"System change is now inevitable. Either because we do something about it, or because we will be hit by climate change. '...

"We need to develop economic models that are fit for purpose. The current economic frameworks, the ones that dominate our governments, these frameworks... the current economic frameworks, the neoclassical, the market frameworks, can deal with small changes. It can tell you the difference, if a sock company puts up the price of socks, what the demand for socks will be. It cannot tell you about the sorts of system level changes we are talking about here. We would not use an understanding of laminar flow in fluid dynamics to understand turbulent flow. So why is it we are using marginal economics, small incremental change economics, to understand system level changes?"

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ludeke, Petschel-Held and Schellnhuber

This Hans-Joachim (a.k.a. John) Schellnhuber is a very interesting fellow indeed. Among many other items of surprising interest, breadth and depth (including publications in the 80s on solutions to Schrodinger's equation), here's an especially accessible one by Schellnhuber as third author, along with Matthias K. B. Ludeke and Gerhard Petschel-Held entitled "Syndromes of Global Change: The First Panoramic View". It's first a taxonomy of types of unsustainability and secondly a map of the distribution of the various patterns.

It turns out that many areas have more than one form of unsustainability, sometimes mutually reinforcing and sometimes competing. And almost everywhere there is some form of unsustainable activity.

Apparently the German Advisory Council on Global Change has come up with a taxonomy of 16 "syndromes" of global change:

Utilisation syndromes

Sahel Syndrome (*) Overcultivation of marginal land.
Overexploitation Syndrome (*) Overexploitation of natural ecosystems.
Rural Exodus Syndrome = Environmental degradation due to abandonment of traditional agricultural practices.
Dust Bowl Syndrome (*) Non-sustainable agro-industrial use of soils and water.
Katanga Syndrome = Environmental degradation due to depletion of non-renewable resources.
Mass Tourism Syndrome = Development and destruction of nature for recreational ends.
Scorched Earth Syndrome = Environmental destruction due to war and military action.

Development syndromes

Aral Sea Syndrome (*) Environmental damage to natural landscapes as a result of large-scale projects.
Green Revolution Syndrome (*) Environmental degradation due to un-adapted farming methods.
Asian Tiger Syndrome (*) Disregard for environmental standards in the context of rapid economic growth.
Favela Syndrome (*) Environmental degradation due to uncontrolled urban growth.
Urban Sprawl Syndrome = Destruction of landscapes due to planned expansion of urban infrastructure.
Disaster Syndrome = Singular anthropogenic environmental disasters with long-term impact.

Sink syndromes

High Stack Syndrome = Environmental degradation as a result of large-scale dispersion of emissions.
Waste Dumping Syndrome = Environmental degradation due to controlled and uncontrolled waste disposal.
Contaminated Land Syndrome = Local contamination of the environment at industrial locations.

The syndromes marked with an asterisk are described in detail and mapped in the article. Here's a sample. Go look at the article (click the PDF button) to understand what all those colors mean. In short, though, all colors are bad, and so are the little white dots.


skanky said...

I get a session time out message.

Michael Tobis said...

Thanks. Try again please.

skanky said...

Got it, many thanks.

Aaron said...

Some syndromes may overlap with a disproportionate increase in costs. For example we can have urban sprawl into an area contaminated with industrial waste resulting in large health costs.

Moreover changing climate from AGW, will affect and enhance some of the syndromes.

Changing climate will affect the fate and transport of pollutants changing areas. For example pollutants currently locked in ice will be released into the biosystems as the ice melts.