Spring 2018: Introduction to Mitigation and Adaptation Studies

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Introduction to Mitigation and Adaptation Studies

Course: IDS/BIOL/OEAS 466W; BIOL/OEAS 566 (three credits)
CRNs: 32181, 31655, 31049, 31656, 32252
Course title: Introduction to Mitigation and Adaptation Studies
Instructors: Dr. Hans-Peter Plag and Dr. Tatyana Lobova
Term: Spring 2018
Time: Mondays and Wednesday, 3:00-4:14 PM
Location: Oceanography Bldg 0202

All Weekly Question Sets

Please, submit the answers by e-mail to the two instructors. Note that your answers to the questions should be concise and in a scientific writing style. Please, include your name at the top and the questions before each answer. The answers have to cite the sources consulted in writing the answer and a list of references. Citations and Reference have to follow the documentation style defined by the Council of Scientific Editors, known as the CSE style. See SSF-Guide or the WISC page for more information on the CSE style. Examples of correct references can be found here.

Questions marked with "GRAD" are to be answered only by students in the 500-level class.

Question Set 1

  1. Why was the Holocene a “safe operating space for humanity” (SOSH)? Describe in which aspects the Holocene was different, and favorable to humanity, from other geological epochs.
  2. What, in your opinion, is the key circumstance that allowed humanity in the last century to grow as fast as it did and push the planet outside of the Holocene?
  3. What, in your opinion, are the most likely consequences of leaving the Holocene and transitioning into a new epoch?
  4. GRAD - Explain why adaptation to climate change is a super-wicked problem.

Question Set 2

You can answer most of the questions for this week based on the readings for class 2.

  1. How is the Anthropocene defined in literature? What are the main characteristics of the Anthropocene?
  2. What, in your assessment, are the key drivers for the changes during the last 200 years and, in particular, the last 70 year?
  3. What are the two global boundaries of the “safe operating space for humanity” (SOSH) that humanity has already crossed and what are potential consequences of crossing these boundaries?
  4. GRAD: Do the definitions of the Anthropocene capture the main differences between this new "epoch" and other geological epochs?

Question Set 3

  1. How is the current loss of biodiversity different from any previous extinction? List all possible characteristics.
  2. Summarize the main argument and concern in Barnosky et al. (2012).
  3. What are the current pitfalls in our conservation efforts?
  4. GRAD: What is the main message of Hassan et al. (2005)?

Question Set 4

  1. Explain in a system-of-systems framework the nature of feedback loops and thresholds.
  2. Compare recent climate change (last 100 years) to pre-industrial variability. What are the main differences?
  3. Which of the nine global boundaries of the "safe operating space for humanity" discussed in Rockström and Klum (2015) have been crossed most significantly and how is the crossing of these boundaries interdependent?
  4. GRAD: Most of the additional energy stored in the Earth system is stored in the Ocean (IUCN, 2016; Cheng et al., 2016). What does this tell us about the extent of global warming an our ability to mitigate global warming?

Question Set 5

  1. To what extent has humanity during the Holocene impacted the Earth's life-support system and is there a fundamental difference in what is taking place over the last 100 years?
  2. Explain the scenario-based approach to the exploration of possible future used by, for example, Carpenter et al. (2005).
  3. Comparing Figure 1 in Lenton and Schellnhuber (2007) (see e.g. http://www.nature.com/climate/2007/0712/fig_tab/climate.2007.65_F1.html for the figure, or https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/3487lenton.pdf for the figure, which is on slide 6 plus additional information) to the discussion of rapid changes over the last 10 years provided in previous classes, which of the thresholds have already been crossed, or are likely to be crossed, much earlier than anticipated by Lenton and Schellnhuber (2007)? It may be helpful for you to read through Richard Blaustein's (2015) comment on "Predicting Tipping Points" available at http://www.worldpolicy.org/journal/spring2015/tipping-points.
  4. GRAD: Is the IPCC comprehensively considering all drivers of climate change? How is this reflected in the assessment reports?

Question Set 6

  1. The syndrome: What are the largest changes caused by humans in the last 100 years in the chemistry of the atmosphere and ocean and how did these changes impact the energy balance of the earth system? Be quantitative.
  2. The diagnosis: Explain the importance of flows in the Earth's life support system and the impact of the current mainstream model for economy on these flows. To what extent depends the current economy on changing the flows and how is this impacting the Earth's life-support system?
  3. The prognosis: What are the main hazards/developments that could cause global catastrophes and how are they related to changes in the Earth's life-support system caused by humans in the last 100 years?
  4. The therapy: What would be a crucial step towards sustainable development as defined by Griggs et al., 2013. Are the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations facilitating this step?
  5. GRAD: Discuss the relationship between the carrying capacity of a system and the development of populations of human and non-human animals.

Question Set 7

  1. Based on Kremen et al. (2007), discuss how land-use change affect pollinator communities? Provide a detailed answer.
  2. To what extent is the current mass extinction exceeding pre-human extinction rates? Use Pimm et al. (2014).
  3. Based on Doncaster et al. (2016), are there early warning signs indicating a significant change in the Earth's life-support system?
  4. GRAD: What are the consequences of Rothman's (2017) assessment?

Question Set 8

  1. What are the main vulnerabilities to sea level rise of infrastructure and the built environment as identified in the CCRA 2017 compiled by the U.K. Committee on Climate change? Provide a list of the vulnerabilities (not the risk) and a brief summary for each point you include in the list.
  2. Summarize the core challenges of climate change and sea level rise for public health.
  3. Give two examples of injustice caused by climate change and/or sea level rise, one on local scale (Paolisso et al., 2012) and one on global scale (Looi, 2016).
  4. GRAD: Based on the Zillow study (see Dvorsky, 2016) and Hallegatte et al. (2013), describe two major risks of sea level rise that could cause economic regression or a major economy crisis.

Question Set 9

  1. Discuss the potential implications of foreseeability of the increasing damage of climate change for those who are causing climate change.
  2. Based on Epstein (2008) discuss how models can help to inform decision making.
  3. Based on Constanza et al. (2013), describe how the non-human environment (often denoted as "nature") and its wealth are accounted for in the current mainstream model of economy.
  4. GRAD: Comment on the consequences of the definition of sustainable development given by Griggs et al. (2013) for economy and compare this to the concept of Greer (2011).

Question Set 10

  1. What do you know about cognitive biases and how do you think they impact our decision making? Give examples.
  2. We do not expect you to read the book on fast and slow thinking by Kahnemann (2011), although this would be very good for you. However, have a look at the summary at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking,_Fast_and_Slow. Then provide two examples of decisions based on fast and slow thinking and comment on the quality of the decisions made.
  3. Apply the Kahneman et al. (2011) methodology to reduce the impact of cognitive biases to a recommendation you have recently heard of, e.g. related to the discussions on climate change, terrorism, or the discussion on health insurance in the U.S.
  4. GRAD: Based on Glantz and Kelman (2013), explain the difference between “Decision making under uncertainty” and “Decision making under Foreseeability.” Make sure that you properly distinguish between uncertainty and foresight.

Question Set 11

  1. Explain in detail the difference between the classical concept of “resilience” and the new concept of “antifragility”. What are main characteristics of a resilient and an antifragile community? Provide examples of a resilient system and one that is antifragile.
  2. Explain the concept of “paradigm” and give an example of a paradigm that may not be applicable under climate change.
  3. To what extent are current options for adaptation to climate change and sea level rise antifragile?
  4. GRAD: tbd

Question Set 12

  1. Considering the normative ethical principle of a duty not to participate in massive harm, discuss to what extent the descriptive ethical basis for the national and international handling of involuntary migration caused by climate change impacts is consistent with the normative principle.
  2. To what extent is the current wealth distribution and the development of this distribution over time consistent with the normative ethical principle of a duty to justice? Use the Credit Swiss "Global Wealth Report 2016" available here as a source for data and global wealth distribution.
  3. How would you characterize the descriptive ethics that is the basis for a system trajectory pushing us out of the safe operating space for humanity? Is this consistent with the normative ethics of a duty to care about the life of future generations?
  4. GRAD: tbd