American Meteorological Society's Environmental Science Seminar Series
Home | Education | Career Center | Meetings | Member Services | News | Policy Program | Publications | Students
American Meteorological Society and the Heinz Center
Assessing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Policies: New Science Tools in the Service of Policy and Negotiations
What is the Climate-Rapid Overview And Decision Support Simulator (C-ROADS) and what was the motivation for its development? More importantly, how is this simulator intended to be used to assess the success or failure of various greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction policies, nationally and internationally, alone or in combination, to limit climate change? Is the tool scientifically robust? Who is its intended user? Are there examples of the use of C-ROADS to evaluate current legislative proposals to reduce GHG emissions? What was the outcome of those simulations?
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
New Time - 12:30 - 2:30 pm
Russell Senate Office Building, Room 325
Buffet Reception Following
Dr. Anthony Socci, Senior Science and Communication Fellow, American Meteorological Society
Introductory Remarks: The Honorable Senator John F. Kerry (MA)
Dr. John D. Sterman, Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management and Director of the MIT System Dynamics Group, MIT Sloan School of Management, Cambridge, MA
Dr. Robert W. Corell, Vice-President of Programs, The H. John Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, Washington, DC
As negotiations towards a post-Kyoto agreement on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions intensify, there is a pressing need for flexible, user-friendly analytical tools to quickly yet reliably assess the impacts of the rapidly evolving policy proposals for emissions of greenhouse gases and their impact on the global climate. Such tools would enable negotiators, policymakers and other stakeholders, including the general public, to understand the relationships among proposals for emissions reductions, concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere, and the resulting changes in climate.
New Tools for Assessing GHG Reduction Policies
The new Climate-Rapid Overview And Decision Support Simulator (C-ROADS) developed by MIT, the Sustainability Institute, and Ventana Systems, in partnership with the Heinz Center, is just such a tool. C-ROADS is a user-friendly, interactive computer model of the climate system consistent with the best available science, data and observations.
An international scientific review panel, headed by Dr. Robert Watson, former chair of the IPCC, finds that the C-ROADS model “reproduces the response properties of state-of- the-art three dimensional climate models very well” and concludes “Given the model’s capabilities and its close alignment with a range of scenarios published in the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC we support its widespread use among policy makers and the general public.”
Research conducted at MIT and elsewhere suggests that even highly trained experts find it difficult to understand the behavior of complex dynamic systems such as the climate, in the absence of such analytical tools. Consequently, it is difficult for people to evaluate whether a particular set of emissions policies would be sufficient to realize a given goal for atmospheric CO2 concentrations and/or global mean surface temperature.
Furthermore, it is difficult for policymakers to evaluate the likely impact of emissions reduction proposals now being offered by parties to the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) process. These proposals are often framed in diverse ways that make it difficult to compare them, for example, as reductions in emissions relative to different reference years; as reductions in emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product; as changes in emissions per capita. Such heterogeneity makes it difficult to aggregate national emissions reduction proposals into a global emissions trajectory. In short, decision makers and the public often lack the tools and training to assess whether proposed policies are sufficient to mitigate the risks of climate change.
Moreover, policy proposals often change rapidly. To be useful, model-based assessment tools must provide reliable analytical results quickly, so that policymakers can see the impacts of proposals, investigate the sensitivity of results to uncertainties, and explore additional policy options. C-ROADS runs quickly, enabling decision makers and others to explore the full range of greenhouse gas emissions trajectories sufficient to limit the risks of “dangerous anthropogenic interference” in the climate system. Users can quickly implement GHG emissions policies for each major nation and regional bloc, capturing the wide range of different policy proposals now being discussed. The model then simulates the impact of the resulting total global emissions on atmospheric GHG concentrations, globally-averaged surface temperature, and other climate impacts, displaying the results immediately.
To illustrate the utility of the C-ROADS model to inform policy makers, opinion leaders, and the general public about progress within the UNFCCC negotiations leading up to COP-15 (Copenhagen, Nov-Dec 2009) the C-ROADS simulator was used to analyze the impacts of the various GHG emissions reduction proposals currently offered by the major emitter nations and regional blocs.
Initial results suggest that global GHG emissions resulting from these proposals even if fully implemented would not stabilize atmospheric GHG concentrations. Current GHG emissions reduction proposals result in atmospheric CO2 concentrations growing to more than 700 ppm by 2100, compared to current levels of approximately 385 ppm and preindustrial levels of approximately 280 ppm, with the globally-averaged surface temperature rising by approximately 4°C above preindustrial levels by 2100.
Dr. John D. Sterman is the Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Professor of Engineering Systems and Director of MIT's System Dynamics Group. He is an expert on nonlinear dynamics particularly as applied in economic and socio-technical systems including energy, the environment and climate policy.
Prof. Sterman's research centers on improving managerial decision making in complex systems. He has pioneered the development of "management flight simulators" of economic, environmental, and organizational systems. These flight simulators are now used by corporations and universities around the world. His recent research includes studies assessing public understanding of global climate change, the development of management flight simulators to assist climate policy design, and the development of markets for alternative fuel vehicles that are sustainable not only ecologically but economically.
Prof. Sterman has twice been awarded the Jay W. Forrester Prize for the best published work in system dynamics, the top honor in the field, won a 2005 IBM Faculty Award, won the 2001 Accenture Award for the best paper of the year published in the California Management Review (with Nelson Repenning), has six times won awards for teaching excellence from the students of MIT and the Sloan School, and was named one of the Sloan School's "Outstanding Faculty" by the Business Week Guide to the Best Business Schools. His work on management flight simulators was selected as one of the top 50 papers published in the first 50 years of the journal Management Science. He has been featured on public television's News Hour, National Public Radio's Marketplace, CBC television, Fortune, the Financial Times, Business Week, and other newspapers and journals for his research work and innovative use of interactive simulations in management education and corporate problem solving. Dr. Sterman received his BA degree at Dartmouth College and his Ph.D. at MIT. He has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1982. Prof. Sterman is the author of over 150 scholarly papers, chapters in edited volumes, technical reports and management flight simulators, and two books, including the award-winning textbook Business Dynamics.
Dr. Robert W. Corell, Vice President of Programs for The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment’s Global Change Director is also a Council Member for the Global Energy Assessment and a Senior Policy Fellow at the Policy Program of the American Meteorological Society. Dr. Corell also shared in the Nobel Peace Prize Award in 2007 for his extensive work with the IPCC assessments. In 2005, he completed an appointment as a Senior Research Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs of the Kennedy School for Government at Harvard University.
Dr. Corell is actively engaged in research concerned with both the science of global change and with the interface between science and public policy, particularly research activities that are focused on global and regional climate change and related environmental issues. He currently chairs an international initiative, the overall goal of which is to strengthening the negotiating framework intended to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, central to which is the development and use of analytical tools that employ real-time climate simulations. Dr. Corell also chairs the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment as well as an 18-country international planning effort to outline the major Arctic-region research challenges for the decade or so ahead. He recently led an international strategic planning group that developed strategies and programs designed to merge science, technology and innovation in the service of sustainable development.
Prior to January 2000, he was Assistant Director for Geosciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF) where he had oversight for the Atmospheric, Earth, and Ocean Sciences, NSF’s Polar Programs, and NSF’s Global Change Research Program. While at NSF, Dr. Corell also served as the Chair of the President’s National Science and Technology Council’s committee that has oversight of the U.S. Global Change Research Program and he was chair of the international committee of government agencies funding global change research.
He has also served as chair and principal U.S. delegate to many international bodies with interest in and responsibilities for climate and global change research programs. Prior to joining the NSF in 1987, he was a Professor and academic administrator at the University of New Hampshire.
Dr. Corell is an oceanographer and engineer by background and training, having received Ph.D., M.S. and B.S. degrees at Case Western Reserve University and MIT. He has also held appointments at the Woods Hole Institution of Oceanography, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the University of Washington, and Case Western Reserve University.
Dr. Corell is the author or co-author of nearly 20 peer-reviewed research publications, reports, books and book chapters. He remarks have also appeared in mainstream and public media outlets such as National Public Radio, Vanity Fair, Golf Digest, CBS News’ 60 Minutes, and numerous others.
This briefing series is open to the public and does not require a reservation.
The Next Seminar is tentatively scheduled for the late April, 2009. Topic TBD
Please see our web site for briefing summaries, presentations and future events at: http://www.ametsoc.org/seminar
For more information please contact:
Anthony D. Socci, Ph.D.
Tel. (202) 737-9006, ext. 412