At a final press briefing, Sybil Seitzinger, executive director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program, which has been charting the great acceleration of environmental impacts, said: “I think we’re ready for a great acceleration of the next steps in our science.”
(The meeting also saw the release of a new report pointing to ways to address stresses on the global food system, summarized nicely by Justin Gillis on the Green Blog.)
That approach contrasts with the strategy tried, in vain, under two decades of international negotiations aimed at building a comprehensive and binding treaty, and, in the United States, a lost decade aimed at passing a “comprehensive” climate bill. Beddington’s stance reflects a broader shift away from “solving the climate crisis” toward managing climate risk, both by enhancing the capacity to withstand extreme conditions while working as hard as possible to stem emissions.
There are three key areas that are determined. Population growth is one. We are going to reach a further billion people by 2025…. We also know the distribution of that billion — about 500 million in Africa 500, about 500 million in Asia…. Changes in fertility will not affect it much.
The second trend is urbanization. There’s a massive trend towards people moving into cities in the developing world. And so for example those 500 million Africans are likely to be in 1,000 cities of 500,000 people each. Something similar in Asia except the cities are about a million. So those are two trends that are just not going to change. They’re going to be there for about the next 15 to 20 years.
The third change that’s happening is climate change. And because of the delays in the climate system, the greenhouse gases that are up there now are going to determine the climate for about 15-20 years ahead – even whatever happens in terms of the reduction of greenhouse gases, or indeed their expansion.