» Climatic changes

Climate Modeling 101

For much of modern history, climate has been predictable enough to have worked its way into the very culture, industry, and infrastructure of our society. It would make little sense to support a ski industry in Colorado if not for the expectation of snow, and it would make little sense to support a vacation industry in Florida if not for the expectation of sun. Expected climate conditions are the basis for the nation’s farming, transportation, and water management practices, among many others. But Earth’s climate system is, in a word, complicated. It incorporates thousands of factors that interact in space and time around the globe and over many generations. For several decades, scientists have used the world’s most advanced computers to both simulate climate and predict future climate. Industries such as those mentioned above increasingly rely on information from these models to guide decision making–and with a changing climate, the information is more important than ever. This site is a primer on how climate models work. The information is based on expert consensus reports from the National Research Council’s Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate. Read More

North American forests unlikely to save us from climate change, study finds

Forests take up 25-30 percent of human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide—a strong greenhouse gas—and are therefore considered to play a crucial role in mitigating the speed and magnitude of climate change. However, a new study that combines future climate model projections, historic tree-ring records across the entire continent of North America, and how the growth rates of trees may respond to a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has shown that the mitigation effect of forests will likely be much smaller in the future than previously suggested. Published in the journal Ecology Letters, the study is the first to reveal the possible impact of a changing climate on the growth rate of trees across all of North America, in other words, how their growth changes over time and in response to shifting environmental conditions. The result are detailed forecast maps for the entire North American continent that reveal how forest growth will be impacted by climate change. Read More

Ecological and Evolutionary Responses to Recent Climate Change

Ecological changes in the phenology and distribution of plants and animals are occurring in all well-studied marine, freshwater, and terrestrial groups. These observed changes are heavily biased in the directions predicted from global warming and have been linked to local or regional climate change through correlations between climate and biological variation, field and laboratory experiments, and physiological research. Range-restricted species, particularly polar and mountaintop species, show severe range contractions and have been the first groups in which entire species have gone extinct due to recent climate change. Tropical coral reefs and amphibians have been most negatively affected. Predator-prey and plant-insect interactions have been disrupted when interacting species have responded differently to warming. Evolutionary adaptations to warmer conditions have occurred in the interiors of species’ ranges, and resource use and dispersal have evolved rapidly at expanding range margins. Observed genetic shifts modulate local effects of climate change, but there is little evidence that they will mitigate negative effects at the species level. Read More

Household energy consumption and carbon emissions for sustainable cities – A critical review of modelling approaches

The purpose of this paper is to conduct a review of how household energy consumption and carbon emissions (HECCE) modelling paradigms have evolved over the years. This is achieved by adopting the literature review methodology for the study. The paper first reviewed the previous studies that are serving as the theoretical framework underpinning the HECCE models. Further to this, the paper identified an array of energy models that have evolved over the years together with their capability of analysing energy consumption and their associated carbon emission trends in housing sector of the economy. The results of the study showed that econometric (mainly top-down), building physics, and statistical (mainly bottom-up) methods are the existing approaches that have found application in modelling HECCE issues. However, a number of limitations were noticed in these existing modelling techniques. These are (1) lack of transparency in the model algorithms, (2) inability to account for the complex, interdependencies, and dynamic nature of the issue of energy consumption and carbon emissions, (3) limited evidence to show for the occupants–dwelling interactions, and (4) lack of enough capacity to accommodate qualitative data input. And as such, the study concluded that there is the need to scout for more robust and sophisticated modelling approaches that take into consideration the kind of complexity involved in issues relating to HECCE. Read More

Assessing the significance of climate and community factors on urban water demand

Ensuring adequate water supply to urban areas is a challenging task due to factors such as rapid urban growth, increasing water demand and climate change. In developing a sustainable water supply system, it is important to identify the dominant water demand factors for any given water supply scheme. This paper applies principal components analysis to identify the factors that dominate residential water demand using the Blue Mountains Water Supply System in Australia as a case study. The results show that the influence of community intervention factors (e.g. use of water efficient appliances and rainwater tanks) on water demand are among the most significant. The result also confirmed that the community intervention programmes and water pricing policy together can play a noticeable role in reducing the overall water demand. On the other hand, the influence of rainfall on water demand is found to be very limited, while temperature shows some degree of correlation with water demand. The results of this study would help water authorities to plan for effective water demand management strategies and to develop a water demand forecasting model with appropriate climatic factors to achieve sustainable water resources management. The methodology developed in this paper can be adapted to other water supply systems to identify the influential factors in water demand modeling and to devise an effective demand management strategy. Read More

Linking adaptation science to action to build food secure Pacific Island communities

Climate change is a major threat to food security in Pacific Island countries, with declines in food production and increasing variability in food supplies already evident across the region. Such impacts have already led to observed consequences for human health, safety and economic prosperity. Enhancing the adaptive capacity of Pacific Island communities is one way to reduce vulnerability and is underpinned by the extent to which people can access, understand and use new knowledge to inform their decision-making processes. However, effective engagement of Pacific Island communities in climate adaption remains variable and is an ongoing and significant challenge. Here, we use a qualitative research approach to identify the impediments to engaging Pacific Island communities in the adaptations needed to safeguard food security. The main barriers include cultural differences between western science and cultural knowledge, a lack of trust among local communities and external scientists, inappropriate governance structures, and a lack of political and technical support. We identify the importance of adaptation science, local social networks, key actors (i.e., influential and trusted individuals), and relevant forms of knowledge exchange as being critical to overcoming these barriers. We also identify the importance of co-ordination with existing on-ground activities to effectively leverage, as opposed to duplicating, capacity. Read More

Past and future climate change in the context of memorable seasonal extremes

It is thought that direct personal experience of extreme weather events could result in greater public engagement and policy response to climate change. Based on this premise, we present a set of future climate scenarios for Ireland communicated in the context of recent, observed extremes. Specifically, we examine the changing likelihood of extreme seasonal conditions in the long-term observational record, and explore how frequently such extremes might occur in a changed Irish climate according to the latest model projections. Over the period (1900–2014) records suggest a greater than 50-fold increase in the likelihood of the warmest recorded summer (1995), whilst the likelihood of the wettest winter (1994/95) and driest summer (1995) has respectively doubled since 1850. The most severe end-of-century climate model projections suggest that summers as cool as 1995 may only occur once every ∼7 years, whilst winters as wet as 1994/95 and summers as dry as 1995 may increase by factors of ∼8 and ∼10 respectively. Contrary to previous research, we find no evidence for increased wintertime storminess as the Irish climate warms, but caution that this conclusion may be an artefact of the metric employed. It is hoped that framing future climate scenarios in the context of extremes from living memory will help communicate the scale of the challenge climate change presents, and in so doing bridge the gap between climate scientists and wider society. Read More

Scenario planning to leap-frog the Sustainable Development Goals: An adaptation pathways approach

Few studies have examined how to mainstream future climate change uncertainty into decision-making for poverty alleviation in developing countries. With potentially drastic climate change emerging later this century, there is an imperative to develop planning tools which can enable vulnerable rural communities to proactively build adaptive capacity and ‘leap-frog’ the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Using an example from Indonesia, we present a novel participatory approach to achieve this. We applied scenario planning to operationalise four adaptation pathways principles: (1) consideration of climate change as a component of multi-scale social-ecological systems; (2) recognition of stakeholders’ competing values, goals and knowledge through co-learning; (3) coordination of responses across multiple decision-making levels; and (4) identification of strategies which are ‘no regrets’, incremental (tackling proximate drivers of community vulnerability) and transformative (tackling systemic drivers). Workshops with stakeholders from different administrative levels identified drivers of change, an aspirational vision and explorative scenarios for livelihoods in 2090, and utilised normative back-casting to design no regrets adaptation strategies needed to achieve the vision. The resulting ‘tapestry’ of strategies were predominantly incremental, and targeted conventional development needs. Few directly addressed current or possible future climate change impacts. A minority was transformative, and higher level stakeholders identified proportionately more transformative strategies than local level stakeholders. Whilst the vast majority of strategies were no regrets, some were potentially mal-adaptive, particularly for coastal areas and infrastructure. There were few examples of transformative innovations that could generate a step-change in linked human and environmental outcomes, hence leap-frogging the SDGs. We conclude that whilst effective at integrating future uncertainties into community development planning, our approach should place greater emphasis on analysing and addressing systemic drivers through extended learning cycles. Read More

CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE U.S. ENERGY SECTOR: REGIONAL VULNERABILITIES AND RESILIENCE SOLUTIONS

We live in a rapidly changing world. The effects of climate change— such as heat waves, rising sea levels and more severe storms— are already being felt across the United States. Our energy infrastructure is especially vulnerable to climate-related impacts, which can pose a serious threat to America’s national security, energy security, economic well-being, and quality of life. This interactive map illustrates how climate change has the potential to disrupt our nation’s energy systems. Click on the shaded regions below for a breakdown of the key climate vulnerabilities in each part of the country. Read More

U.S. DOE Department of Science Biological and Environmental Research (BER)

BER advances world-class biological and environmental research programs and scientific user facilities to support DOE’s energy, environment, and basic research missions. The Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program supports fundamental research and scientific user facilities to address diverse and critical global challenges. The program seeks to understand how genomic information is translated to functional capabilities, enabling more confident redesign of microbes and plants for sustainable biofuel production, improved carbon storage, or contaminant bioremediation. BER research advances understanding of the roles of Earth’s biogeochemical systems (the atmosphere, land, oceans, sea ice, and subsurface) in determining climate so we can predict climate decades or centuries into the future, information needed to plan for future energy and resource needs. Solutions to these challenges are driven by a foundation of scientific knowledge and inquiry in atmospheric chemistry and physics, ecology, biology, and biogeochemistry. Read More

Mission

EERL's mission is to be the best possible online collection of environmental and energy sustainability resources for community college educators and for their students. The resources are also available for practitioners and the public.

EERL & ATEEC

EERL is a product of a community college-based National Science Foundation Center, the Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC), and its partners.

Contact ATEEC 563.441.4087 or by email ateec@eicc.edu