A Way Forward In Climate Science Based On A Bottom-Up Resource-Based Perspective

Readers of my weblog know I have been urging the adoption of a vulnerability assessment approach to evaluate the effect of climate and other environmental and societal threats to key resources as a more inclusive approach to assess threats, including from climate variability and longer term climate change. I summarized this approach, for example, in my posts

The Vulnerability Perspective

Further Comments On The Vulnerability Perspective

where I wrote

“There are 5 broad areas that we can use to define the need for vulnerability assessments : water, food, energy, [human] health and ecosystem function. Each area has societally critical resources. The vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to these resources from climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risk from natural- and human-caused climate change (estimated from the GCM projections, but also the historical, paleo-record and worst case sequences of events) can be compared with other risks in order to adopt the optimal mitigation/adaptation strategy.”

There is a more detailed discussion of this vulnerability perspective in

Pielke, R.A. Sr. and L. Bravo de Guenni, Eds., 2004: How to evaluate vulnerability in changing environmental conditions. Part E In: Vegetation, Water, Humans and the Climate: A New Perspective on an Interactive System. Global Change – The IGBP Series, P. Kabat et al. Eds., Springer, 483-544.

The IPCC, unfortunately, ignored this bottom-up, resource-based focus, and instead completed an inappropriately narrow top-down CO2-centric viewpoint based on multi-decadal global climate model predictions; e.g. see the movement from WG1 to the WG2 reports, which culminated in the WG3 report;

IPCC, 2007: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [B. Metz, O.R. Davidson, P.R. Bosch, R. Dave, L.A. Meyer (eds)], Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

I have been appointed as Editor-in-Chief of a five volume set of books focused on each of the key resources of food, water, energy, ecosystem function, and human health. This will permit the development of a set of books that will permit policymakers to better evaluate the role of the different human and natural threats to society and the environment.

The questions each chapter has been tasked to address are listed below.

 1. Why is this resource important?  How is it used? To what stakeholders is it valuable?
2. What are the key environmental and social variables that influence this resource?
3.  What is the sensitivity of this resource to changes in each of these key variables? (this includes, but is not limited to, the sensitivity of the resource to climate variations and change on short (e.g. days); medium (e.g. seasons) and long (e.g. multi-decadal) time scales.
4. What changes (thresholds) in these key variables would have to occur to result in a negative (or positive) response to this resource?
5. What are the best estimates of the probabilities for these changes to occur? What tools are available to quantify the effect of these changes. Can these estimates be skillfully predicted?
6. What actions (adaptation/mitigation) can be undertaken in order to minimize or eliminate the negative consequences of these changes (or to optimize a positive response)?

7. What  are specific recommendations  for policymakers and other stakeholders?

I will provide more details on the outstanding Editors who will be working together with me on this as well as more details in the books in upcoming posts.

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