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Future of Climate

Increased concentrations of greenhouse gas will

•          increase the average temperature,

•          influence patterns and amounts of precipitation,

  • Increase in number, duration and intensity of tropical storms

•          reduce permafrost, ice and snow cover,

•          raise sea level

•          increase the acidity of the oceans.


According to the IPCC, the extent of climate change effects on individual regions will vary over time and with the ability of different societal and environmental systems to mitigate or adapt to change.  They predict that increases in global mean temperature of less than 1.8 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1 to 3 degrees Celsius) above 1990 levels will produce beneficial impacts in some regions and harmful ones in others. Heat waves will occur more frequently and will last longer.  We will see currently wet regions getting more rainfall and dry regions getting less although there will be exceptions.  These effects will persist for centuries even if CO2 emissions stop now.


One strategy to address projected climate change is to increase the earth’s capacity to absorb and store carbon. This is called biological carbon sequestration, or bio-sequestration. It can be done through forest protection, reforestation and use of bio char on land, and enhancement of carbon-absorbing plants such as sea grasses in marine ecosystems.  Other more radical geo-engineering strategies, often referred to as ‘geohacking,’ include focus on changing the Earth’s albedo, by deploying space-based solar mirrors, or by coating the ice caps in black dust, or by creating an ‘artificial volcano’ to mimic the cooling impacts of eruptions like that of Mt Pinatubo.


Whether such extreme actions are feasible, desirable, or politically defensible, people’s relationship to the climate is changing.  It is collective action that matters, what several billion people do.


  • Sustainable Innovation will become one of the largest global markets of the 21st century as the public’s awareness about the risks to the environment heightens.
  • Clean technologies will become the focus of the largest global industries as the public’s desire to create a more environmentally sustainable world grows in popularity.
  • Climate change will become a strategically important global trend to consumers, business and nations as threats to health, life, property and security grow more profound in the 21st century.
  • Global warming from carbon energy sources such as coal, gas and oil dominance as well as natural causes, will lead to increased threats of extreme weather changes such as glacial melting, shoreline flooding, widespread drought and drastic climate shifts.
  • Food production supplies will not keep pace with growing population demand especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America without new solutions to production and distribution.
  • A new collaboration with the totality of nations, citizens and corporations must be forged, to both protect global sustainability and prevent future ecologic destruction.
  • Global climate change will heighten future public health and safety risks.
  • Security and defence implications of climate change will emerge as one of the leading social and political issues of the 21st century.
  • The Green Corporation will become the gold standard adopted by business as the environmental management becomes a social responsibility issue that affects consumer purchasing.
  • Ecological disasters, on a scale not seen before, are likely as climate change becomes a global public policy issue.


An outlier outcome for the future of climate might be global cooling, as perturbations in the Earth’s climatic system push climate into a short cooling cycle.  Another outlier takes into account the belief that humans are remarkably creative and able to figure out how to do things that are not obviously possible and thus will find a way to mitigate the problems.



Climate change mitigation involves reducing emissions through various mechanisms.  Climate change adaptation means coping with the climate change we experience.  With mitigation, adaptation becomes easier; both are needed.

  • 20-20-20 – The EU claims that it will achieve the targets of 20% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels), raising EU energy consumption from renewable resources by 20% and improving the EU’s energy efficiency by 20% by 2020.
  • Qin Dahe, co-chair of the IPCC working group, said, “Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.  The other co-chair, Thomas Stocker said, “Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system.  Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gases.”

Observed and projected changes in global average temperature under three no-policy emissions scenarios. The shaded areas show the likely ranges while the lines show the central projections from a set of climate models. A wider range of model types shows outcomes from 2 to 11.5°F. Changes are relative to the 1960-1979 average. Source: USGCRP (2009)

  • Green Corporate Energy: The Next Industrial Revolution assembled business leaders, NGOs, policy-makers, and researchers to brainstorm transformational paths to green energy and a sustainable economy.  With energy a critical strategic issue for businesses and governments, more and more dialogues are exploring innovative approaches to reduction, resilience, adaptation, sustainability, and green energy innovations. 
  • Clean Technology is of increasing interest to venture capital. The number and variety of clean technologies both in market and in development are expanding, as market trends and economic forces support their adoption.  For example, one path-breaking UK project by GT Energy proposes drilling 3.2-kilometer-deep boreholes to tap geothermal energy to heat homes in Manchester.
  • The EU-ETS was revised in 2013 as the key tool for cutting industrial greenhouse gas emissions cost effectively.
  • A large freighter completed a voyage through the hazardous Arctic Northwest Passage for the first time in September 2013, showing the potential for cutting shipment times and costs as global warming opens new routes.

Potential Implications

  • Climate change affects the risk landscape for the insurance and reinsurance industries due to the increasing amount and fierceness of ecological disasters.
  • Famine will be increasingly likely in many parts of the world due to climate change, water scarcity and population growth.
  • Global warming could lower transportation costs for goods as new routes are opened when sea ice disappears.



Hodgkinson, D. The Conversation University of Western Australia (2013) Fixing climate change: the future isn’t what it used to be

Hodgkinson, D., The Conversation University of Western Australia (2013) International climate agreements? There must be a better way.

Hodgkinson, D., The Conversation University of Western Australia (2013) Could sectorial agreements solve climate change?

Science Daily (2013) Looking to the Past to Predict the Future of Climate Change

European Union, (2013) Climate Action

Hope, M., (2013) The Carbon Brief. Three graphs breaking down media coverage of the IPCC’s big report

Collins, N., (2013) The Telegraph. IPCC report: global warming is 'unequivocal'.

Institute for Global Futures, Climate Futures

Green Corporate Energy (2013): the next industrial revolution.

Lohas Online, (2010) Clean Technology: A Compelling Investment Opportunity

United States Environmental Protection Agency  (2012) Climate Change: Future Climate Change.

NASA. The current and future consequences of global change.

Future  2050-2059 timeline contents

BBC News (2013) Plan to heat Manchester homes with geothermal spring approved

Reuters (2013) Big freighter traverses Northwest Passage for 1st time




  • Getting nations to agree on what needs to be done and then getting them to do what has been agreed upon.  This is an issue which requires response on a planet-wide basis, not at nation-state level.  Up until today, the international framework has not worked.
  • Once nations have agreed, getting individual citizens in the developed world to cut back on consumption.
  • The need to cut back on population growth and how to do that.
  • Connecting bottom-up and top-down initiatives.
  • Feeding the world’s population with increasing climate issues.
  • Adapting to higher temperatures, flash floods in Europe, more storms, more rain in the north and much less in the south.


  • Innovation into renewable energy both in ways to generate it and in new forms of energy.
  • New forms of collaboration will extend to solving other large, complex problems in new ways.
  • Sustainable innovation will provide new employment opportunities and new markets.
  • CleanTech is a huge opportunity.
  • Potential that new routes will become available for transport (e.g. The Northwest Passage) which could cut transportation costs.
How do we ethically reduce population growth?
What legal framework will work to address climate change?
Is it too late? Is humanity doomed?
What new international structures can we build to address global problems?
Can we achieve more with a sector-based approach?
What good things might come from global warming and climate change? For whom?


Underpinning policy ideas