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Climate Change in the 21st Century

Climate Change in the 21st Century

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Climate Change in the 21st Century
    Book Description:

    Public and media interest in the climate change issue has increased exponentially in recent years. Climate change, or "global warming," is a complex problem with far-reaching social and economic impacts. Climate Change in the 21st Century brings together all the major aspects of global warming to give a state of the art description of our collective understanding of this phenomenon and what can be done to counteract it on both the local and global scale. Stewart Cohen and Melissa Waddell explain and clarify the different ways of approaching the study of climate change and the fundamental ideas behind them. From a history of climate change research to current attempts to mitigate its impact such as the Kyoto Protocol and carbon trading, they explore key ideas from many fields of study, outlining the environmental and human dimensions of global warming. Climate Change in the 21st Century goes beyond climate modeling to investigate interdisciplinary attempts to measure and forecast the complex impacts of future climate change on communities, how we assess their vulnerability, and how we plan to adapt our society. The book explores the impact of climate change on different ecosystems as well as what the social and economic understanding of this phenomenon can tell us; it also links discussions of climate change with the global discourse of sustainable development. Climate Change in the 21st Century provides a comprehensive, understandable, but academically informed introduction to the world's biggest challenge for both students and concerned citizens.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8129-6
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Stewart J. Cohen
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Stewart J. Cohen and Melissa W. Waddell
  6. Websites
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxi-2)
  8. 1 The Many Dimensions of Climate Change in the Twenty-first Century
    (pp. 3-9)

    Is the world getting warmer? Is this warming a result of human activities? Could this human-induced global warming lead to dangerous interference with the atmosphere? If the answer to these questions is yes, then what is the best way to respond? These questions are complex. Indeed, there are many related questions that confound us and attract our attention to the inadvertent effects of human activity on the world’s climate. What forces are driving human development to affect the atmosphere in this way? How will these developments evolve in the coming decades? Is there a single dangerous level of warming for...

  9. 2 The History of Climate Change Research from the 1820s
    (pp. 10-33)

    It is common knowledge today that the composition of the atmosphere is changing. Concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and other greenhouse gases (GHGS) have increased as a result of human activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels for industry, transportation, and basic energy needs and the alteration of landscapes for food and timber production or mining. The discovery of the increasing trend in GHG concentrations was a relatively recent event, having been initially documented in 1960 by Charles Keeling at his observatory in Mauna Loa, in Hawaii (Keeling 1960, cited in Weart 2004). However,...

  10. 3 The Atmospheric Science Aspects of Climate Change
    (pp. 34-82)

    This chapter begins with basic information about climate systems and the carbon cycle and then moves on to discuss how we can see early signals of a particular scenario developing in observed climate patterns and trends. This is followed by a discussion of long-term and shortterm signal detection.

    What methods are used to detect early signals of human-induced change in observed recent climate patterns and trends? Short-term signal detection, which looks at the trends of temperature and rainfall over several years to decades, seeks to answer whether humans are affecting the climate today or whether we are still in essentially...

  11. 4 Impact and Adaptation Assessment Frameworks
    (pp. 83-101)

    In chapter 3 we saw how atmospheric science provides a picture of past climate trends and future scenarios of human-induced climate change. This information is important because it provides a context for studying the range of climate conditions encountered by past and present societies and for trying to understand how different the future climate may become. But if we want to understand the implications of this change for ecosystems and societies of the future, climate information alone is insufficient. We need to use other forms of knowledge in order to construct a clearer picture of what climate change may mean...

  12. 5 Ecosystem Processes and Climate Change
    (pp. 102-134)

    Climate change is projected to have significant implications for ecosystems ranging from changes in ecosystem function to changes in commercial enterprises in agriculture and forestry. In addition, the potential for carbon sequestration, or the management of biological and geological reservoirs for increased storage of carbon, as a policy response has created a growing demand for information on CO2enrichment of vegetation and its direct effects on plant growth.

    As was the case in chapter 3, the approach we take for this topic is from a generalist’s perspective, opening a window on the study of biology, which is an important component...

  13. 6 The Economic Aspects of Climate Change
    (pp. 135-175)

    In chapter 5, we addressed a range of potential implications of climate change for climate-sensitive natural resources. The biologist’s perspective was important because we need to understand the methodological challenges in determining impacts on agriculture and ecosystems. In this chapter, we shift our focus to the economic aspects of climate change impacts. As was the case in earlier chapters, we are not specialists in this field of study, so we approach this topic from a generalist’s perspective. Our purpose here is to try to understand this component of the climate change damage report.

    We begin by considering some of the...

  14. 7 The Social Aspects of Climate Change Impacts
    (pp. 176-209)

    In this chapter, we address the social aspects of climate change. We begin by considering some key questions and problems arising out of the social dimensions of climate change, and we try to answer the question, why is all of this important? As was the case in earlier chapters, our approach here is to explore the social sciences from a generalist’s perspective. In so doing, we will encounter a new language that describes key processes that may be of interest to us as we attempt to connect global atmospheric and biospheric changes and potential economic implications with human decision making....

  15. 8 Mitigation Responses to Climate Change: Overview of the Process
    (pp. 210-234)

    Overall, the narrative that we have described in previous chapters has the following highlights:

    GHG emissions have increased primarily because of fossil fuel burning and land use change.

    Temperatures have increased, but not in a linear trend, meaning that there is still a mixture of natural and anthropogenic forces influencing climate patterns.

    Uncertainty continues to influence what atmospheric scientists can say about future climate change, especially regarding regional changes in precipitation.

    Uncertainties are associated with projections of GHG emissions, since they depend on future changes in development and associated economic and political activities.

    Impacts on ecosystems are expected, and some...

  16. 9 Mitigation Responses to Climate Change: Trading and Investment Mechanisms
    (pp. 235-269)

    Chapter 8 introduced the various mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol. In this chapter, we look at them in more detail. In addition, we shall also explore carbon sequestration (or carbon sinks) as a measure for reducing GHG emissions that may attract interest within the Kyoto mechanisms. Even though there has been a tremendous amount of negotiation activity specifically around credits sinks for carbon, the application of those credits as a policy tool will take place through one of the trading and investment mechanisms, because of the financial incentives involved. Here we discuss some of the challenges of monitoring carbon sinks...

  17. 10 Integrated Assessments of Climate Change
    (pp. 270-303)

    In this chapter, we turn our attention to a family of research methods known as integrated assessment methods. This topic is different from other topics discussed in this book because it focuses more on a method than on a specific aspect of the climate change issue. Integrated assessments have helped to define and even redefine the climate change issue, bringing it closer to some of the broader issues of global change and sustainability.

    This chapter includes discussions of both modelling and participatory approaches. We will illustrate how integrated assessment models, or IAMS, are constructed and applied by exploring three different...

  18. 11 Context: Climate Change and Other Global Environmental Problems
    (pp. 304-328)

    One of the important themes about human-induced climate change in this book is that research, dialogue, and policy should consider the larger context of other challenges that face our world. It was no accident that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was signed at the 1992 Earth Summit, an event that was organized to address several major global challenges. Desertification, biodiversity, climate change, and sustainable development are all connected (see figure 9.12). Research and action in one of these areas are affected by, and can influence, the others.

    Since 1992, progress on these various challenges has been...

  19. 12 Conclusion
    (pp. 329-338)

    With this chapter, we now reach the conclusion of our tour through the many dimensions of human-induced climate change. This is a complex story of biophysical systems being affected by human activities and creating a phenomenon that is commonly known as global warming. As we have seen, the global-warming story is being weaved from a combination of theories, observations, scenarios, and arguments, many of which remain contentious. Despite the uncertainties, however, there is consensus on some key aspects.

    First, the chemistry of the atmosphere is being altered by human activities. There is no doubt that atmospheric concentrations of CO₂, CH₄,...

  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 339-372)
  21. Index
    (pp. 373-379)