Climate Change Class Assignment

An increase in Earth’s global average surface temperature is associated with many other changes, from the melting of Arctic sea ice to the loss of coral reefs, which we have described and seen evidence for in the past few weeks. Article 2 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change adopts a long-term objective to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that avoids “dangerous anthropogenic interference” with the climate system. The notion of “dangerous interference” captures a basic intuition about avoiding danger that most people will share. But there is no shared definition of what constitutes dangerous interference. It will mean different things to different people and in different contexts. Even a single well-informed individual may have difficulty identifying an obvious or specific criterion for “dangerous interference”.

Identify three of the consequences of climate warming that you would classify as the most detrimental or dangerous. To remind yourself the broad array of possible impacts, you should consult your class notes, but you may also use outside resources and information. The Technical Summary from the IPCC Working Group on climate impacts will be sent to the writer later. The section starting on page 35 (TS.4 Current knowledge about future impacts) is most relevant.

For each of the three climate change consequences you choose, you should provide a brief explanation of why you consider it to be the most deserving of avoidance (i.e. the most “dangerous”). For this, you should consider as many factors as you can, including but not limited to:
1) How many people would be effected
2) The longevity and/or irreversibility of the change
3) How far in the future the effect will begin to be felt
4) The effects on non-human populations (i.e. ecosystems)
5) The financial cost of dealing with harms (e.g. erecting walls against rising sea

You should also consider the degree of scientific uncertainty surrounding the effect, or the likelihood of the change taking place if the climate continues to warm (see the Techincal Summary noted above). Obviously, there are no right or wrong answers to this assignment. But your opinions and answers do need to be thoughtful and well-informed.


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