Monday, May 28, 2007

Climate Change Appraisal

Maywa Montenegro, via Gristmill, describes a website designed for individuals grappling with climate adaptation issues: Earlier this week I learned that I'm eligible, via my mother, for Dutch citizenship, which means I could potentially work, vote, and live in Holland without having to go through the hassle of visa applications.

Before moving to a country that lies largely below sea level, though, I might want to check out Climate Appraisal, which, as its name suggests, is a website where you can size up the environmental hazards of your desired address. A joint project of a former banking executive and climate scientists at the University of Arizona in Tucson, the site has plenty of free information on numerous ways your property might perish, including earthquakes, shoreline reduction, hurricanes, tornadoes, drought, fire, and flood. Each of those categories provides a definition, scientific overview, and scientific links. If you're willing to fork over actual cash, the premium subscription will generate maps, graphs, and tables in each of the hazard categories specific to your address. (Clicking on the floods tab, for instance, might tell me how many times the rivers in my county have breached their banks in the past 100 years.)

The climate change-related statistics are mainly projected temperatures and, for coastal areas, sea-level rise. And these are pretty speculative, as the website's creators readily admit. Nature News asked some scientists to review the site's content and many were critical of its rigor. "If I was doing this I would caveat it to death," said Linda Mearns, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and lead author on the IPCC reports.

The creators acknowledge gaps in the data and say they hope to update it with new IPCC report information. They also validly point out, "If we included all the scientific discussion about all the uncertainties, no one would ever read it."

All in all, this is a fun place to fish, as long as you can ignore the many entreaties to sign up for the premium subscription (along with numerous Paypal signs). The scientific links alone make the site worth a visit, providing arrows to vast amounts of wonderful, wonky stuff.

And I'm sure we'll be seeing many more sites like this in the future, as people -- even well-intentioned ones -- seek to make a buck on climate change.

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