Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Finding common ground fosters understanding of climate change

18.02.2014
Grasping the concept of climate change and its impact on the environment can be difficult. Establishing common ground and using models, however, can break down barriers and present the concept in an easily understood manner.

In a presentation at this year's meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Michigan State University systems ecologist and modeler Laura Schmitt-Olabisi shows how system dynamics models effectively communicate the challenges and implications of climate change.

"In order to face the ongoing challenges posed by climate adaptation, there is a need for tools that can foster dialogue across traditional boundaries, such as those between scientists, the general public and decision makers," Schmitt-Olabisi said. "Using boundary objects, such as maps, diagrams and models, all groups involved can use these objects to have a discussion to create possible solutions."

Schmitt-Olabisi has vast experience working directly with stakeholders using participatory model-building techniques. She uses a model of a hypothetical heat wave in Detroit to illustrate the implications of climate change.

Climate change is anticipated to increase the frequency and intensity of heat waves in the Midwest, which could potentially claim hundreds or thousands of lives. Hot weather kills more people in the United States annually than any other type of natural disaster, and the impacts of heat on human health will be a major climate change adaptation challenge.

To better understand urban health systems and how they respond to heat waves, Schmitt-Olabisi's team interviewed urban planners, health officials and emergency managers. They translated those interviews into a computer model along with data from earlier Midwestern heat waves.

Participants are able to manipulate the model and watch how their changes affect the outcome of an emergency. The exercise revealed some important limitations of previous approaches to reducing deaths and hospitalizations caused by extreme heat.

"The model challenges some widely held assumptions, such as the belief that opening more cooling centers is the best solution," Schmitt-Olabisi said. "As it turns out, these centers are useless if people don't know they should go to them."

More importantly, the model provides a tool, a language that everyone can understand. It is a positive example of how system dynamics models may be used as boundary objects to adapt to climate change, she added.

Overall, Schmitt-Olabisi finds that this approach is a powerful tool for illuminating problem areas and for identifying the best ways to help vulnerable populations. Future research will focus on improving the models' accuracy as well as expanding it beyond the Midwest.

"In order for the models to be deployed to improve decision-making, more work will need be done to ensure the model results are realistic," Schmitt-Olabisi said.

Layne Cameron | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.msu.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Climate: Meat turns up the heat
22.07.2014 | Carnegie Institution

nachricht IU researcher and colleague provide guide to household water conservation
22.07.2014 | Indiana University

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lens on Life” - Artists and Scientists Explore Cell Divison

08.07.2014 | Event News

First International Conference on Consumer Research | ICCR 2014: Early bird deadline July 31, 2014

08.07.2014 | Event News

First evidence for painless atrial fibrillation treatment

04.07.2014 | Event News

 
Latest News

Siemens installs two offshore platforms for TenneT in the North Sea in July

22.07.2014 | Press release

Hubble traces the halo of a galaxy more accurately than ever before

22.07.2014 | Physics and Astronomy

Quantum leap in lasers at Dartmouth brightens future for quantum computing

22.07.2014 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>