Select Committee on Economic Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-85)

Dr Chris Hope

18 JANUARY 2005

  Q80Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: And are such models being worked on?

  Dr Hope: Yes, at all levels of detail from the rather simple functions of integrated assessment models like PAGE to much more detailed models which try and look at the whole of the energy economy and optimise that under different conditions. That side of the problem is being worked on probably with at least as much effort as is being put into trying to make estimates of damage.

  Q81Chairman: Sir John said that there were about 25 models. Do you confirm that that figure is about right?

  Dr Hope: He was probably talking about the very large scientific models, the general circulation models. The integrated assessment model is a slightly different beast but I would say there are probably about 20 of those as well.

  Q82Chairman: Does the IPCC rely upon some models rather than others? What do they use?

  Dr Hope: They try, when looking at integrated assessment models, to take the same kind of approach as they do with the scientific and economic information they get, which is to invite in as many people as they can who have something sensible to say. The schools of modelling tend to be a group of people in the United States with Bill Nordhaus and Hadi Dowlatabadi, who build these kinds of models, which tend to be more of the optimising models, in the United States. There is a school of modelling which occurs in Europe—Richard Tol in Hamburg, there is the PAGE model here in the UK, and there are models that come out of Japan. All of those have been incorporated into the IPCC.

  Q83Lord Sheldon: The basic problem seems to be that of population and damage to population. I imagine that is by far the largest important element that you take into account and have to account for. Which are the biggest population problems that you have seen? We know that Bangladesh is an obvious one. What are the others? Can you give us some indication? Indonesia is one. What are the other ones that worry you most?

  Dr Hope: It certainly looks as though over probably the next 50-100 years the major impacts of climate change, the most severe ones, will be likely to be from sea level rise. Sea levels rise because the oceans expand and also because you maybe get a melting of ice which leads to sea level rise. We might be talking about a sea level rise of a metre or so. Therefore, the most vulnerable populations are likely to be the ones that are in the low-lying areas and that is why Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable. The other populations that are likely to be at risk are in areas where you are already at the margin of liveability. The temperature is so hot and the air is so dry that it is almost impossible to live there and grow crops or have livestock. Those areas are the ones that are likely to be hit if the temperature rises by two to five degrees and if the rainfall patterns are altered. That would be African populations typically. In the integrated assessment models, when you look at the different regions, by far the biggest impacts (both in absolute terms and also as a percentage of GDP) occur in Asia, in Africa and Latin America tends to be the third. The impacts in the developed world often are under one per cent of GDP by 2100. The impacts in Asia could be well over 10 per cent of GDP and maybe up to 20 per cent of GDP or more if we do not take some serious steps to cut back the emissions and therefore lower climate change.

  Q84Lord Sheldon: You mentioned Latin America which rather surprised me.

  Dr Hope: Yes, areas of Latin America typically that are the border areas where people are trying to live on the margins. They are the ones that would tend to be affected, mainly because the adaptive capacity is lower there. You can assume that in developed countries, such as Europe and North America and other parts of the OECD, if we were to have, say, two or three degrees centigrade temperature rise, we would be able to adapt to it fairly well, but that scale of temperature rise would be almost impossible to adapt to in Asia, in Africa and in parts of Latin America.

  Q85Lord Sheldon: What parts of Latin America are you thinking of?

  Dr Hope: It tends to be areas of Brazil and Central America, areas which are already on the margins of liveability, and vunreable to extreme climate events.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. We are most grateful to you for coming along and answering our questions. We have all learned a lot from it.

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