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Complexity, Climate Change and Catastrophe: What Are the Consequences?

23 April 2015
San Francesco - Cappella Guinigi
The full extent of losses resulting from the future impacts of climate change are still widely unknown. Tipping points, discontinuities and the acceleration of positive feedback loops may lead to outcomes that are both difficult to predict and uncertain. In this talk I will address some of the major challenges facing society when addressing the complexities of climate change. Future access to fresh water will be used as an example to illustrate the interaction and complexity between socio-economic-climate systems. This will be achieved by elucidating what impacts may result from increasing water scarcity on supply chains, production processes and the global economy. Our aim is to evaluate the likely economic impacts caused by future water scarcity drawing on the latest IPCC climate projections, economic and demographic changes and the effects of global trade on virtual water using input-output methods. In order to maintain sustainable water consumption and meet existing population and GDP growth projections there will need to be significant improvements in water use efficiency (water consumed per unit of GDP output per sector) recycling of grey water and a reduction in overall water consumption. Even if these targets are met it is still uncertain if this will avoid a material impact on future GDP estimates.
Kelly, Scott - Cambridge University - Cambridge