COP22 Loss & Damage Panel

I attended a panel presentation and discussion on the role of loss and damage at the same time as negotiators were discussing whether and how this topic should be addressed by COP agreements 

Quantitative Scientific Evidence for Loss and Damage

November 15, 2016

COP22 Loss & Damage Panel

I attended a panel presentation and discussion on the role of loss and damage at the same time as negotiators were discussing whether and how this topic should be addressed by COP agreements. "Loss and damage" refers to adverse climate effects that people cannot adapt to or cope with.

Jen FownesJen Fownes, ILR School, MS '17, is a member of Cornell's COP22 delegation

The first speaker, Lavanya Rajamani (International Environmental Law), described the legal treatment of loss and damage, which is currently included in the Paris Agreements under Article 8. One contention around this issue has been whether COP agreements should specify compensation. While scientific evidence shows that greenhouse gas emissions have been causing climate change and associated impacts, it is difficult to prove causality between one or more country’s emissions and loss and damage from specific extreme weather events. In addition, the wording in past and current UNFCCC documents is vague on how exactly to measure completion of a country’s obligation to reduce emissions.

The next two speakers summarized the status of scientific evidence for linking past emissions and current or future loss and damage due to anthropogenic climate change. Jan S. Fuglestvedt (Research Director, CICERO) described how to calculate the historic greenhouse gas emissions for one or more specific countries. He emphasized that these calculations are heavily influenced by our values and moral decisions: Over what time period should emissions be considered? Should we hold countries accountable for emissions before we knew of the negative consequences? Which emissions should be included? Then Friederike E. L. Otto (Senior Researcher, ECI, University of Oxford) discussed how to conceptually link these country emissions to loss and damage from changes in climate and weather. Climate change will increase the frequency of extreme weather events, but cannot be linked to single events. This is useful for recognizing harm, assessing future risks, and informing the conversation on moral responsibility for correcting actions.

Finally, Saleemul Hug (Director ICCAD, Bangladesh) discussed the ways in which Bangladesh has responded to the climate change impacts its people are already facing: drought, cyclones, and sea-level rise. As climate change will bring new types of extreme events that are not effectively addressed by traditional approaches and adaption plans, he emphasized the need for new approaches.

Overall, the contribution of individual countries to climate change and risks of extreme weather can be estimated through models and emissions data, but this does not indicate that any international legal action will be taken as a result. Instead, the speakers urged a collaborative and forward-thinking approach to the human impacts of extreme weather, grounded in scientific estimates of responsibility.

Save