Introduction

The Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) formulated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 represented the first major international attempt to address the problem of anthropogenic climate change. Following a series of negotiations, the signatories of FCCC agreed in December 1997 in Kyoto to the first concrete mechanisms and targets for limiting greenhouse gas emissions. This has introduced a new quality into climate management and policy, with important implications for climate research (Hasselmann, 1997).

Despite the agreement on general goals and targets in Kyoto, many questions on the technical details of implementation still need to be resolved (cf. Grubb, 1999). There exist also diverse and conflicting interests of strong stakeholders, so that ratification of the Kyoto protocol by a sufficient number of nations for the agreement to come into force is still outstanding. Furthermore, it is not yet widely appreciated that the Kyoto agreement, even if implemented, can represent only a very small first step toward significantly larger reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the future, if a major climate warming in the present and following centuries is to be averted. In this situation of uncertainty, combined with a widespread realization that we cannot afford to delay action, it is incumbent on the climate research community to provide more accurate projections of the climate change anticipated for various greenhouse gas emissions scenarios and to cooperate with other disciplines in developing more realistic assessments of the impact of climate change on the environment and human living conditions. On a still broader interdisciplinary level, a better understanding is needed of the many complex interrelations between climate change, the global socioeconomic system, and policy measures in a global multiactor framework.

The recent years have witnessed a strong development of climate research to a level where realistic climate models can now provide reasonably credible predictions of future climate change for given scenarios of greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions (Houghton et ah, 1996). However, interdisciplinary research on the interactions between climate and the socioeconomic system, although essential for the scientific underpinning of climate policy in the post-Kyoto era, has lagged behind this development and is today still in its infancy. In the following, some of the many open issues encountered in this field are outlined and illustrated with some simple model simulations. It is shown that there exists a fascinating spectrum of first-order problems that urgently need to be addressed, and that can still be studied today at the exploratory level of an emerging new discipline with relatively simple models and concepts. It is hoped that the examples given here will motivate other scientists to engage in similar integrated assessment studies.

0 0

Post a comment