The Global Environment: Critical Issues for the Next Century - Henry W. Kendall Memorial Symposium at MIT (2/5)
MODERATOR: As Tim was talking, I was thinking about the many conversations that we had with Henry about some of the great human puzzles to these problems.
Why is it that when Americans are polled about many of the issues that Tim was addressing, they are supportive of the kind of strategies and approaches that Tim outlined, and yet we cannot get the public policy alignment in place? It's a huge problem, and it's one that we need to continue to work on. And it's one that always mystified Henry, because he kept hoping that our elected officials would be rational.
I put this in one of the big issues he worried about. And indeed, perhaps understanding the science behind some of these big issues may be easier than understanding the human behavior that guides some of the people who are responding to that science. Today we're going to be looking at three big issues that Henry focused on in greater depth-- biodiversity, for which we need a new name; climate change; and arms control.
We begin with the as-yet-to-be-named biodiversity problem.
Ed Wilson is known to all of us. In addition to being a film star--
--he is the world's foremost authority on biodiversity. I know him as one of my daughter's teachers at Harvard and as the person who comes first to mind when, deep in the rainforest, I see a parade of leafcutter ants crossing the path in front of me. Do you really want everybody who goes into the rainforest and sees an ant to think of you, Ed? Well, we do.
You know his books on human nature and the ants, both of which won Pulitzer prizes and [INAUDIBLE]. The list of medals would take up the time for a speech, so with no further ado, I introduce Ed Wilson.
WILSON: Thank you so much. Thank you, Adele, and thank you also for the privilege of allowing me to join in this tribute to Henry. I had the privilege of knowing Henry Kendall only for a relatively short time. Some of you have known him for virtually a lifetime. After he asked me to help him add natural ecosystems and biodiversity to the environmental crusade he was spearheading under the aegis of the UCS, he was indeed--
MODERATOR: Are some people having trouble hearing in the back?
WILSON: I had trouble hearing you as well, so how is it now?
Which probably saved me from wincing a few times. Is this coming on okay now? Is it all right?
AUDIENCE: I think so.
WILSON: Is it better? It needs to be up. I should speak more loudly then, right?
WILSON: Okay. I'm not sure whether the trouble is in the room or if it's in the sound system. I hope maybe we can get an increase in the volume of the sound system. Is that better?
WILSON: Is that coming okay?
All right. Begin again. This room is filled with MIT-- or I should say-- yeah, MIT know-how and Harvard technology.
Oh, I had to-- I do repeat myself somewhat. I had the privilege of knowing Henry only for a short time when I joined his crusade under the aegis of the UCS. He was indeed a brave, an honorable, and far-sighted, and a thoroughly admirable man. And I regret that I did not get to know him for years more. He will be greatly missed.
He knew and we now fully understand, as so splendidly expressed by Tim Wirth, that scientists and, with him, everyone else are entering what can be called fairly the century of the environment, which, in a nutshell, is that period in which humanity has got to get settled down before we wreck the planet.
Now, in the first slide, which I hope will come on-- there we are. Good. Today, as clearly and concisely as I can, as Henry would have liked it, let me present a picture of the status of biodiversity most relevant to the total environment, as we are addressing it this morning.
I'll start by putting a twist on it by placing biomass and biodiversity in some perspective. And here we have, representing the relative biomasses of ants representing the invertebrates, the little things that run the earth, as I like to say, with the vertebrates.
As important as they are, the ant biomass alone in the Amazon rainforest-- and this is true of most terrestrial environments around the world-- the ant biomass, the total weight of ants alone, as just one invertebrate group, is approximately four times that of all of the vertebrates together-- the mammals, and the birds, and the reptiles, and the amphibians.
Moreover, we should keep in mind as we enjoy and understand better the charismatic species on the minds of all, that there is, beneath them in the energy pyramids and biomass distributions, a great mass of species that form the bulk of the ecosystems. And these species are indicated here in total global biodiversity. This is both terrestrial and aquatic and marine. And here you see that the insects and the flowering plants dominate terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity of the world.
But primarily, because actually 90%-plus biodiversity of terrestrial systems, which is so overwhelmingly rich in biodiversity that the global picture is divided thus. And of the species that are thus represented, we can see perhaps more graphically in this cartoon the species-scape. The number of species found in each of the major groups as represented by, proportionally, the size of a typical organism.
Thus, the insects, with more than half of the known species of organisms on Earth, looms like a Goodyear blimp above the tiny mammalian representative, the elephant there, there to represent the 4,000 species of mammals. And the mammals are sort of hidden underneath these large mushrooms that represent the 60,000 or so fungal species.
Now, the important point I want to make out of this, aside from suggesting that we always keep in mind what the full extent of life on earth and particularly the diversity is, is how little we know about the numbers of species and the full pattern of diversity on earth at this point.
We now have, know, and have named some 1 and 3/4 million species of plants, animals, and microorganisms. But the actual figure could be anywhere from a quite conservative 5 million, according to some estimates, to as high as 100 million. And the fact is that we do not know the number of species on earth to the nearest order of magnitude. We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about the living surface of this planet.
So part of the exploration that has to be done in biology in the next century is to complete the great [INAUDIBLE] enterprise and discover and map all of the biodiversity of the earth even as it is rapidly disappearing. And this takes me then to the tropical rainforest, where some half or more of all of the species of organisms are thought to live, by most specialists.
The tropical rainforests in black here covers some 6% of the land surface of the earth. That's down about 50% due to human activity. The rainforests, the great treasure house of the world, is also the least explored. And part of the reason is illustrated by this photograph of a graduate student at Harvard in Borneo, namely climbing up to the canopy, namely that so much of the biodiversity is concentrated in the canopy.
And yet that is one of the most difficult environments to get to. The trees tower often up to 100 feet or more, the top canopy trees. The bowl or trunks of the trees are relatively smooth and straight and do not put out their nearly horizontal limbs until near the top.
The bark is often spiny, if not smooth, difficult to climb. And up at the top in the branches, as you can see, up in the upper left-hand corner, are masses of epiphytes in the gardens, forming gardens there, orchids, and gesneriads, and bromeliads, and other species, as many as 50 or even 100 species may be found in the canopy of a single tree. And these are dense, full of spines, hard to climb through, and swarming with stinging ants, and bees, and wasps. And Tarzan would not have lasted 15 minutes.
Now, a great many ingenious methods are being developed to get up there. One of them is-- and of course, they include-- and this certainly must have warmed a spot in Henry's heart-- included rope climbing, standard rope climbing, rock climbing techniques to get up there. But also as illustrated here, the use of building cranes, as pioneered by the Smithsonian Tropical Research organization.
And it simply consists of taking a crane up to the edge of a rainforest patch, as in Panama, or down a path, a cut road into the rainforest. And then letting investigators move out on the end there and be lowered up and down the rainforest canopy and, in addition, rotated around. So this way, you can get an enormous volume covered. And here is the actual device in place.
And here is the gondola. Here is the gondola with a couple of botanists. And they are looking, seeing, and working at a spot which was not previously accessible, namely the outer foliage of the canopy. Too light to support a human. And not accessible in any other way from the land and from the ground.
So for the first time, they can get and look right at where the growth is maximally occurring and where a large amount of the biomass and biodiversity occurs that is least explored. They also have to be in cages up there with a door that can be slammed shut fast because of the Africanized or killer bees, which have spread now throughout the New World tropics. And one does not want to be dangling at the end of a crane arm in the middle of a canopy when you bump into a nest of those.
There we go. Now, the diversity of the rainforest is legendary. From this canopy of a single tree illustrated here, I identified some 46 species of ants living there and 23 genera. And that is about the same number of species of ants found in all of Europe. So this gives you living in one tree. So this gives you an idea of just how rich the tropical forests are, if I may maintain emphasis on them a bit longer.
In 1955, as a young biologist at Harvard, I set the world record for the largest number of ants found in a single square kilometer. I was in New Guinea, at 172. I know that was a world record, because it was the first time that was done.
Subsequently, a Brazilian entomologist put that right up over 200 in the Brazilian environment. And then a British entomologist shoved it on up to 250 or so, working in West Africa. And then a few years ago, I asked one of my graduate students and our curatorial assistant managing the ant collection to go down to the tropical Andes, to equatorial Peru, where I knew and others knew where possibly the richest, most biodiverse area in the world.
And I said, go down and break the record, and don't come back till you do this. No, I'm just kidding. I said this was part of a very important survey that I wanted done. And I said, well, you probably could break the record, which they did. And it still stands at 365 ants in about 20 acres.
So I could go on and on with stories of this kind, but must move on and emphasize that in spite of the proper stress on the tropical rainforest, which is being destroyed at an accelerating rate, we must not forget the other terrestrial environments which have richnesses distinctive to themselves and are also, in most parts of the world, under severe stress.
Right here at home, the temperate forest is surprisingly unexplored at the meso and micro levels. When we are in a forest and look down on the forest floor, we think we see a two-dimensional world. And that is, in a sense, correct, because we are among the largest organisms on earth. And we are rather like Godzilla walking through New York City. Everything sort of looks flat down there. But when you magnify the whole thing and-- let's see. Up.
Well, we are advancing regardless of a button I pushed.
Yes, thank you. I'm glad to see, in spite of the computer revolution and the prospects of petaflop-- in spite of petaflop computers in our near future, the human element is still needed. Thank you, sir.
At any rate, now we are a side view of this magnified many times, so that you see over a distance of only a few centimeters. And at once, you see this is a three-dimensional world. For the majority of the species of organisms, namely as you go from the top, with dry leaves, recently fallen, large spaces, a certain chemical regime, and high temperatures, and [INAUDIBLE] light millimeter by millimeter down through the leaf litter and into the humus.
And in stages, you are descending into different worlds of physical, chemical, and biological world, as though you were descending the ocean 10 meters at a time. And it is this enormous diversity in the natural ground of a [INAUDIBLE] system that provides a huge array of niches for every level in the trophic web. And this is what holds this ensemble, with its material cycles and balances of populations and so on that holds the natural environment into this steady state that we so desire to see it kept.
And the diversity here of small organisms. Here we have them for a single square foot roughly of Panamanian rainforest ground. It's quite staggering. Into the tens of thousands of individuals. And many hundreds of species in just a square foot.
And on looking at the environment scaled down in this way, we see that what is apparent as just a small fragment of the passing environment from the point of view of a flying bird or ourselves walking by is the equivalent of an island for some of the smaller organisms-- for most of the smaller organisms. And here is an example of how a rotting stump is, at different stages in the temperate forest, divided up among one particular group of organisms, a fly larvae, out of hundreds.
And so you can see that the microecology of any chosen group of smaller physical size is itself subject for a proper lifetime study. Many of these species would be undescribed even here in New England. One can spend a lifetime in a Magellanic voyage around one tree stump once you scale down size and an area in space in your studies.
What is biodiversity? I suggest that if we have to have a new name, as Tim Wirth thinks might be useful for public education, we might try "creation." But on the other hand, I think that the unfamiliarity of the word "biodiversity" comes less from its technological ambience than from the fact that to the importance of biodiversity and the magnitude of the environmental insult of species going extinct is much harder for the average person to understand than is the, say, polluting of a river or the rising of global temperature. So it's a matter more of education, and this is an area where scientists, in addition to research, and counseling, and activism, should be more fully engaged.
Biodiversity then is all of life. And it is made less than banal by recognizing biologists study it in horizontal sections, going from ecosystems as the main level in which diversity occurs to the species that compose it, as seen in this Australian example, down to smaller organisms and then beyond that-- the genic, or genomic, diversity within individual species. Yes.
And we should bear in mind that at that last level, the diversity becomes immense. A back-of-the-envelope estimate of diversity that takes into account the species, all the species, and all of the genes in them, and the possible genic variation that may occur, takes us to 10 to the 17 given order of magnitude of how much biodiversity there is in the earth at the present time.
In the case of DNA, many of you will recognize this as a panel showing the actual DNA molecules, a little micro spaghetti all through there, for a one part out of 4,500 of the total human genome. So if you just extended that on 4,500 times, each with a different part of the genome, you would get what's in a single cell.
Another way of putting it is to recognize that if we put all of the four DNA strands of a diploid nucleus from the human body end on end in real space, it would stretch for roughly one meter. But it would only be two nanometers across, so you wouldn't see it, even though you literally could hold that molecule and it would be that long.
However, if we could magically increase it in thickness until it was as thick as a piece of wrapping string, then we would get this kind of a ramping up, namely that our DNA molecule, now as thick as a piece of wrapping string, would extend to approximately 1,820 miles, or the distance between New York and Dallas. And as you walked along it through that distance, you would be reading off about 100 nucleotides an inch.
And that is worth bearing in mind, because the uniqueness of a species in that code is what we lose when we lose a species, not to mention what could be an important part of the ecosystem or not even that. Certainly, on average, a million years or more of genetic evolutionary history.
Oh, I did want to mention, as a personal note, about this route into biology, because it's worth noting, particularly this close to MIT-- that there is more than one way to go into science. And the nice thing about entering science as a naturalist, which was my ontogony, is that it is a lifelong occupation, that it can fascinate and can grip youngsters as early as they're-- well, as early as 9 or 10.
To acquire an affiliation with the natural world comes very easily for children, as I have always said. Every kid has a bug period, and the only thing different about me is I never grew out of mine. And so here I am as a 13-year-old in Mobile, Alabama, collecting insects. And here I am 50 years later.
Nothing changed, basically, except that I got a great job at Harvard doing this. And also, I guess my vocabulary grew. At any rate.
The other thing that happened along the way is what happened to so many of us now in the environment movement and to so many of those dedicated to the basic and applied studies of biodiversity, namely the recognition that the natural world is disappearing at an accelerating rate. The rainforests are disappearing at the rate of about 1% to 2% a year.
Just as an example, and certainly the most important single example, if the rainforest covers an area of 48-- they do cover an area of approximately equal to the 48 contiguous United States. And they are disappearing, being clear cut down to below 10% of cover at the rate of the area of Florida each year.
And of those remaining, as in the Brazilian Amazon, now that we are getting more finally resolved photographs and on-the-ground analyses, furthermore, those that survive are being cut into by trails that aren't so easily observed from the air. And other changes are occurring that are degrading and fragmenting the rainforest.
And here is the decline, for example, of one of the most beautiful and richest of all over 150 years or so. Almost-- yes, over 150 years. This is the state of Sao Paulo, and the black is the magnificent Atlantic forest, with a very distinctive fauna and flora. Down to way below 10% of what it was. Yes.
And we can see, as you saw briefly in the film shown at the outset, that the humanity is changing the whole surface quite visibly. This is the collage, or a composite, I should say, of photographs taken by the US Air Force Satellite Weather Monitoring Survey, showing how the world really looks at night if there were no clouds obscuring your view.
And you can see that the Eastern Seaboard of the United States is expected, in Europe, and incandescent Japan are all lit up, but also that there are a great many small pinpoints of light through less inhabited areas in the Brazilian Amazon. And then the Congo Basin and in the Sub-Saharan Desert. These are fires burning up the cut timber or rubbish left from it. And firing the grasslands of the drier areas. NASA estimates that 5% of the Earth's land surface is burned each year. Right.
And as the area of habitats decline, we know that there is a quite steady and predictable decline in the fauna and flora, the numbers of species. And this relation is illustrated here not by the physical decline of habitats, but the same thing applies, in the West Indies where the area uses that of the standing Antillean Islands from Cuba down to small islands like Redonda. We see that the number of species that stably exists there drops 50% for every 10-fold reduction in area. You lose 90%. You lose eventually half of the species.
This is well illustrated. And this is true of habitat islands as well as regular oceanic islands. And this is well illustrated by our national park system. Parks of the Western United States and Southwestern Canada are, in fact, islands in a growing sea of human habitation and other disturbed environments. And just as predicted by our worldwide observations of the pattern of biodiversity and by the theory of turnover of species developed by biologists, the faunas are spontaneously dropping.
Now let's see. I think I must have missed a-- there we are. Yes, this is the number of mammal species dropping, as it has dropped in parks overall in the last 100 years. Not all the mammal species will disappear, but there will be this continuous, autonomous, endogenous loss of species no matter how carefully the parks are protected. So this is a sobering aspect of the loss of diversity through habitat destruction. And yes.
This is the Nature Conservancy's latest report on the United States. Of 120,000 species we know, roughly, plants and animals, about 1% are certified extinct, and 30% are in varying degrees of endangerment. It is far worse than that in most of the developing countries. But I thought I would bring it a little closer to home to show you that right here we are suffering the same amount of stress. The red states, which include Hawaii, and California, and unfortunately, my native state of Alabama, are among those in which the species extinction and shift to vulnerability is maximal.
Now, I will conclude this by showing you the faces of extinct and endangered species, because it is my conviction that only by coming to know these species as individuals, as entities, million-year-old entities that we have inherited, that are part of our lives and our environment, only by coming to know them as individuals can we expect the public to care about whether they will be preserved.
Otherwise, they just become statistics. And people might be very willing to live with 20% or 30% or 40% fewer species on Earth if they know nothing at all else about what this is doing to us and know nothing at all about what these species are.
So here are the portraits of several. The cerulean paradise flycatcher of Indonesia, newly extinct.
The golden toad of Costa Rica only discovered a few decades ago, on its way to becoming the national symbol of Costa Rica's natural history, extinct within the last several years.
The Hawaiian honeycreepers-- this magnificent explosion of species that occurred over a couple of million years in the Hawaiian archipelago-- now extinct to the level of 75%, with most of the other species hanging on by a thread. Several critically endangered.
The Hawaiian abandoned snails, tree snails, half extinct. The others endangered.
The Tennessee coneflower, endangered. Macfarlane's four-o-clock, endangered. The sword of Hawaii, endangered, but fortunately, under strict protection.
The world's most endangered species, a cook's [INAUDIBLE], a magnificent flowering shrub that once covered a whole Hawaiian island, now existing only as tin implants into stocks of other species. They don't even have enough genetic capacity to germinate as they exist today, so they're just hanging on in that respect.
So I will conclude by saying, looking at this slide, which shows the five great extinction spasms of the past 450 million years that have been worked out by paleontologists, caused, at least in the last case, the one that closed the Mesozoic 65 million years ago by the massive bolide strike at the Yucatan Peninsula.
And under research and discussion as to what the main cause is is under research and discussion for the others. But it's happened very roughly about every 100 million years in the time of Earth's history-- that large organisms have flourished and have invaded the land. And now we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction. We are in the early stages of it.
And the question is, are we going to let it happen in full sight as part of the degradation of our ecosystem, of the ecosystem services, of all that biodiversity can provide us in the way of new products, of new ideas, of new scientific knowledge, in the view of the ethical concerns that preserving the rest of life on Earth, of the creation should be a primary ethical precept. In view of all this, will we let it go on? Will we let it become the sixth great extinction in the history of life?
The natural world is indeed endangered, but it is not too late to make a big difference. We're going to lose a lot of biodiversity, as you saw happening at least locally in the case of the national park. But with exact knowledge and desire, we can help to slow and eventually stop the hemorrhaging.
Right now the world population is just past officially 6 billion and will go to somewhere between 8 and 10 billion by mid-century and hopefully peak, with a little bit of luck. And we, humanity, have to hope-- we have to believe that our species is going to pass through this bottleneck of overpopulation and the thrusting upward of the developing countries to attain a decent standard of living in such a way that we will come out overall as a species better off than we started.
But we hope. We have to have, I think as a moral imperative, that in so passing through it, we will not destroy any more of the natural environment and the species diversity than is necessary and not allow any more than we can possibly prevent.
We should try to carry as much of life through the bottleneck as we can. We must do what we can to save the creation and not to push the rest of life off the face of the earth. We should remember that, along with culture itself, that inheritance will be the most precious gift that we can give to future generations. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Ed. I did want to assure you that when I'm in the rainforest and looking at leafcutter ants, I think of you, but not when those little red ones come and sting me.
Ted Sizer, who is my mentor in educational matters as much as Henry was on many other matters, always said that when he was teaching, what he wanted always to be able to do was to say to people every 45 minutes, stand up and stretch. So this is not a coffee break, but if you want to stand up for 30 seconds, and stretch, and whatever, we're going to come back and then move on to another talk.
Okay, folks. That's it. [LAUGHS]
PRESENTER: The lighting is terrible. This searchlight is only meant for the speaker here. That's all. And is Watson showing slides also?
MODERATOR: I don't know. Where is he?
PRESENTER: Is Watson showing slides?
PRESENTER: No, he's [INAUDIBLE].
PRESENTER: Okay, that was [INAUDIBLE]. So they should turn that off now.
MODERATOR: Okay, well--
PRESENTER: They should have just had a standing lamp here.
MODERATOR: Where is Bob?
PRESENTER: I don't know where he is.
MODERATOR: There he is. Okay. We're reconvening. A chemist by training, Bob Watson has devoted most of his professional life to shaping and strengthening the international institutions that have an environmental impact and that indeed determine the international agenda in dealing with these issues.
He is currently Director for the Environment and Head of the Environmental Sector Board at the World Bank. He also helped shape and establish the Global Environmental Facility, which is a central part of the World Bank's environmental work.
One of the areas that Bob is focused on is climate change. And I hope all of you had a chance to see the Wall Street Journal article this past Tuesday, which was buried in their second section, but it was an extraordinary cover section devoted to climate change.
If it isn't all of your daily reading, try to find someone who can give you a copy of it. It's even better than taking it off the website because of the graphics that they used. It's quite wonderful to have indeed this issue receive the kind of coverage that the Journal gave it just this week. Indeed, that's something that I think would have pleased Henry a great deal.
But getting governments to agree and to work together around the issue of climate change is no small matter. Getting the scientists to agree on the science part of it is an essential piece of getting the government's agreement and laying the basis for international action.
As Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Bob has been working to make this happen and will continue to do so. He has received many, many awards and continues to be very active in a full range of international institutions. But today we're asking him to address the issue of climate change. Thank you very much, Bob.
WATSON: Thank you. It's a real honor to be invited here to talk at this particular occasion. [INAUDIBLE] for probably about four years, first when he organized a major meeting at the World Bank. I was working at the White House at the time. In that very short span of time, I worked with Henry on climate change issues, biotechnology, and biodiversity.
In fact, my very last conversation with Henry was indeed how to get the public to understand biodiversity. [INAUDIBLE] meeting in Paris. He felt very passionately that we were starting to get the message across on climate change, but unfortunately, we had yet to get the message across on biodiversity.
AUDIENCE: The mic is not yet working. Maybe--
WATSON: Okay, is it now? Yes. I've learned I can speak to an audience even this large often without a mic. Let me give you-- however, I've been asked to talk about climate change. But let me first say-- and I think this is how Henry would have started this-- Henry cared about people, the environment, and science and technology. The challenge we've got in reality is how to alleviate the poverty that's pervasive in this world.
As Tim Wirth said, a quarter of the world's population lives on $1 a day. That's actually the cost of my hotel room last night here. Half the world's population lives on $2 a day. That would be two nights at this hotel. Nearly a billion people are currently malnourished.
1.3 billion people live without clean water, 2 billion people without sanitation. 2 billion people live without electricity. Between 1 and 1/2 and 2 billion people live with either indoor air pollution or outdoor air pollution. 5 million children die of waterborne diseases or air pollution each year. All of it avoidable.
The problem is, as we try and meet one of the basic human needs of food, something Henry felt passionately about, with perturbing our environment. As we use excessive nitrogen fertilizers, we're starting to contribute to climate change. And as the climate changes, it makes it harder to meet food supply, especially in the tropics.
As we extensify-- in other words, we cut down more forests, more land for agriculture, we're destroying our forests, we fragmentate the habitat, we lose biodiversity, the ecosystem species, and genetic level. And as we lose it at the genetic level, it once again threatens food supply. And if we use irrigation unwisely, in many cases, it leads to salination of the soils, land degradation, and once again, we threaten food supply.
So with the current practices that we try and meet the basic demand for food, we're destroying our environment. And as we destroy our environment, it makes it much harder to meet that basic human need in the first place. We currently have six major global environmental issues, all connected to local and regional environmental issues-- climate change, loss of biological diversity, land degradation, stratospheric ozone depletion. For these first four, we have global conventions and the world is, to some degree, trying to get to grips with these.
We also have principles enunciated in Rio on forestry and fresh and marine waters. One of the problems is even though both the scientific community and the political community have realized these are key issues-- and I've put a seventh, persistent organic pollutants, which is also a global issue-- we treat them in isolation. And in reality, they're highly coupled.
As we change climate, we change the structure and functioning of ecological systems, and we change the ecological systems at the ecosystem, species, and genetic level. And as we change biodiversity, we change the biogeochemical cycling of the earth, the exchange of chemicals and energy between the atmosphere, the ocean, and the land.
As we change climate, we change the temperature structure of the atmosphere that affects the rate of stratospheric ozone depletion due to chlorine- and bromine-containing compounds. And as the chlorine- and bromine-containing compounds destroy ozone, it changes the temperature structure that again feeds back on climate.
Strong links also between climate, desertification, water, and forestry. The challenge we have is to understand these scientific linkages and the policy linkages, to identify the win-win solutions and to recognize the trade-offs. Unfortunately, at the moment, we tend to look at these in splendid isolation.
The key question is, what are the underlying causes? They're basically the same independent of which issue you look at. These are not in an order of priority. It's population growth, as Tim Wirth has already talked about. It's increased demand for biological resources and energy as a function of economic growth and population growth. And as Tim also said, it's primarily consumption patterns in the north, but exacerbated and will be exacerbated by population growth primarily in developing countries.
The inappropriate use of technologies. Even after we understood that chlorine- and bromine-containing compounds were destroying ozone, we still carried on using them for a decade or more. Even now as we understand that the burning of fossil fuels is leading to local air pollution, regional acid deposition, and global warming, we continue to use fossil fuels.
We have to recognize that the markets do not work. They do not recognize the value of natural resources. There are no markets for pollination services, for water purification, for cleaning the air. And even if we could make the markets work, the challenge will be to appropriate the global value down to the local level, to the landless peasant.
We have to recognize that when we don't internalize the social costs of most of our actions, the price of coal does not include the environmental damage to human health or ecological systems. If it did, it would be much more expensive, and it would allow for energy efficiency and renewable energies to be competitive on the world's markets.
We have to recognize our both institutional and government failures. We understand about fisheries, but fisheries are collapsing around the world, mainly because we don't enforce those very regulations that were based on reasonably sound science. And unfortunately, most people don't look ahead. They don't care about their children, grandchildren, less alone the generations to come.
But I wasn't asked to talk about that. I was asked to talk about climate change. The issue is, very simply, as we produce energy from burning of fossil fuels, coal, oil, and gas, as we deforest the tropics, we put more greenhouse gases into the Earth's atmosphere. As we put more greenhouse gases into the Earth's atmosphere, we believe we are indeed changing the Earth's climate.
This figure shows the CO2 emissions over the last 140 years. And they're growing continuously. As I say, due to energy policies and land use policies, an atmospheric concentration of CO2 is going up. The background concentration of CO2 at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution was around 280 parts per million. Today it's 360 parts per million, a 25% increase.
Is it easy to understand the climate system? No. First, we have to understand human activities. We have to understand population. We have to understand economic growth. We have to understand the availability of energy. We have to understand how research and development may change energy technologies.
We have to understand the policy formulation process of how those energy technologies will penetrate the marketplace. We have to understand the natural forcing of the Earth's system, changes in solar radiation, changes in volcanic activity. And within that, we have to understand the interplay between the physical, chemical, and biological system.
What would we predict, though, from theory, would happen with more greenhouse gases? First, there should be an increase in temperature. More in winter than in summer. Two, there should be more precipitation, especially in winter. Third, very, very iffy issue, this one, reduction in the Asian monsoon precipitation. We expect longer-lasting droughts, especially in summer. We'd expect nighttime temperatures to increase more than daytime temperatures. And we'd expect more heavy convective rainfall. We are actually observing all of these.
There's this temperature for the last 100 years. The red spots show areas where the temperature's increased. The mauve spots, which is only five on there in total, I think, show it's decreased. Literally, the Earth's mean surface temperature has increased. This green line is indeed the temperature increase over the last 100 years. It's increased about 0.6 degrees Centigrade on average. The land surface temperature is about 0.8. And the ocean's about 0.4.
Is it consistent with theory? The simple models clearly don't try and simulate all the bumps and wiggles, which are due to changes in solar output, volcanic eruption, and the natural exchange of energy between the atmosphere and the ocean. But the model is basically consistent with a theory that suggests in a double-CO2 world, the Earth's mean equilibrium temperature will increase three degrees Centigrade. Doesn't sound a lot, but if you remember the last Ice Age was only five degrees cooler than it is today. So three degrees Centigrade is a very significant change.
If, however, we took a more sophisticated model and look at the change of temperature as a function of latitude, the equator here, South Pole, North Pole, close to the Earth's surface, and close to the [INAUDIBLE], 10, 15 kilometers above the Earth's surface. And we had the model only had greenhouse gases, we would predict the Earth would become warmer. It would become warmer, basically, to date, by about 1 to 2 degrees Centigrade. These are the observations over the last 25 years.
And as you can see, the observation suggests warming in the southern hemisphere, less warming in the northern hemisphere, cooling up high. So the CO2 model isn't exactly perfect. It doesn't show the interhemisphere asymmetry.
If, however, we also allow that when you burn coal, you also put sulfur dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere, which becomes, actually, the formation of acid deposition, you effectively get a cooling in some parts of the Earth. And what happens is there's an offset of the CO2 warming in the northern hemisphere due to the large amount of sulfur dioxide putting by burning fossil fuels in the northern hemisphere.
Now when you compare this calculation to the observation, you see the interhemispheric asymmetry, and to a first degree, the actual magnitude of the projected climate change is similar to what we've actually observed. You could say that we haven't got the transition between warming and cooling correct between the models. But there's a more sophisticated slide that shows taking into account stratospheric ozone depletion, the transition between warming and cooling becomes almost perfect. Okay.
Now the question is, what's likely to happen in the future? Depending on what population increases you predict, depending on what you believe will happen to energy prices, economic growth, we believe atmospheric emissions of CO2 will increase. We believe atmospheric CO2 could increase from 360 parts per million today to somewhere between 500 parts per million and 1,000 parts per million. In other words, by 2100, even the optimistic scenario would be a doubling of pre-industrial CO2. And otherwise, it could even be tripling or quadrupling.
What would that mean? A one- to three-and-a-half-degree Centigrade increase in temperature. Even the lower level would be a rate of climate change faster than anything observed in the last 10,000 years.
Is the temperature increase uniform? The answer's no. Land surfaces warm more than oceans, and the polar regions warm more than mid-latitudes. This is a projection for the 2050s. If you look at Africa or Latin America, one's projecting a four- to five-degree temperature increase in only five decades. The oceans are not warming as much. And the high Arctic is warming probably equal to Africa and Latin America. So we see very, very large changes in temperature, especially in these particular areas.
And that's what I wanted to focus on in part of my talk. Have we seen a change in precipitation? The answer's yes. It doesn't take a rocket science to work out if you warm the oceans, you get more evaporation. Hence, you should get more precipitation. The question is, where and when? What we see in the green spots are parts in the world where it's become wetter. And the red is where it's become drier. Please note the southern part of Europe, the northern part of Africa, and the southern parts of Africa have all become drier in the last 100 years.
Theory's suggested that we should get more precipitation in winter. This is the United States. And as you can see, in the last couple of decades, there has indeed been an increase in precipitation in winter. Theory also suggested that there should be more heavy precipitation events.
This, again, is the United States. The definition of a heavy precipitation event in this particular analysis is two inches of rain within 24 hours. And what you see is indeed an increase in precipitation, in heavy events. There's also another slide which complements this, which is, what's happened to light precipitation events? And they've actually decreased in the United States.
What this actually leads to is in an area which has a no change in annual precipitation, one would have both more floods and more droughts in the same place. A very perverse outcome. This is the projection for rainfall precipitation in the 2050s. Look what the prediction is for Africa. Northern Africa, Southern Europe through to the Middle East, and Southern Africa projected to be drier. If we'd assimilated backwards for 50 years, it would have been exactly the same pattern.
If you remember the pattern I showed earlier of precipitation changes across the world, it's exactly this pattern. When I say "exactly," it broadly matches. It's not a perfect match. There are inconsistencies, but the picture is fairly solid. It's this type of information that Tim Wirth referred to when the IPCC says it is now a discernible human influence on the Earth's climate system.
The things to note are indeed the areas where it's projected to get drier. That is to say through Africa, the Middle East, and the southern parts of Africa.
One of the key questions is, will there be more hurricanes or not? This has been a very contentious issue. The observational record of the last 100 years for the United States shows there has been no change in either the frequency or the magnitude of hurricanes hitting the United States. This also suggested, from the theoretical models, that we don't know if it will change in the future. Some models do suggest an increase in the frequency and magnitude of hurricanes. Others don't. But the observational record today says no significant change in the hurricanes hitting the United States.
One of the real questions that we have to ask ourself is, will the flow of energy and the circulation of the oceans change? This is a schematic of Wally Broecker showing-- and I won't go into details-- that there's basically an ocean conveyor belt that runs around the Earth. And in particular, the key area is off of Greenland in the North Atlantic, where there is a downwelling of water from the Earth's surface down into the depths. It's the way the ocean circulates, and it comes back in deep water.
One of the questions is, in a warmer world, can we stop the ocean circulation? If so, there would be tremendous changes in the Earth's climate in all regions of the world. Why could you conceivably change the ocean circulation belt? Very simply. At the moment, the water off Greenland is very cold and very, very saline. And it sinks. In a warmer world, the temperature would go up, so it's got less reason to sink.
But even worse, the Greenland Ice Belt, or ice sheet, could also melt, making it less saline. So in two reasons-- it'll become less saline, less cold, it won't sink. Is there any theoretical observation to say this is likely to occur? This is a little model put together by the British Met Office. They actually went back 100 years. The black line is what they ran the ocean circulation model for about 200 years.
And they said, what would normally be the downwelling or the convective overturning of the ocean? And it was the black line. They then said, well, what if in 1900 we'd have actually started increasing atmospheric CO2 at 2% per year? And it suggests that after only a few years, you would have a significant change in the overturning of the ocean.
They then simulated what's actually happening, which is the business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions. And they actually started it in real time. And you could see, it follows nicely. But they suddenly start to see in their model a significant change in the downwelling of water off of Greenland.
Will this occur? It's not clear. But many theoretical models show this type of behavior, and it could mean there could be a non-linear response to the climate system with respect to our increases of greenhouse gases.
There's another interesting issue. All of you have heard about the El Niño phenomena. There's a periodicity in the climate that occurs naturally every two to seven years. And when it occurs, there are major shifts in the Earth's climate naturally throughout the world.
Well, in a normal year, a non-El Niño year, you have the ocean off of South America-- this is South America-- the ocean moves east to west. You have some moderate convective activity at the equatorial belt, and you see an atmospheric circulation here. The intensity of the hydrological cycle is by the amount of cloudiness we see here.
We also see that, effectively, the ocean returns this way. And so we have the nutrients, or the thermocline, right up against the ocean surface. Very, very intense nutrients. And very, very effective fisheries. Very efficient fisheries off of Latin America.
But in an El Niño year, which occurs naturally, there is a major shift in the direction of the ocean. Instead of east to west, it becomes west to east. You now suppress the thermocline off of Latin America. You suppress where the nutrients are. And basically, you have mass extinctions of fish. Very natural process. But you also have an incredible intensification of the El Niño phenomena largely because the ocean becomes much, much warmer.
This shows what happens in the sea surface temperature anomaly that is the difference between an El Niño year and a non-El Niño year. And this was for 1997, one of the most intense events that's ever occurred in the last 150 years. The temperature of Peru became five degrees warmer than normal it once saw a massive warming of the complete Pacific Ocean, which led to major changes of the precipitation patterns around the world.
The question is, could global warming affect the magnitude and frequency of El Niño events? This is a measure of the El Niño event. It doesn't matter what it is, but it's a measure. The red years are when we have an El Niño event, the blue years are normal, or a La Niña event.
There is indications that in the last 20 or 30 years, both the magnitude and the frequency of the El Niño phenomena has increased. And many of the theoretical models suggest that in the future we could expect both more El Niños and more intense El Niños.
And what happens in an El Niño year? What you see in Latin America is you have floods in Peru, you have droughts in northeast Brazil. You have droughts in Southern Africa, floods in Tanzania and in Kenya. You have major droughts in Australia and major droughts in Southeast Asia. If we were to intensify the frequency and magnitude of the El Niño phenomena, which goes above the average increase that I showed you earlier, there could be major dislocations around the world.
If I look at the precipitation patterns rather in Zimbabwe and Malawi over the last 20 years, you see a very high spectrum, a lot of natural variability in precipitation. And this is going from an El Niño year to an anti-El Niño year, La Niña. But what you also see now is the southern part of Africa, even in the wettest of years, is becoming lower than the century mean. And this is leading to more and more exacerbation of the difficulty of producing food in the southern parts of Africa.
This shows you the linkages between the El Niño phenomena and maize production in Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. And as you can see, there's an incredible correlation between the maize production and the El Niño phenomena.
We now, however, have, in the scientific community, the ability to project and predict climate three to six months in advance. And if indeed rather than the farmer just assuming it's going to be an average year, which it never is in Africa, if we can tell them whether it's going to rain more or less, whether the rains are going to come early or late, they can choose when to plant and whether to plant a dry crop or a wet crop.
And indeed, this shows you the ability. And this was for 1997, the last very major El Niño event. This is a model. This is a probabilistic model. We don't just say if it's getting wetter or drier. But we projected the probability of it becoming wetter in different parts of Africa, for example, or the probability of it becoming drier.
And if one looks between the projection and what actually happened in 1997, it's not a perfect fit. We indeed got it right here. There was far more rain, just as projected. It became far drier here, just as projected. It became far drier here. We missed this part here, where the model predicted it was going to get drier. It actually was wetter. But to a fair degree, we're starting to have the ability to predict three to six months in advance what is likely to happen to precipitation patterns in places such as Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.
These types of advances in scientific prediction will allow much wiser water resource management, health care, because of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, in countries in the tropics.
But there is an interesting problem, and that is if indeed the El Niño phenomena becomes stronger because of global warming, it really will indeed make it very, very difficult for water resource management in Africa. This quickly shows what's happened in Brazil, where they have tried to use these El Niño forecasts.
In 1987, there was no action. We had no ability to project the El Niño situation. They only received 70% of the normal precipitation, 30% less than normal. The grain crop, instead of an average of 650,000 tons per year, was only 100,000. In other words, it only had 15% of the normal grain crop. They lost 85%.
In the following years, there was indeed action taken. 1992, very similar to 1987, and yet the grain crop was almost normal. 530,000 tons. And that was 82%. They only lost 18%. They changed the planting time. 1993, there was only half the normal precipitation. Yield dropped tremendously to 250,000, but still, not as bad as in 1987.
And then we projected for 1994 it was going to be a very rainy year. Precipitation was 120% than normal. The grain production doubled than normal. This looks a very good news story. It was. The only problem is they had no grain storage capacity. All the excess wasted.
And so basically, if one starts to learn how to utilize this information, one can put in the capacity for either whether it be dams, water reservoirs, but also for grain storage. And this is one area we have to start to move forward on. We have to prevent-- rather, we have to get upstream.
Normally what happens is we have an agricultural season, insufficient rain, a drought, agricultural productivity shrinks, it sort of drops, there's a drought appeal. The US, Europe, the other donors all come through with money, but by the time they come through with money, you're in the middle of the heavy rains. It's a totally hopeless approach, basically.
So we now have to start to use the science for wise resource management. But to go back to the long-term impacts of climate change, why do we care? We care for the very things that Henry cared about-- water, food, health impacts. We have to look at the impact of the change of temperature, precipitation, and sea level, not only the mean, but the variability on health, primarily vector-borne diseases, agricultural productivity, the impact on our forests, our water, and our coastal zones. And there are indeed major issues with relating to species diversity.
If you remember the pictures I showed you a little while ago, I saw Africa getting very hot. I also saw less precipitation in Africa. This is annual runoff. And what you can see in the northern part of Africa through the southern part of Europe into the Middle East and in southern Africa decreased by at least a factor of two in runoff.
What will that mean? It means that there could be significant changes in water stress. Today about 19 countries, 20 countries around the world are water-stressed or water-scarce. This number will double in the next 25 years independent of climate change. Just because of population growth and economic growth, we would expect, rather than 10% to 20% of the world today being water-scarce, it would be significantly higher.
Climate change is an additional factor, or an additional stress, that will effectively exacerbate the problems of water scarcity in Northern Africa, Southern Africa, through the Middle East. With respect to India and the US, it's so close that some models-- this model suggests that India becomes water-scarce and America actually becomes less water-scarce. But another model shows the US become more water-scarce and India a little less. All the other countries, though, are very robust independent of the models.
The key to trying to understand India is predicting what will happen to the Indian monsoon. It's very, very tough to do that. All of these other countries that are red were red in the previous document. The US also, it seems a little tricky. It's on the margin of a slight decrease to a slight increase in precipitation.
As I've already said today, roughly 90% of the population has relative sufficiency of water. Independent of climate change by 2050, only 60% of the world. Climate change will exacerbate this, and it'll be less than 50% will be water-secure.
But then we get to food, a major challenge. It's not surprising those countries that now have less precipitation, less runoff-- if you look in Africa and in Latin America, those countries that are in yellow or orange is where agricultural productivity will decrease. This particular model shows a decrease of anywhere from 10% to 30% in agricultural yield in Africa, and in Latin America, and especially in Africa, where most of the people today already subject to malnutrition and malnourishment.
In other words, it is a major equity issue here. It is primarily the developed world-- the US, Japan, and Europe-- that are putting the greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It is primarily the developing countries that suffer the consequences of changes in water and, hence, agricultural productivity.
Overall, if I were to integrate this picture, there's little or no major change in global production, but there's major regional changes. And the question is, is Africa going to grow wealthy enough to buy food from North America and the other countries where food may actually increase in productivity? I personally doubt it.
If you look at vegetation types and don't even try and look for the changes, it's very hard to see. But we also have to look to see what could happen to the major biomes and ecological systems of the world. From this particular model, what we find is when you have a bar at the top, it suggests an increase. So that suggests a certain area increase in deserts. There will be some errors that are currently desert today that will change from desert.
So overall, an increase in desert area. Overall, an increase in temperate grasslands. A major decrease in tropical grasslands. Roughly the same amount of temperate tropical forests. Roughly the same, but a major shift in location of our deciduous forest. Overall, an increase in temperate forest. And roughly, no major change in coniferous forest. So some major changes in where the location of some of these major ecological systems will be.
If one had looked carefully at this previous vegetation map, one would have seen that the East Coast of the United States has the potential to remain forested. But if you also ask yourself the question, will it be the same forest as today, the answer's no. Today there is the potential for beech trees up and down the complete East Coast of the United States. In a double-CO2 world, when the ecological system comes to equilibrium with the climate system, which would take a long period of time, one would argue beech trees would no longer be viable-- nor would sugar maples-- in the United States. Only in Canada.
So the key issue is even when you see that an ecological system like a forest is projected to stay a forest, there may be major changes in species composition, which has major changes in ecological goods and services they provide.
One of the most disconcerting issues is at this moment in time the world's terrestrial ecosystems are actually our sink overall for CO2. They're absorbing CO2. In a warmer world and a changed hydrological world, even after taking into account the CO2 fertilization effect, the models are predicting, most of them, that instead of the terrestrial biosphere being a sink for carbon dioxide, it will become a source, potentially a major dieback in some of the ecosystems of the world. If that were to occur-- and I stress "if"-- if it were to occur, it would exacerbate and catalyze even further global warming.
Clearly, climate change is not the major threat to the forest systems of the world. In Russia and Europe, we only have about 30% of the original forest left. This is completely cleared, this has been modified, and this is frontier forest. In Asia, there's less than 10% of the original forest cover. North America, about a third, maybe 40%. South America, about a half. Africa, again, down to 10% of original frontier forest.
The way to view climate change as is not the major threat to food. The major threat to food is we need more food as a growing population and economic growth. The major threat to the forest isn't climate change, but climate change is a very major additional stress. And we have to look at climate change in the full socioeconomic picture. And in its own right, it is a very serious environmental issue we need to get to grips with.
What else do we have to worry about from climate change? As I mentioned earlier, in a warmer world, we would have to worry about human health. Heat stress mortality-- we saw about three years ago in Chicago when it was unusually warm both day and night, over 500 people died within a three-day period. It wasn't the high daytime temperatures. It was the very high nighttime temperatures for those that were socially disadvantaged-- the poor who didn't have air conditioning.
But the big issue is the issue of the vector-borne diseases. Today there's about 300 million new cases of malaria per year. Roughly 2 million people die. Primarily in the tropics. In a double-CO2 world, we'd expect those numbers to go up by about 25%. In other words, an additional 50 to 80 million cases of malaria per year, an additional half a million people dying per year because of malaria.
One also has to worry about dengue fever and the other vector-borne diseases and waterborne diseases, such as cholera. Where will most of those cases of malaria occur? Even though there's a potential for malaria to spread into the United States and Europe, the health care system here will take care of it, to a large degree. But the places where it will get worse is where it's already bad-- primarily in Africa, Latin America, and parts of Southeast Asia. Again, please note it's the developing countries that, once again, suffer.
Sea level rise. 50-centimeter sea level rise. What are the implications? Major loss of wetlands up in this part of the world and here. Potentially between 10 and 50 million people being displaced around Africa. Potentially 50 to 100 million people being displaced in Southeast Asia and up in China.
The low-laying deltaic areas in Bangladesh, Egypt, and China, tens of millions of environmental refugees. Small island states like the Maldive Islands, where there's 1,200 islands-- average height, three feet-- in one or two centuries could conceivably disappear. A complete loss of cultures.
This shows you the map of Bangladesh. It doesn't show very well, and I apologize. This is the current coastline with a one-meter-- this is one-meter sea level rise. It moves in about half an inch on here. 70 million people live there. Half the rice is grown there. Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world, one of the most complex deltaic systems. It doesn't have the options of the Netherlands of just building sea dikes.
So where do we go from here? I'm not going to go into all the ways that you can indeed mitigate climate change. I'll more focus on sort of the general objectives. I personally believe, and so does the IPCC, there are cost-effective approaches to dealing with climate change today. But there are some real challenges.
There are scientific uncertainties. There is no doubt about that. But there is the potential for irreversible damage, such as species loss. There are lags between emissions and the effects. It is a global problem, and there are-- and I hate the word "winners and losers," but there are wide variations in the impacts.
The question is, what is the optimal stabilization level? How do you get there for an emissions pathway? And what's the right choice, or an appropriate choice, of technologies and policies? I think a major point that needs to be taken into account is the time dimension.
Even if you were to stabilize today the atmospheric emissions of CO2, you cannot stabilize the concentrations for many centuries. The lifetime of CO2 is over 100 years, so just stabilizing emissions today, atmospheric concentrations go up for centuries. Even if you could stabilize the atmospheric concentration of CO2, the temperature lags by a few decades to as much as maybe half a century.
Once you stabilize temperature, sea level continues to go up for many centuries. Ecosystems could be disturbed. And even if you believe they could be restored, it could take decades or centuries, and species loss is irreversible. So from a scientific perspective, the environmental system has long inertias, significant inertia. But we also have to recognize that if we want to deal with climate change, we need to deal with it in the most cost-effective way and we have to realize that capital stock turnover ranges from years for light bulbs to centuries for power plants.
The key point here is if you wait for perfect knowledge and you do not like that change climate, you cannot reverse it, not for decades, not for centuries, but potentially millennia.
This is a very simple calculation. Any model would show it. You double atmospheric CO2, the blue line, over the next 70 years and you hold CO2 absolutely constant, that's what happens to sea level. It monotonically rises for 600 years here. And I could have run the model out for 2,000 years or 5,000 years. This is one of the issues. Once you force climate to start changing, you cannot reverse it quickly.
Clearly, then governments decide that the time for action is now. I've already said the residence time for CO2 is more than a century. The policymakers recognized that you cannot wait for perfect knowledge. And they recognized the precautionary principle applies. At least all of them did but the US Senate.
Where are the CO2 emissions going up? Primarily in developing countries. There is no question that, to date, most of the greenhouse gases have been put in by the so-called Annex I, or the developed world. Over the next century, the growth is primarily in developing countries.
But let's remember the per capita emissions. The per capita emissions of the United States and Europe relative to most developing countries is a factor of 10 or 100. Again, a moral and ethical issue. The governments indeed, including the United States administration, signed the Kyoto Protocol. It calls for a 5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in a commitment period 2008 to 2012 relative to 1990.
They also recognized something called a flexibility mechanism, and that is you could trade carbon on the open market. I believe this is a superb invention. It's like the sulfur market in America. You can now make carbon a commodity. The interesting thing, though-- it's not only carbon from energy systems that you can trade, but it now gives real value to carbon in ecological systems. It may be an incredible financing mechanism to slow down deforestation in the tropics.
And so the issues, again, of climate and biodiversity can once again be linked. It doesn't sound like a 5% reduction in 2010 relative to 1990 is very much. But in a business-as-usual scenario, our view is that the United States and Europe would be something like 24% above the 1990 levels rather than 5% below without the Kyoto Protocol.
So in essence, the challenge isn't a 5% reduction, it's a 30% reduction relative to the plausible future. So it's not trivial, but it's an essential first step to start to protect the Earth's climate system.
In 2100, this shows what would it take to stabilize atmospheric levels of CO2? The blue line, for example, here is the 550 line. Double pre-industrial. Many NGOs would argue that's too high. European Union has put 550 as effectively its target. Remind you, today we're at 360. The European Union says, let's try to stabilize that to 550.
What would that take? In a business-as-usual world where we don't have a convention, in the year 2100, we'd reject 20 billion tons a year, up from 6 today. 20. This suggests you would never have globally more than 8, 9, 9 and 1/2 billion tons. And then it would rapidly have to decrease to less than today. So no mean feat to stabilize at 550. To remind you, the environmental NGOs believe it should be 450 or even less.
It also means, though, this cannot be done by the developed world alone. Even if you zeroed out-- which is, of course, impossible-- emissions in the Annex I, or the developed world, eventually, the developing countries, because of that projected growth I showed you, would have to take on obligations.
Without going into the details, if we wanted to stabilize at 450, developing countries would have to have obligations by 2015. And even stabilizing at 550, they'd have to have obligations by 2030. This means there has to be collaboration between the developed and the developing world with both financial mechanisms and technology transfer, including education and knowledge transfer.
Even stabilizing at 550 still means more than a two-degree Centigrade change. It doesn't mean stopping climate change. It means limiting it to two degrees. If it's at 750, which some people have advocated, that means stopping it at three and a half degrees Centigrade.
What sort of plausible world would potentially save us? This was actually done by Shell. They looked at the potential of governance structures in the world, whether American economic power triumphed or whether the Asian markets took over. They actually looked at the sort of population, economic growth, the potential of new energy systems coming on board.
And this is not a projection, but it's a plausible future that they're now thinking about. British Petroleum's done something similar. Their view was that fossil fuels will continue to be important over the next 50 years, but the new emerging technologies of wind, biomass, solar are going to become more and more important such by 2050, 2060, one may have an energy market that's only half fossil fuel and is effectively half-- and I've just been reminded that wind power is also extremely important as well, [LAUGHS] which is indeed true that wind power is actually there in blue. I forgot to mention it. Yes, I know.
I've got two more [INAUDIBLE]. So the point is, how do you get there? In reality, it's not technology, in my opinion. It's actually getting the economic policies right. You need sector reform to get rid of perverse economic subsidies for fossil fuels. When you do that, it helps to promote energy efficiency. It helps to make a more level playing field for renewable energies.
We have to focus on renewable energy. We need to internalize the environmental pollution costs of local environmental pollution. So we need economic insurance, we need standards, we need regional agreements. But most of all, we need more renewable energy. And we need trading systems to bring the cost of energy down.
The last comment I'd like to make is very simply, has this ever worked before? The answer is, on the ozone issue, yes, there was complete success. There was a wonderful link between advances in science, the international scientific assessments, and policy conversion. From 1985 to 1995, we made a series of discoveries with respect to the ozone hole. Mario Molina, who won a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work with Sherry Rowland, who's in the audience here today, play the key role in this.
That as we understood the science, we interpreted it through the international assessment, so the whole scientific community. And the policy community listened. And there was a series of decisions such that, effectively, now all the long-lived chlorine- and bromine-containing compounds are being phased out. Atmospheric chlorine has not only peaked, it's starting to go down. We actually avoided-- and this is, effectively, what we're now seeing. It's peaked and it's going down. It avoided a world where chlorine could have gone up to 25 parts per million. It's now effectively about 3 and 1/2 and starting to go down.
How did we accomplish it? And what do we need in climate or biodiversity? Solid research from the individual researcher, national research programs. Sorry, principal investigators, national, international programs. The policy formulations are absolutely critical of the government, with the big international conventions, their science bodies. The assessment process is critical.
If you don't have an international assessment, one country uses one piece of science, another country uses another piece of science. So the national and international assessment process, which brings in the scientists, the technologists, the economists, and the ethicists, which is absolutely critical, is to bring the ethical dimension. Absolutely critical.
We need financial instruments, including how to make the market work. And the role of civil society-- the general public, the NGOs, industry, and the media absolutely critical.
The bottom line is we need political will. We need better science. There's no question. But even more, we need political will, and we need to take an integrated approach if indeed we are to protect our environment. Thank you.