The European Commission has released its Climate Change Strategy -Is It A Good Plan?
The European Commission has issued a Climate Change Strategy which focuses on controls on the emissions of carbon dioxide to limit the human intervention in global warming. However, by incorrectly emphasizing carbon dioxide as the dominant human climate forcing with respect to climate impacts that affect society and the environment, the Plan will not provide the benefit that is expected.
A more appropriate climate change strategy needs to consider the diverse range of human and natural climate forcings, as identified in a 2005 USA National Research Council report. Moreover, if the goal is actually to require major changes in energy sources that should occur, irrespective of the effect on climate, the Commission should be straightforward in presenting this perspective.
“The European Commission presented ‘the most ambitious policy ever’ to fight climate change on Wednesday, challenging the world to follow Europe’s lead in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.”
However, this action by the European Commission perpetuates the narrow focus of climate mitigation on the human input of carbon dioxide ("to fight climate change"), since as is stated in the news article,
“…..fighting global warming [is at] the core of its strategy”,
"If this was adopted it would be by far the most ambitious policy ever -- not only in Europe but the world -- against climate change," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told a news conference.”
This Strategy, however, is naïve, if they really expect to significantly alter the human influence on those aspects of climate change and variability that impact society and the environment, based on the magnitudes of control on CO2 emissions that are proposed.
The 2005 National Research Council report entitled "Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: Expanding the Concept and Addressing Uncertainties" clearly documents that the European Commission is working from a significantly outdated perspective of climate change. An excerpt from this Report summarizes the new perspective,
“Despite all these advantages, the traditional global mean TOA radiative forcing concept has some important limitations, which have come increasingly to light over the past decade. The concept is inadequate for some forcing agents, such as absorbing aerosols and land-use changes, that may have regional climate impacts much greater than would be predicted from TOA radiative forcing. Also, it diagnoses only one measure of climate change—global mean surface temperature response—while offering little information on regional climate change or precipitation. These limitations can be addressed by expanding the radiative forcing concept and through the introduction of additional forcing metrics. In particular, the concept needs to be extended to account for (1) the vertical structure of radiative forcing, (2) regional variability in radiative forcing, and (3) nonradiative forcing.”
The technical terminology “TOA radiative forcing” means “top of the atmosphere radiative forcing” which when this forcing is positive, is “global warming”. The “global mean surface temperature response” is the climate variable that is used extensively in the literature and by policymakers to communicate on the magnitude of climate change.
As presented, based on the scientific evidence reported in the 2005 National Research Council report, the European Commission has clearly missed an opportunity to include an accurate perspective of climate change science in their policymaking for a Climate Change Strategy. If the real goal is a new energy policy independent of whether a climate response is significant or not, the use of climate as the vehicle to promote such important issues as energy independence, alternative energy sources, and energy efficiency is not needed and is misleading. Moreover, the Strategy will contiune to lead to unrealistic expectations that we can actually substantially alter climate impacts on society and the environment through the planned controls on CO2 emissions.