Decision-makers need scientific information, human context to guide meaningful action
Benjamin Preston, deputy director of the Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has co-authored a chapter in the book Successful Adaptation to Climate Change: Linking Science and Policy in a Rapidly Changing World. In the chapter, titled “Water, seas, and wine: Science for successful climate adaptation,” Lauren Rickards of Melbourne University, Suraje Dessai of the University of Leeds, Ryan Meyer of the California Ocean Science Trust, and Preston argue it is no longer sufficient for researchers to carry out studies and then merely hand off the results to decision-makers who then use them to improve their decisions.
U.S. economic losses from extreme weather could at least double by 2050, according to an Oak Ridge National Laboratory analysis published this month in the online edition of the journal Global Environmental Change.
"A side effect of America's growth has been the tendency to put more people, infrastructure and assets in harm's way, and when a storm comes through, that increased exposure drives up economic losses," said author Benjamin Preston, deputy director of ORNL's Climate Change Science Institute, who studied historical data from more than 3,000 U.S. counties and used predictive modeling in the assessment. Preston works in impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability science, a field devoted to analyzing the effects of climate change on people, governments and industries.
TJ Blasing traces how scientists know what they know about the Earth system
At the invitation of the Kingston Rotary Club, physical scientist TJ Blasing of the Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory spoke about the global effect of rising greenhouse gases on May 14 at the Two Chefs Deli in Kingston, Tenn. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and several halogenated species (e.g., CFC-11, CFC-12). Blasing shared with an audience of about 30 how scientists arrived at the answers to four questions about the Earth system: Are greenhouse-gas concentrations increasing? Are humans causing these increases? Is the planet’s average near-surface air temperature increasing? Is the relationship between greenhouse gas increases and near-surface air temperature strong enough to influence climate? (The answers are yes, yes, yes and yes.)
The Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory worked with the US Geological Survey to develop BISON - Biodiversity Information Serving Our Nation. BISON is a web-based Federal resource for finding species in the U.S. and its territories. BISON offers more than 100 million mapped records of nearly every living species nationwide, and the vast majority of the records are from specific locations, not just county or state records. The Core Science Analytics and Synthesis (CSAS) program of the USGS developed BISON as an integrated and permanent resource for biological-occurrence data from the United States. BISON will leverage the accumulated human and infrastructural resources of the long-term USGS investment in research and information management and delivery.
Virginia Dale, a member of the Climate Change Science Institute and the Center for BioEnergy Sustainability at ORNL, has been recognized by the United States Regional Association of the International Association for Landscape Ecology with the Distinguished Landscape Ecologist Award. This award is given to individuals whose long-term scientific contribution has helped to define the field of landscape ecology.
Virginia's work at ORNL has been at the center of landscape ecology since the 1980s. She is an ORNL Corporate Fellow and the leader of the Landscape Ecology and Regional Analysis group. She has co-authored seven books and nearly 200 publications covering topics in land use change and climate change (and the interaction between the two), forest management, bioenergy, ecological modeling and biodiversity conservations.
The Scientific Advisory Board of the Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory met March 5-7, 2013, on the ORNL campus to discuss research accomplishments and future directions. A dozen SAB members heard from CCSI researchers engaged in Earth system modeling; data integration, dissemination, and informatics; study of terrestrial ecosystems and carbon cycling; and exploration of impacts, adaptability, and vulnerability of people, property, and ecosystems to climate change. A subsequent poster session allowed more CCSI scientists to share their work with the SAB members. The SAB will issue a report to the ORNL Laboratory Director on their findings. Shown, clockwise from top, are Dan Ricciuto briefing the board on the Climate Science for a Sustainable Energy Future project; Mariya Absar explaining assessments of the effect of climate change on crops in the Southeastern United States; Colleen Iversen describing the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climatic and Environmental Change project; and Marcia Branstetter, left, speaking with Abigail Gaddis about pinpointing precipitation. Photo credits: Dawn Levy
On April 22, the Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory hosted leading atmospheric scientist Ben Santer, one of the authors on the groundbreaking 1995 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that concluded humans exert a discernible influence on global warming. Santer delivered a presentation to ORNL researchers and staff on his career in climate science and his pursuit to communicate the causes of climate change and scientists' research methods to the public.
“The clear portrayal of science in the public sphere is worth fighting for,” Santer said. “Over my lifetime, I’ve seen signals showing public awareness and understanding of these issues.”
Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientist urges further research in limits to adaptation
Despite international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is unlikely the rise in average global temperature will stay below 2 degrees Celsius. As climate change impacts larger numbers of people—from their hobbies to their businesses to their health—researchers and policymakers must decide how to deal with its negative effects.
Data from the HIAPER Pole-to-Pole Observations (HIPPO) study of greenhouse gases and aerosols are now available to the atmospheric research community and the public. These comprehensive datasets include the first high-resolution vertically resolved measurements of over 90 unique atmospheric species from nearly pole-to-pole over the Pacific Ocean, measured during a two-year series of five month-long missions spread throughout the annual cycle. The datasets will provide opportunities for research across a broad spectrum of Earth sciences, including those analyzing the evolution in time and space of the greenhouse gases that affect global climate.
Oak Ridge National Lab-led research provides knowledge to inform policy and action
This annual report highlights select accomplishments of the Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for Fiscal Year 2012, which ended Sept. 30. Just a few weeks later, Superstorm Sandy crossed seven countries in nine days, killing more than 250 people in its path and causing US damages estimated in excess of $60 billion. In Sandy’s aftermath, some political and business leaders identified climate change as a reason for a “new normal” in which once-in-a-century extreme events such as hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires occur much more frequently. In November, participants at the United Nations climate conference in Qatar criticized failing efforts to curb greenhouse gases, a point emphasized in December in a paper in Nature Climate Change. Notably with Tom Boden of the CCSI as a co-author, the paper reported that the planet’s temperature rise would likely exceed a previously set goal of 2 degrees Celsius (4 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. When all was said and done, 2012 went down as the hottest year in recorded history for the continental United States.