Mitigating Climate Change risk

Climate Change and the arrival of Superintelligence are two existential risks that will increase progressively over decades rather than emerge within days. Climate Change risk mitigation strategies has been widely covered for over 30 years and therefore I will only make a reference to the most important agreement made recently on mitigating that risk. At the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. It sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C. Key elements of the Paris Agreement cover six areas as summarized by EC Climate Change (EC_Climate_Change, 2015). The Governments agreed the following actions:

Reduce Emissions by:

  • setting a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels;
  • aiming to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change;
  • agreeing on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries;
  • undertaking rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science.

Before and during the Paris conference, countries submitted comprehensive national climate action plans. These are not yet enough to keep global warming below 2°C, but the agreement traces the way to achieving this target.

Ensure Transparency and Global Stocktake by:

  • coming together every 5 years to set more ambitious targets as required by science;
  • reporting to each other and the public on how well they are doing to implement their targets;
  • tracking progress towards the long-term goal through a robust transparency and accountability system.

Promote Adaptation by:

  • strengthening societies’ ability to deal with the impacts of climate change;
  • providing continued and enhanced international support for adaptation to developing countries.

Minimize Loss and Damage by:

  • recognising the importance of averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change;
  • acknowledging the need to cooperate and enhance the understanding, action and support in different areas such as early warning systems, emergency preparedness and risk insurance.

Recognize the Role of cities, regions and local authorities by:

  • scaling up their efforts and support actions to reduce emissions;
  • building resilience and decreasing vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change;
  • upholding and promoting regional and international cooperation.

Support non-Party stakeholders

The agreement recognises the role of non-Party stakeholders in addressing climate change, including cities, other subnational authorities, civil society, the private sector and others.

  • The EU and other developed countries will continue to support climate action to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change impact in developing countries.
  • Other countries are encouraged to provide or continue to provide such support voluntarily.
  • Developed countries intend to continue their existing collective goal to mobilise USD 100 billion per year by 2020 and extend this until 2025. A new and higher goal will be set for after this period.
Can you put a price on mitigating climate change risk? Source:

Martin Rees proposes other solutions, which may not be that clean but much cheaper and acting very quickly. The ‘greenhouse warming’ could be counteracted by (for instance) putting reflecting aerosols in the upper atmosphere or even vast sunshades in space. It seems feasible to throw enough material into the stratosphere to change the world’s climate. Indeed, what is scary is that this might be within the resources of a single nation, or perhaps even a single corporation. The political problems of such geoengineering may be overwhelming. There could be unintended side effects. Moreover, the warming would return with a vengeance if the countermeasures were ever discontinued; and other consequences of rising CO2 (especially the deleterious effects of ocean acidification) would be unchecked. So, geoengineering would be an utter political nightmare: not all nations would want to adjust the thermostat the same way. Very elaborate climatic modelling would be needed in order to calculate the regional impacts of any artificial intervention. (Rees, 2014)

However, there are at least 100 various geoengineering techniques that would not damage the environment. One of the best examples is “an artificial tree” developed by Dr Klaus Lackner from Columbia University. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he says that: “With $10 million to $20 million worth of engineering R&D, we can get off the ground. My hope would be that we then would have a device that can take out a ton a day of carbon from the atmosphere. If you take out a ton a day, you would need 100 million air capture devices to take out all the C02 that we are putting into the atmosphere today. And I would argue that it would be a lot less than that because we would also be capturing carbon at the flue stack, and not making the C02 in the first place by developing solar and wind technologies” (Lackner, 2016). At this stage, Lackner’s device would cost about $30,000. If we need 100 million devices, the total cost would be about $30 trillion. That’s a lot – about 40% of the world’s annual GDP in 2016. So, the only problem of such a solution is their gigantic cost.