The U.S. Global Change Research Program Act of 1990 requires the U.S. government to do periodic climate impact assessments of the United States. This Elements of Change report serves as a guide to help outline the content and approach taken for this important assessment. The content of this report reflects the discussions that took place at a 1997 AGCI meeting among federal agency representatives, university academics, and others. During the meeting, participants explored the critical scientific issues relating to the assessment and drafted a plan for its completion.
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Much attention in climate modeling has focused on how to downscale from large scale model output to smaller scales in order to resolve critical features such as mountain ranges. This Elements of Change report looks at the other side of the scale problem. It addresses the problem of known as upcaling, which is scaling from areas measured in square meters to larger aggregates. In this report are discussions of the practical and theoretical problems that arise with upscaling in a variety of regions. Since upscaling is widely required in models that forecast climate and other forms of global change, a better apprehension of this topic will serve to improve our models and understanding of key change.
Characterizing uncertainty is a major issue in all scientific discourse, but it is of particular importance in climate change research. Widely publicized climate change findings, such as the periodic reports authored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), must find precision in their language so that the published findings are neither understated nor exaggerated and can be taken seriously by policymakers, the media, and the public. This Elements of Change report tackles this problem by summarizing the proceedings of a 1996 AGCI meeting that was convened to discuss how uncertainty is communicated in reports such as the one put out by the IPCC. In attendance were climate change researchers, policy analysts, and media experts, and this report addresses scientific, media, and policy related issues pertaining to uncertainty.
Societal ability to understand, build resiliency, and respond to natural hazards will be put to the test as global environmental changes, such as climate change, are likely to make natural disasters and hazard more common. This Elements of Change report discusses the main components of natural disaster reduction and illustrates why better disaster management and response is necessary in face of looming environmental change. Included in this report is a description of expected environmental changes that pose a threat to society, suggested procedures for natural disaster reduction, and the role of various private, government, civilian sectors in reducing the impacts of natural hazards.
Following the 1992 framework of the Convention on Climate Change, there was much discussion about how to create effective policy strategies for climate change. This Elements of Change report explores a variety of binding and non-binding approaches, focusing on the different strategies for developed and developing countries. In addition, the report compares and contrasts climate change policy development to other international environmental agreements such as those for protecting the ozone hole and regulating acid rain.
Since the onset of satellites, particularly Landsat in 1972, the ability to map vegetative cover type and changes in its aerial extent has led to a fundamentally new way of understanding the Earth and rates of change to its surface. This Elements of Change report explores the technical aspects of remote sensing and analysis of data along with a variety of ground truthing techniques. Furthermore, it uncovers the types of change in vegetative cover brought about by human activity. This report provides case studies from several continents and presents related issues such as the edge effect as a disturbance factor beyond the actual cover change area which is particularly evident in cover change in the Amazon.
It long has been recognized that habitat destruction and land use change due to human activity pose a serious threat to biodiversity. But what other threats are there and at what scale do they operate? This Elements of Change report explores the scale, mechanisms, as well as the ecological and economic impacts of biological invasion resulting from intentional and unintentional distribution of species accelerated by human activity. Control mechanisms and the consequences of inaction are discussed.
Many of the temperate zone major cities of the world, specifically those in Europe, Asia, and North America, are closely associated with large food-producing areas. This Elements of Change report looks into this relationship and the implications for the future organization of human populations and the quality of conditions necessary for productive agriculture and healthy urban environments. Particular attention is given to the case study of the metro-agro-plex in China. In addition, this report discusses issues associated with urban air and water pollution impacting agricultural productivity downstream and downriver and conversely agriculturally based pollutants from fertilizer, pesticides and soil erosion impacting neighboring urban areas.
This Elements of Change report grapples with the difficult question of how to anticipate change in dynamic and complex systems such as the physical, biological, and chemical properties of the Earth system confounded by human interactions with those systems both intentional and unintended. The report reflects the conclusions of an interdisciplinary group of scientists who collaborated to develop a typology of surprise and considered ways to anticipate thresholds and non-linear responses to forcings.
The understanding of climate change due to human activities is dependent on an understanding of the energy balance of the Earth. Clouds, their type and spatial coverage, play a key role in the EarthÕs energy balance. Better understanding of clouds and ways to more accurately represent them in models is key to the development of better climate models. This Elements of Change report discusses various observational methods from microphysical, synoptic, and the global scale as well as theoretical understanding of cloud formation and attenuation of incoming and outgoing radiation. Also included within this report are recommendations for observational needs and techniques along with a set of theoretical approaches for cloud parameterization in climate modeling.