Research Paper on Climate Change


Research Paper on Climate Change

Climate Change Research Paper: Executive Summary

The structure of this paper presents two long-term visions of a climate-neutral energy system in The Netherlands. It looks at the window of opportunity and shows technically feasible ways to realize drastic emission reductions. Chapters 2 and 3 together illustrate a sharp contrast between the current problematic situation and the substantive targets that need to be achieved over time. As a whole, this study provides the reader with an analysis of prospects of long-term climate policies, short-term issues, the societal trend breaks needed to realize substantive emission reductions and possible ways to realize these trend breaks. However, this book can't provide a complete picture of all relevant elements of such a transition. There are many relevant issues, such as the role of business and other new technologies, to mention just two. It assesses future opportunities for drastic changes that would lead to more environmentally sound energy consumption by households and discusses constraints to changes in behavior. Climate change can be prevented by applying strategies worldwide.


Human-induced climate change causes society a long-term problem. The challenge is to find ways of reducing CO2 emissions that also enable society to reach long-term goals. Over the last 20 years, it has become increasingly dangerous and causes unnatural changes in the climate. The related human activities are major factors in currently observed climate changes, as well as in climate change that in the coming centuries (IPCC, 2001a). The long-term character of climate change (having an effect for up to several centuries) is one of the key features of the climate change problem.

However, dealing with long-term problems is generally difficult for modern societies, in which political agendas and practices tend to focus on the next shareholders’ meeting or election rather than on generations. A system and its contribution to climate change in the greenhouse gas emissions of industrialized countries will have to be achieved before the end of the century. For Western societies, this implies a major shift in current and expected trends in emissions – emissions that are expected to rise in the absence of stringent sustainability and/or climate policies (IPCC, 2000; UNDP, 2000). Achieving such drastic reductions in emissions will be no mean task since societies – particularly Western societies – rely heavily on the availability of relatively cheap fossil fuels and the idea that the atmosphere is a free common good into which greenhouse gases can be emitted. Climate change can be prevented by applying strategies worldwide.

This paper analyses both the long-term prospects for and short-term implications of these problems from different perspectives. In so doing, climate change will be placed within the wider agendas.

Case Study: Netherlands

The Netherlands serves as a case study for questions and will arise particularly among other industrialized countries as they are developing long-term domestic climate policies. The main focus of the paper is to represent possibilities for domestic action within The Netherlands. Some sections discuss the Dutch situation (Dordrecht, 1994); other chapters reflect the debate in The Netherlands on strategies that, in principle, are also relevant for other countries. It is clear that besides domestic action, the so-called flexible or Kyoto Mechanisms (joint implementation, clean development mechanism, and emission trading) will lead to reduction strategies. With these instruments, international flexibility is introduced within climate policies, to achieve cost-effective emission reductions. The will always consist of both domestic options and the use of the Kyoto Mechanisms. But given the focus on domestic strategies within The Netherlands, the discussion of the Kyoto Mechanisms will be limited in this paper.

Much of the research presented in this study was carried out as part of the Dutch National Research Programme on Global Air Pollution and Climate Change, a strategic research program in The Netherlands, the development of long-term climate-change policies. This paper is an effort to bring together some of the results of this program in a coherent framework. This awareness arises from increasing scientific evidence, which shows the human influence on the climate. The result of this anthropogenic climate change is that society is now forced to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The UN FCCC states that the world has ‘to stabilize the gasses.

Warming and Social Innovation

What is regarded as a desirable level is ultimately the outcome of a societal and political decision-making process. In Figure 1.1, reasons for concern about future temperature changes are given, based on research on the impact of climate change (IPCC, 2001b).

Research Paper on Climate Change

Historically, industrialized countries have caused a harmful atmosphere based on several factors. For the reduction in emissions in The Netherlands, the main solutions applied in these visions are improvements in efficiency, the introduction of sustainable energy sources, reduction of energy demands, and CO2 storage. In this respect, explanations provide the reader with possible technological routes of dealing with the long-term challenges of domestic climate-change policies.

Current Climate-Change Policies

These researches show that the current policies on climate change and the short-term dimensions of long-term routes to emission reductions are also important. The current situation is basically the ground on which innovations have to flourish, and emission trends have to be reversed for reaching the long-term goals. In industrialized countries, domestic action produced very impressive reduction figures and where emissions have been achieved, this has been the result of unexpected developments (German reunification) or other policy goals, such as the closure of British coal mines, which have not been directly related to climate change. To see the gap between desires and reality can also be seen in Box 1.1.

Some parts of this paper evaluate the current societal support in The Netherlands for climate-change policies and the actual behavior of various actors, such as businesses, citizens, and local policymakers. It explores whether, and if so, how climate-change issues play a role in the decision-making behavior of societal actors (Amsterdam, 1999). If, over the coming decades, the Netherlands can determine the long-term levels of stabilization as described above, the current situation will have to change. Major economic sacrifices will be made - and there will even be benefits.

In this discussion over the last 20 years, the final energy costs (as a percentage of GNP) for countries conclude that this should offer opportunities for developing long-term policies on climate change.

Box 1.1: 6 Year Target

1988 Toronto target: 20% of 1988 levels by the year 2005 as an initial global goal. Reduction if international developments allow, and based on decisions made in 1995.

1990 The Netherlands states that together with other countries, they will research the Toronto target as an option for more drastic climate policy. It is clear that this will go beyond no-regret policies (Memorandum on Climate Change).

1993 Second National Environmental Policy Plan: Reduce if international developments allow (and based on decision making in 1995 (NEPP-II).

1995 Given the slow international progress and the difficulties of realizing reductions domestically, the government maintains its -3% CO2 target but will not go for -5% (Letter to Parliament about CO2).

1996 A goal of post-2000 within The Netherlands of at least -3%, if international conditions allow (2nd Memorandum on Climate Change). Further reductions of greenhouse gases after 2000 by 1%-2% per year in industrialized countries.

1997 EU target of -15% and Dutch target of -10% in CO2 emissions as part of the EU burden-sharing agreement before Kyoto.

1997 At Kyoto, the introduction of a basket approach of 6 greenhouse gases, international flexibility through Joint Implementation, Clean Development Mechanisms and Emission Trading, and inclusion of sinks. Worldwide reduction of –5.2% in the period 2008-2012.

1998 Dutch target as part of the EU burden-sharing agreement: -6% between 2008-2012, for the EU as a whole, -8% for all greenhouse gases.

1999 The industrialized countries to publish an implementation plan aimed at achieving its Kyoto targets (Memorandum on Implementation of Climate Change Policies).

2001 The Fourth looks 30 years ahead and considers the transition towards a sustainable energy system crucial problem. 2001 At COP-6 is about the rules of the Kyoto Protocol. This deal is made after earlier unsuccessful negotiations (November 2000).

Concluding Remarks

Human-induced climate change causes society a long-term problem. This paper analyses both the long-term prospects for and short-term implications of these problems from different perspectives. The Netherlands serves as a case study for questions and will arise particularly among other industrialized countries as they are developing long-term domestic climate policies. What is regarded as a desirable level is ultimately the outcome of a societal and political decision-making process. These researches show that the current policies on climate change and the short-term dimensions of long-term routes to emission reductions are also important. Climate change can be prevented by applying strategies worldwide.

Part II: Climate Change Solutions

Various long-term projections for the world economy suggest that the economy has been strong for many decades. Increased consumption and industrial production will lead to substantial increases if current technologies and fossil fuels remain the basis of the energy and production systems. This chapter explores the possibilities of combining steady economic growth with a stringent objective: in 2050, by 80 percent. We consider all the main options of emissions, including increased efficiency in energy and material use, renewables and advanced fossil fuel options, which could play a role within the time-frame considered. Vision A and Vision B can be applied to solve climate change problems.

Transforming the Energy System of the Netherlands

In this chapter, the future will be presented, formulated to meet the requirement of 80 percent compared to 1990 levels. The two visions adopt very different perspectives and contexts and differ significantly in the way these emission reductions will be achieved. Far-reaching reduction plans can be developed and applied. It will be shown that drastic changes in many areas of society are required to reach the desired greenhouse gas emission levels in 2050. However, the results also show that it can be realized in different ways. In other words, there are various ways of achieving a low greenhouse gas emission economy in the long term.

The COOL Project

The COOL project was originally conducted in The Netherlands, in which stakeholders conducted a structured dialogue on long-term climate policies. The COOL project is discussed at length in Chapter 11 of this paper. The Netherlands accounts for roughly both the world’s GDP of approximately US$ 40,000 billion (1999) and the global energy use of about 400 EJ (400,000 PJ). It’s also one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Economic growth has been steady and relatively high over the past decade. Annual growth figures have fluctuated between 2 percent and over this period. Although energy efficiency has also gradually improved (as evidenced by lower energy intensities for a wide variety of sectors), The Netherlands is rising and evidence of the decoupling of energy use and economic growth.

Measures did not lead to a decline in those emissions. They are declining, however, mainly because of successful policies targeting industrial emissions and a shift from CFCs to other compounds for various applications. However, this effect is rapidly growing CO2 emissions, mainly due to the increasing consumption of mineral oil (for transport) and natural gas. The fact that economic growth has up to now invariably led to higher energy consumption is a worrying starting point, given that economic growth is a worldwide ambition and one that is being achieved.

The world recorded growth rates of 1-3 percent over the past decade, with much higher figures for countries like China and India. The world economy could develop and grow at an annual rate of 2-4 percent. Such statistics would increase global GDP by a factor of 4-9 in 2050! Without drastic changes in the way that energy is used and produced, such economic growth will also inevitably lead to CO2 emissions to levels that are, without doubt, unsustainable for the world's climate.

The IPCC has argued that the risk of human-induced climate change can only be limited to acceptable levels if reduced to around 50 percent of their 1990 levels (IPCC, 2000) in the course of the 21st century. This is in itself a very ambitious target given the current situation, but it becomes a daunting one if the world economy develops actively. The IPCC has also produced a wide variety of scenarios regarding the underlying economic and technological developments. While some of those scenarios lead to the desired emission reductions, others give rise to an almost uncontrollable growth of global emissions. A fundamental principle to emerge from the IPCC exercises is that the responsibility for the bulk in the past and the subsequent build-up of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Global Warming and Social Innovation

Developing countries that desperately need economic growth simply to meet basic standards of living should, therefore, be allowed a larger share of the tolerable emission volume. Consequently, a reduction would have to be realized by industrialized countries. Following this rationale, an 80 percent reduction in those countries is often mentioned as a desirable goal for this century. The key objectives outline several quite different ways in which a prosperous industrialized country like The Netherlands could meet this target 2050 (Beer, 1995). These scenarios, or 'visions,' serve as a point of departure for exploring wherein society major transitions are reaching the 80 percent emission-reduction objective and whether they are feasible or likely.

In the course of the discussion in this chapter, we will highlight some types of measures and transitions that could play an important role. Examples include changes in behavior and consumption, structural changes in the economy, higher energy and material efficiency, the potential role of renewable energy sources, the use of CO2 storage when using fossil fuels and measures other than CO2. The two visions that can result in an 80 percent reduction are constructed as follows: Based on two recent IPCC scenarios (A2 and B1) for the world, we have composed two quantitative descriptions of the Dutch economy in 2050. Those descriptions include estimates of parameters at a sectorial level, such as physical production by the major industries, transport kilometers, number of dwellings, etc. We have made an inventory and evaluation of options that could be available in the long term.

This inventory includes options for improving energy efficiency in industry, the built-up environment, and transport, a multitude of energy-supply options (renewables, biofuels, nuclear energy, advanced fossil fuel technologies with CO2 sequestration), as well as choices that lead to a reduction of non-CO2 greenhouse gases. Linked to the two scenarios and the prevailing socio-economic conditions assumed in those two different 'worlds,' sets and combinations of measures have been chosen that role in meeting the far-reaching emission-reduction target. For example, renewables play one vision.

Two Visions

Using a quantitative analysis of the selected technology mixes, we have calculated the resulting net determined the energy balances for The Netherlands for both visions. This and summary of topics that are crucial if the radical change in greenhouse gas emissions is to be achieved. Those topics are the principal subjects for the subsequent chapters in this book and include aspects such as local and international policy-making, household behavior, and technological innovation.

Also, by presenting two quite different visions for reaching the same objective, this chapter will provide a basis for identifying significant barriers that already exist or can be expected in the future to achieve the radical changes that are required in society. This chapter basically ‘sets the agenda’ for the authors who will later discuss the various issues in more detail by identifying and addressing the possibilities, barriers, limitations, and necessary actions relating to the significant transitions needed to meet the 80 percent reduction target.

Research Paper on Climate Change

It is possible to distinguish several key drivers that determine the level of a society’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other vital variables are how energy and resources are used (in other words, how efficiently they are utilized) and the type of support (like energy carriers) that are used. These ‘visions’ merely serve as examples to illustrate how a target of 80 percent reduction of emissions could be achieved in the potentially very different worlds in which it may have to be realized without actually being 'extreme.' The visions sketch a picture of a conceivable We name these two visions only as 'A' and 'B.'

Vision A

International relations In this vision, the gap in prosperous countries has disappeared, partly due to rapid developments in transport and communication technology. The emphasis in this vision is on market mechanisms and increasing productivity, partly thanks to the faster introduction of new and more efficient technology.

People focus on personal progress and want the freedom to control their development. Ambition is essential: people want to make financial progress and achieve something in their lives. The average standard of education is high. It is crucial to enjoying life, and the level of consumption is high. Concern for nature, the environment, and the well-being of others do not have priority. Mainly to create further growth, and only to a small extent for social services countries have disappeared, there are still groups within the regions that profit less from the prosperity. Although economic growth in states has been slower, total GDP in The Netherlands is over five times larger than it was in 1990. People go on foreign holidays several times a year. Most passenger and freight transport in The Netherlands takes place by car and truck. The number of kilometers driven for private purposes is 80 1990, and freight transport by road is a factor of 8 higher. Freight transport by rail is growing, but passenger transport by rail is lower than in 1990. The volume of inland shipping is roughly one-and-a-half times what it was in 1990. Energy and the environment-related possible problems that arise are solved on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis, in which the relevant aspects are assigned a (capital) value. In the process, aspects relating to nature, environment, and durability are assigned a low value.

Vision B

International relations In vision B, different regions in the world have developed in different directions. There is less international trade and interaction. There are also fewer powerful global institutions. In vision B, the emphasis is on regional identity and self-sufficiency. These critical values are developed within the individual cultural and economic regions. Social environment and demographics Nature is highly valued. The well-being of people and animals and a pleasant ecosystem are regarded as just as necessary as prosperity. Social aspects of decision-making; people show great concern for others. Attention is given to the distribution of wealth and equality in society.

The classical family is just as important as in 1990. Men and women participate equally in the labor process and share responsibilities in raising their children: daycare centers and social services. The standard of education is high. The government runs training. People are doing well financially and want to contribute to the progress of society as a whole. Personal development is not of primary importance but goes hand in hand with the event of a sustainable and friendly community. First comes quality and sustainability; quantity is less important. Society is as many people as possible can be involved in decisions.

Most of the investing in a sustainable economy, the social affairs Society in the Netherlands, is multicultural. Immigrants working for the population are well integrated at all levels of society. Teaching standards and values at the local level prevent crime. In vision B, the world population in 2050 is 9.4 billion (IIASA, 1995). The people as a whole shows a more moderate growth at 13 percent than the world average. The Netherlands is an exception: in 2050, the country has 18.9 million inhabitants and has grown some 25 percent compared to 1990. This is due to both the family-oriented nature of society and the results of open immigration policy.


In that, such a result can be achieved in different ways. In other words, diverse and respects opposing strategies are feasible for arriving at a low greenhouse gas emission economy. Clearly, the number of (often bold) assumptions made in the visions illustrate that drastic changes in many areas of society are required to reach the greenhouse gas emission levels desired in 2050. However, the changes required may differ considerably depending on which vision one considers most feasible, and the context one assumes for the longer term. And changes are incredibly complex. Questions immediately arise about how major transitions are to be realized. Different technologies and complete energy systems and infrastructures compete. That gives some insight into difficulties in achieving crucial changes. Most parts of this paper explored and discussed the selected issues, fields, and sectors in detail. Vision A and Vision B can be applied in order to solve climate change problems.


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Emma Lee
Studied Maths and Coding, currently working as Front End Lead at Tamara Research, loves writing, coding, and hiking.

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