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Global Climate Change DigestArchives of the
Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999

FROM VOLUME 12, NUMBER 2, FEBRUARY 1999

REPORTS

Prices and page numbers may be approximate. Obtain reports or further information from sources named in parentheses at the end of each citation; addresses are listed at the end of this section.


Item #d99feb23

Capacity of U.S. Climate Modeling to Support Climate Change Assessment Activities, Climate Research Committee, National Research Council, 78 pages, 1999, $18.00 (National Academy Press).

Although the United States pioneered much of the research related to global climate change, this NRC report points out that the nation has fallen behind other countries in marshalling the computer hardware and software needed to execute climate simulations. U.S. researchers have a fundamental theoretical understanding of the dynamics of climate and the processes that must be represented by these climate models, but they lack the computational power to apply this knowledge. The centers for climate-change modeling and weather forecasting have shifted to Europe (specifically the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, England), Canada, Germany, and Australia. Furthermore, the United States fails to coordinate efforts of the research activities it currently supports at such centers of excellence as the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. What is needed is an integrated national strategy that will leverage the available resources to focus the research effort to produce advances more rapidly and effectively.


Item #d99feb24

Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade, Committee on Global Change Research and Board on Sustainable Development, National Research Council, 1999, 610 pp., $54.95 (National Academy Press).

This volume encourages a renewed commitment to understanding global change and sets a direction for research in the decade ahead. Through case studies, the book explores what can be learned from the lessons of the past 20 years and what are the outstanding scientific questions. Highlights include:

  • Research imperatives and strategies for investigators in the areas of atmospheric chemistry, climate, ecosystem studies, and human dimensions of global change
  • The context of climate change, including lessons to be gleaned from paleoclimatology
  • Human responses to projected global change
  • Implications for a global observing system driven by the scientific questions

To describe it in general terms, this report offers a comprehensive overview of global change research to date and provides a framework for answering urgent questions.

Specifically, the committees were charged with reviewing the status of the U.S. Global Change Research Programand identifying the critical scientific questions that the Program needs to address. They took a broad overview of this charge and addressed three main questions:

  • Are not the causes of global change sufficiently clear, allowing the Program to now concentrate on the science of mitigation measures?
  • What strategy is appropriate for resolving the remaining scientific uncertainties about environmental change?
  • How can that strategy be implemented in terms of programs?

In response, they produced a long list of findings that included a catalog of scientific tasks that should be carried out and a series of observations about the nature of technology that needs to be developed and applied. They also developed a list of hard-hitting recommendations for the USGCRP. In brief, they advised:

  • Research priorities and resource allocations must be reassessed and sharply focused on the unanswered scientific questions identified by the committees.
  • The USGCRP should be restructured to address understanding the Earth’s carbon and water cycles; characterizing climate change; and elucidating the links among radiation, dynamics, chemistry, and climate.
  • The scientific strategy must be reassessed to identify and obtain accurate data on carefully selected key variables.
  • The Program must employ technical innovation more aggressively.
  • The Program’s data systems must be made flexible, reflect responsibility for data character, provide open access to the scientific community and the public, and rapidly evolve to incorporate technological advances.
  • The Program must foster the development and application of models at the temporal and spatial scales needed to probe and understand the Earth system.
  • Climate Change Scenarios for the United Kingdom: Scientific Report, U.K. Climate Impacts Progr. Tech. Rept. 1, M. Hulme and G. J. Jenkins, 80 pp., 1998, free (Climatic Research Unit, Norwich); Climate Change Scenarios for the United Kingdom: Summary Report, Mike Hulme and Geoff Jenkins, 16 pp., 1998, free (Climatic Research Unit, Norwich); also available as PDF files on the World Wide Web at http://www.ecu.ox.ac.uk/TechnicalReport.html.

The reports present a new set of weather projections and climate scenarios for the United Kingdom prepared by the U.K. Climate Impacts Programme. The purpose of these scenarios is to facilitate a common and integrated approach in the assessments of climate-change effects that researchers throughout the region are preparing. Four scenarios were developed on the basis of one set of Hadley Centre computer-modeled climate experiments. The four scenarios span a range of greenhouse-gas-emission scenarios and different climate sensitivities. The results of the computer modelings indicate global warming rates of between 0.16 and 0.35° C per decade with associated increases in sea level of 2 to 10 cm per decade. The scenarios suggest that warming over the United Kingdom will be more rapid in the Southeast than in the Northwest and that winters will likely be wetter. Changes in climate variability and extreme events are likely to be important. For example, a greater risk of flooding, very severe winter gales, and more days with maximum temperatures above 25° C are predicted. Other possibilities include:

  • A summer as hot as 1997 could occur four times a decade by 2080.
  • Dry weather in the Southeast and wet weather in the Northwest are likely in the spring and summer.
  • A summer with rainfall 50% lower than current levels could occur once a decade (such a summer currently occurs only once a century).
  • A Powerful Opportunity: Making Renewable Electricity the Standard, Steven L. Clemmer, Alan Nogee, and Michael Brower, 35 pp., 1999, $10.00 (Union of Concerned Scientists); also available on the World Wide Web at http://www.ucsusa.org/energy/index.html?power.opp.html.

Congress is in the process of deregulating the electricity utility industry, and lawmakers have introduced a variety of proposals for gradually increasing the percentage of the nation’s electricity that is generated from renewable resources (i.e., wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal wells). The amounts proposed range from 4% in 2010 to 20% in 2020. This report examines the costs and benefits of achieving the proposed targets. It concludes that the United States could increase the share of electricity that it generates from renewable sources to about 10 times the current levels during the next two decades and still see a 13% decrease in electricity prices while making a major contribution to meeting U.S. commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.


Report Sources

Climatic Research Unit, Univ. East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, U.K.; tel: 01603 592089; fax: 01603 507784; WWW: http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/link/.

National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20418; tel: 800-624-6242 or 202-334-3313; WWW: http://www.nap.edu.

Union of Concerned Scientists, UCS Publications, Dept. N, 2 Brattle Sq., Cambridge, MA, 02238-9105; tel: 617- 547-5552; fax: 800-479-3731; e-mail: info@ucsusa.org; WWW: http://www.ucsusa.org.

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