Shaping Our Common Climate Change Future

The UN climate conference kicks off in about a hundred days in Paris. Key climate change topics are already under discussion ahead of the meeting.

The scientific conference “Our Common Future under Climate Change" (CFCC), with over 2,200 participating scientists from nearly one hundred countries, took place from July 6th to 10th in Paris. The conference is considered the largest meeting of experts ahead of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In December 2015, a new agreement should be decided upon in Paris concerning binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Building on the results of the Fifth Assessment Report by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), key topics were addressed at the CFCC, presenting climate change in a broad context of global change. Prevention as well as adaptation options were discussed.

The conference was structured under the following four topic groups:
•    Latest knowledge on climate change:
Current knowledge stemming from both the natural and social sciences was compiled concerning observed changes in the climate system.
•    Landscapes of our common future:
Impact of future climate change scenarios for the near future as well as for the end of the 21st century were considered in and between various sectors and systems.
•    Answers to climate change challenges:
Both prevention and adaptation possibilities were discussed, particularly scientific and technological breakthroughs as well as barriers, conflicting objectives, additional benefits, risks and feedbacks.
•    Collective action and transformative solutions:

Transformative solutions were investigated from a sector-spanning perspective in regards to climate change to achieve integrated solutions.

Complete information is available under the conference abstracts and at the conference presentations site.

The Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS) was actively involved in the conference. The director of the center, Dr. Daniela Jacob, led the session “Multi-sectoral analysis of risks to climate change (hot spots) at 2 °C warming”. The effects on Europe and around the world of a 2°C or more global warming compared to the European and global pre-industrial temperature levels were discussed during the session. Many Mediterranean regions are already suffering from water stress, something that is extremely problematic for small islands. One multi-sectoral analysis presented in the session showed that the projected lower precipitation and higher temperatures are having a severe negative impact on the local water resources on Crete. Possible adaptation measures concerning water scarcity must contain “soft” measures (e.g., behavioural changes), as well as investments in infrastructure to ensure that sufficient water is made reliably available in the future.

In her keynote presentation, Daniela Jacob presented insights from the European research project IMPACT2C. She also discussed important new concepts from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report. As lead author of the chapter on Europe in the second volume of the IPCC report, she presented important results concerning the effects of climate change on various sectors in Europe.

GERICS offers assistance for reading the three volumes of the Fifth Assessment Report: "IPCC Made Easy”. The information sheet guides readers through selected original documents from the latest global climate report, offering the audience a closer look at the publication without interpretation or evaluation.

A few aspects* of the "IPCC Made Easy" are presented below, which point out particular concerns for Europe as well as multi-sector information, co-benefits, and inadvertent consequences of adaptation and climate protection. The pertinent “Confidence Statement” ** reflects the degree of understanding and scientific agreement on the discussed phenomenon.

•    Climate projections show clear increases in high temperature extremes [high confidence], meteorological droughts [medium confidence], severe precipitation events [high confidence] with regional differences across Europe, small or no changes in extreme wind velocities [low confidence]. One exception is the increase in extreme wind velocities in winter over central and northern Europe [medium confidence].
•    Climate change increases the danger of system failures throughout Europe, triggered by extreme weather or climate events. This can affect many sectors simultaneously [medium confidence].
•    Extreme weather events substantially affect Europe today in several sectors of the economy [high confidence] and present negative social and health consequences [high confidence]. There is little indication that resilience to heat waves and fires has improved [medium confidence]. Some countries have improved their flood protection due to significant flood events.
•    There is a high capacity for adjustment in Europe compared to other regions on the planet, but considerable regional differences exist in climate change impacts and the ability to react.
•    The development of adaptation strategies and the prioritization of options takes place from the European to the local levels. There is, however, only limited systematic information on the current implementation and effectiveness of adaptation strategies or measures.
•    There are increasing visible signs for opportunities and inadvertent consequences stemming from political decisions, strategies and measures, which aim at adaptation and/or emission reductions.

One outcome of the CFCC conference in Paris is the Scientific Committee Outcome Statement, which summarizes the scientific basis for possible action and points out problem/solution areas, particularly regarding the COP21. One aspect reported is that an ambitious reduction in greenhouse gases, which limits the global warming to under 2°C in comparison to pre-industrial standards, is economically feasible. This, however, requires an array of measures, including investments in research, development and technology transfer as well as abandoning fossil fuel subsidies and systematic coal pricing. For economical abatement paths, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced until the year 2050 by 40-70% of today's levels. Investing in climate protection and adaptation can have wide-ranging positive side-effects, known as "co-benefits”, which also provide protection from current climate variations and lower the damaging effects of air and water pollution, thus promoting sustainable development.

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