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Workshop 5

“Anthropogenic Climate Destabilization: A Worst-case Scenario”
Participant Statement

September 12–14, 2008 | Bellevue, Washington

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William H. Mansfield III

What are the three critical questions you would ask pertaining to “anthropogenic climate change: a worst-case scenario” – and why?

1. What areas of the world will be most seriously impacted by worst-case scenarios of human-induced climate change and what is likely to be the economic consequences there?

In order to address climate issues it is essential to know as precisely as possible where the most serious impacts will occur. Citing specific locations helps governments and individuals to identify themselves with the consequences and identify themselves more specifically with them. It also helps to determine what kinds of actions are required. Understanding the economic consequences also makes the project impact more real and immediate as most people more closely associate with financial rather than environmental impacts.

2. What special steps may be taken to mitigate and adapt to worst-case climate change scenarios?

It is likely that the very same steps needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change generally are the same needed to combat worst-case climate scenarios. However, if we can identify any mitigation or adaptation measures that should be given priority especially in addressing abrupt changes, it would be valuable to identify them because the consequences of abrupt change are so much more devastating. If the workshop could suggest some it would be helpful to policy-makers and, indeed, the public, as this would give a heightened sense of urgency to the actions needed.

3. What are the best ways to facilitate public understanding of the potential impacts of worst-case scenarios of climate change?

It is clear that to get needed concern and action on climate change and, especially, worse-case climate change, the public generally and legislators and policy-makers in particular will have to have a greater awareness and understanding of climate change issues. The worst-case scenarios will need specific attention because many people feel that discussing them is to discuss “doom and gloom” scenarios, and because they are extreme and frightening will put people off rather than inspire them to action. So, the communication approach to abrupt climate change scenarios should be considered carefully. We must try to ensure that the right people are informed – legislators, government decision-makers, the business community, academics, scientists, economists, and the like. Different approaches, concepts, and words may have to be used for different groups. If our work group can provide any guidance and advice on how to facilitate these communications needs, it would be a valuable contribution.