. Introduction

During last centuries, the increase in knowledge and the associated technological advancements have determined an evolution of human societies superimposed on nature, with the results of jeopardizing natural systems. Becoming aware of natural resource depletion and environmental pollution is at the basis of the need to draw attention to a sustainable development, as defined in the Bruntland Report (WCED, 1987). This is considered a starting point of a major concern for the natural environment, which has to be interrelated with social and economic development, inter and intra generationally. Then, in recent years, the sustainability paradigm has been the leading guide for development at any scale of thought and action, pervading policies as well as practices of intervention in any field of application (Hecht et al., 2012).

The built environment is the most significant field of action for several reasons, both quantitative and qualitative: it uses natural resources and impacts the natural environment in a very relevant manner; it constitutes the socio-cultural identity of a place; it expresses the economic capacity of a society. Therefore the built environment has increasingly become the test bed of policies and practices of sustainability, the terrain for experimenting sustainable paths of governance and design so that buildings and cities have been focused subjects of interest and experimentation (Lewis et al., 2013) and sustainable buildings and cities the output of such commitment.

Now, after more than 25 years of investments in sustainability, the question is whether sustainable development is indeed sustainable (Blowers et al., 2012). The answer is arguable: it could be almost positive, if we refer to sustainability as the paradigm originating from the sustainable development definition above cited; it could be rather negative if we refer to sustainability as the ability to re-establish cooperation between the natural and the human worlds for a mutual beneficial development. The central difference resides in the approach used, which at the end defines a substantially different goal: in the first case, the sustainable development approach is aimed at reducing the natural resource depletion and the environmental impacts; in the second case, the approach is regenerative, i.e. aimed at reversing the present and persistent trend of consumption for regenerating the natural environment, indispensable for the human life (Cole, 2012a).

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How well have climate models projected global warming?

Scientists have been making projections of future global warming using climate models of increasing complexity for the past four decades.

Climate models, driven by atmospheric physics and biogeochemistry, play an important role in our understanding of the Earth’s climate and how it will likely change in the future.

Carbon Brief has collected prominent climate model projections since 1973 to see how well they project both past and future global temperatures.

While some models projected less warming than we’ve experienced and some projected more, all showed surface temperature increases between 1970 and 2016 that were not too far off from what actually occurred, particularly when differences in assumed future emissions are taken into account.

How have past climate models fared?

While climate model projections of the past benefit from knowledge of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, volcanic eruptions and other radiative forcingsaffecting the Earth’s climate, casting forward into the future is understandably more uncertain. Climate models can be evaluated both on their ability to hindcast past temperatures and forecast future ones.

Hindcasts – testing models against past temperatures – are useful because they can control for radiative forcings. Forecasts are useful because models cannot be implicitly tuned to be similar to observations. Climate models are not fit to historical temperatures, but modellers do have some knowledge of observations that can inform their choice of model parameterisations, such as cloud physics and aerosol effects.

In the examples below, climate model projections published between 1973 and 2013 are compared with observed temperatures from five different organizations. The models used in the projections vary in complexity, from simple energy balance models to fully-coupled Earth System Models.

(Note, these model/observation comparisons use a baseline period of 1970-1990 to align observations and models during the early years of the analysis, which shows how temperatures have evolved over time more clearly.)

Sawyer, 1973

One of the first projections of future warming came from John Sawyer at the UK’s Met Office in 1973. In a paper published in Nature in 1973, he hypothesised that the world would warm 0.6° C between 1969 and 2000, and that atmospheric CO2 would increase by 25%. Sawyer argued for a climate sensitivity – how much long-term warming will occur per doubling of atmospheric CO2 levels – of 2.4° C, which is not too far off the best estimate of 3° C used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) today.

Unlike the other projections examined in this article, Sawyer did not provide an estimated warming for each year, just an expected 2000 value. His warming estimate of 0.6° C was nearly spot on – the observed warming over that period was between 0.51° C and 0.56° C. He overestimated the year 2000’s atmospheric CO2 concentrations, however, assuming that they would be 375-400 ppm – compared to the actual value of 370 ppm.

Broecker, 1975

The first available projection of future temperatures due to global warming appeared in an article in Science in 1975 published by Columbia University scientist Prof. Wally Broecker. Broecker used a simple energy balance model to estimate what would happen to the Earth’s temperature if atmospheric CO2 continued to increase rapidly after 1975. Broecker’s projected warming was reasonably close to observations for a few decades, but recently has been considerably higher.

This is mostly due to Broecker overestimating how CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations would increase after his article was published. He was fairly accurate up to 2000, predicting 373 ppm of CO2 – compared to actual Mauna Loa observations of 370 ppm. In 2016, however, he estimated that CO2 would be 424 ppm, whereas only 404 ppm has been observed.

Broecker also did not take other greenhouse gases into account in his model. However, as the warming impact from methanenitrous oxide, and halocarbons has been largely cancelled out by the overall cooling influence of aerosols since 1970, this does not make that large a difference (though estimates of aerosol forcings have large uncertainties).

As with Sawyer, Broecker used an equilibrium climate sensitivity of 2.4° C per doubling of CO2. Broecker assumed that the Earth instantly warms up to match atmospheric CO2, while modern models account for the lag between how quickly the atmosphere and oceans warm up. (The slower heat uptake by the oceans is often referred to as the “thermal inertia” of the climate system.)

 

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Wishful sinking: Disappearing islands, climate refugees and cosmopolitan experimentation

Carol Farbotko 

Introduction

Disappearing islands and climate refugees are signifiers that circulate with frequency in public discourse, yet the role that these representations play in the cultural politics of climate change has not been extensively examined. In particu- lar, low-lying islands are being described as ‘litmus tests’ for global climate change by cos- mopolitan environmental activists and in the media, a discourse which thus far has operated largely under the radar of critical analysis. The purpose of this paper is to explore how the legacy of the island laboratory enables the exer- cise and justification of cosmopolitan activism towards climate change that speaks in part through space. What follows is an exploration of the disappearing island in terms of cosmo- politan imaginative geographies of climate change. Drawing on narratives centred on the Pacific nation state of Tuvalu, I argue that islands imagined as laboratories appropriate the space of an already marginalised population; these are imaginings by cosmopolitans who demand, for various and at times conflicting reasons, that disappearing islands provide tangible manifes- tations of the statistical abstractions that domi- nate climate science. 

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