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Identifying hotspots: Climate Impacts World Conference

Researchers identified a number of hotspots both of global climate change impacts and the science that deals with them.

New analyses presented at the Impacts World 2013 Conference this week in Potsdam, Germany, revealed that the Amazon region, east Africa and the Mediterranean will experience serious change if greenhouse-gas emissions continue unabated.

More than 300 scientists and stakeholders from 40 countries spent four days discussing the path forward for research on the impacts of climate change – one key outcome is the joining of forces between impacts researchers with economists to assess possible future loss and damage.

Some of the most excellent brains of climate impacts research from all disciplines came together for the first time to combine their skills,” said co-organizer Hermann Lotze-Campen of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research. “We’re overwhelmed by their dedication to draft a joint research agenda that focuses on the most burning issues of climate impacts.” The assembled scientists agreed on a plan to move from the research of multiple biophysical impacts, affecting natural resources, to economic and social impacts on states and eventually businesses and communities.

At the same time, it was agreed to take concrete steps to explore synergies between regional and global climate impact modelling. “This will help to substantially increase the robustness of these computer simulations,” Lotze-Campen said. “We know that climate change is happening, that it’s largely man-made, and that its negative effects outweigh the positive ones – but now we must, and can, enhance the precision of large-scale impact assessments. This will contribute to improved risk management strategies at various levels.”

The results of the Intersectoral Impacts Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP) are an example of the benefits of this new direction. In an unprecedented community effort, more than 30 modelling groups worldwide across four sectors – agriculture, water cycle, health, and ecosystems – investigated where climate change impacts will hit hardest. “This provides extremely valuable information for climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Lotze-Campen pointed out. “With this joint effort, scientists can help decision-makers to tackle these challenges.”

The conference aimed at painting the big picture of climate impacts, revealing important contours. “Even though we’re very clear about the research gaps that still need to be bridged, it became obvious at the conference that ‘wait-and-see’ is no option for dealing with the effects of climate change,” Lotze-Campen added. “The emerging picture confirms for various sectors that global warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius should be avoided to prevent large-scale damages, and the increasing severity of damage beyond this threshold.”

Martin Parry, Imperial College London / The Centre for Environmental Policy: “Findings of the Intersectoral Impacts Model Intercomparison Project reported at this conference demonstrate that the project is a ‘shot in the arm’ for impacts research – in other words that it has injected some fresh pace into our research efforts.”

Liyong Xi, Shenyang Agricultural University, China: “Scientists should not shy away from saying very clearly what the impacts of climate change are likely to be, and what adaptation could look like – as many speakers put forward that this is what policy-makers keep asking us. So we need to quantify impacts, and put numbers to adaptation measures. This conference aimed to and achieved more progress in doing this. Yet we must – and will – continue this crucial effort on global scale. One important issue is agriculture, which is very sensitive to climate change. This affects global food security, of course for developing countries with a large population in particular. So it turns out we must pay more attention to climate change impacts on farmers worldwide.”

Filipe Duarte Santos, University of Lisbon, Portugal: “The Impacts World 2013 Conference was a very successful opportunity to present and discuss the more recent achievements in modeling climate change impacts. We understand better the uncertainties involved, but we still have a long way to go because of the complexity of human and natural systems. Nevertheless, we should engage in planned adaptation. I suggest a greater effort on the study of impacts on health, in particular with regards to vector borne diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and other animals that due to the changing climate spread to regions where they did not exist before.”

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Mareike Schodder | idw
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