Monday, June 15, 2009

Adapting to climate change depends on site-specific knowledge

Robert C. Cowen in the Christian Science Monitor: New research has put climate change in a more challenging – although not entirely discouraging – perspective: It’s too late to avoid some unpleasant effects of global warming, such as a rising sea level and water shortages. But there’s still time to avert the worst foreseeable consequences, such as an even larger sea level rise and even more extreme temperatures.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., made that point in a comprehensive study published in April. …[W]e’re being challenged to adapt to significant climate change while at the same time making difficult economic adjustments to curb greenhouse gas emissions. There’s plenty of discussion about curbing the gases and some discussion of adapting to what now seems inevitable environmental change. There’s relatively little focus on how to deal with these two challenges simultaneously.

…Another NCAR study published in late May showed how melting Greenland ice not only adds to seawater volume but changes currents to push water even higher along northeastern coasts of North America. Sea level there could rise 12 to 20 inches more than along other North American coastal areas by 2100. The study’s lead author, Aixue Hu, warned that “major northeastern cities are directly in the path of the greatest rise.”

This illustrates the fact that adapting to climate change in specific areas depends on developing a sophisticated knowledge of exactly what will happen in that specific area. You can’t just base plans on expected large-scale averages, such as global sea level rise.…Broad-brush planning won’t cut it.

Image of juggling boulders created by Jökullind, who has generously released it into the public domain

No comments: