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Apr 25 / Dave Schumaker

The Future of Climate Change Science and Water Resources

Although the IPCC is not responsible for producing new science, it certainly has a major role in pushing the direction of research. Therefore, any changes to the reporting process of the IPCC are of significance to the geoscience community, especially those who seek funding for research on global change. A recent report in Science highlights an intended reorganization of the IPCC annual report preparation process.

• The first change would ditch the practice of prescribing the scenarios of economic and technological progress driving future greenhouse gas emissions that researchers should incorporate into their modeling, the first step in the process. Delegates also backed the idea of having the communities that correspond to the panel’s three working groups on the science of climate change, its impacts, and mitigation strategies develop their studies in parallel rather than sequentially. Scientists say these changes will reduce the level of uncertainty in their findings, deliver more regional details, and provide policymakers with better clues on how to curb climate change–without lengthening the time from start to finish. The new regime “will expedite and improve the process,” says Richard Moss of the World Wildlife Fund, who helped coordinate the effort for IPCC.

[Via Science]

An editorial by two high-ranking IPCC officials published in a previous issue of Science presents a dissenting view of the intended changes. They contend, “Any move toward more rapid products risks incomplete identification of the range of justifiable views and a consequent reduction of the rigor, clarity, and robustness of the consensus [of climate scientists].”

These intended changes come at a time when the issue of climate change and water resources is (or should be) receiving additional media attention. On April 9, 2008, the IPCC released the Technical Paper on Climate Change and Water that describes the scientific evidence for and potential consequences of global warming. The report also explains methods of adaptation and mitigation that portend a sketchy future for freshwater supply, especially in arid regions of Africa and Asia. The Executive Summary emphasizes,

• “Globally, the negative impacts of future climate change on freshwater systems are expected to outweigh the benefits (high confidence). By the 2050s, the area of land subject to increasing water stress due to climate change is projected to be more than double that with decreasing water stress.”
• “Several gaps in knowledge exist in terms of observations and research needs related to climate change and water.”

[Via IPCC]

The findings of this report suggest that an increase in the knowledgebase for water resources in the United States is of utmost importance. However, the US Geological Survey’s FY 2009 budget for water resources was cut by nearly 17% compared to FY 2008. Some have argued that the Water 2025 initiative and congressional restoration of some budget cuts will offset this major blow to water resource assessment. The US Deparment of Interior’s Water 2025 initiative focuses on improving water resources in the western US, but recent water challenges faced by the southeastern US imply a significant deficiency in the scope of such an initiative.

This article was written by Bob Sas, a Master’s student at San Francisco State University, and kindly submitted to Geology News.

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