Climate change defines the 21st century in ways we are only beginning to understand.
How can we plan for the future without understanding climate change impacts on human and ecosystem health, food systems, energy production, the economy, geopolitics, and the future of storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and other extreme events?
Climate and its building block, weather, extend from the uppermost reaches of Earth’s atmosphere into the oceans, lakes, streams, soils, fields, forests, rocks and into our homes. Climate and weather have been molding the Earth’s surface through long-term variations and catastrophic changes ever since Earth gained an atmosphere. Climate and weather have been feared and revered ever since humans emerged and plants, animals and humans migrated, thrived, adapted, and ceased to exist in some cases in response to climate change. Climate change influences where we live, our health, our economy, our art and music, and our overall quality of life.
Over the last two decades, science has clearly demonstrated the realities of a changing climate and the highly significant role of human activity in these changes. With this realization, the White House, the Pentagon, and governments around the world understand that climate change is amongst the most serious and ever-present issues on the planet.
A mechanism and emerging platform for assessing and quantifying climate change, vulnerability, impacts, and opportunities based on classic IPCC and past climate analog change predictions presented in the form of locale-specific plausible scenarios that go beyond standard linear climate predictions.
The Climate Change Institute has a legacy of major contributions to the understanding of the physical, chemical, biological and social complexity of climate change and the application of these findings at local to international scales. People are increasingly recognizing how a changing climate is impacting their lives and they are working to adapt to these changes. Understanding the complexities of climate change and our decisions about how to respond becomes more critical each year.
CCI has eight major themes that together describe the breadth of CCI’s contributions and abilities.
CCI’s unique perspective combines first-hand understanding of robust archives of past climate and environment (e.g., ice cores, lake sediments, and human artifacts calibrated with instrumentally recorded data); a diverse array of environmental monitoring systems (eg., weather, sea level rise, glacier dynamics, lake chemistry, coastal erosion); and in-house generated understanding of weather- to climate-scale descriptions of past, current and future conditions. This climate understanding coupled with local- to global-scale understanding of climate change impacts, vulnerabilities, assets and potential opportunities for innovative solutions, significantly enhances the likelihood of climate change driven planning outcomes including guidance in climate adaptation, mitigation, sustainability, and resilience planning.
A transparent framework is needed for assessing impacts and addressing vulnerability in a changing climate where intended goals are: mitigation, adaptation, sustainability, resilience, opportunity, and entrepreneurship.
Climate prediction models are an essential element in planning for the impacts of climate change. However, existing climate models based on classic IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) while essential stepping blocks, do not capture the full local- to regional-scale climate change known to exist in the past; nor do they capture the realities of non-linearities in the past and currently emerging climate system (e.g., Arctic sea ice loss, the Antarctic ozone hole, regional-scale drought); or the full health consequences of changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere, and as a consequence the full range of plausible scenarios for future climate.
Every year, representatives from ~195 countries gather at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of the Parties (COP). Last year, two CCI graduate students and two faculty members attended COP23 in Bonn, Germany. From their experience, coupled with their attendance at previous COPs, CCI students Anna McGinn and Will Kochtitzky wrote a Scientist’s Guide to the COP. This guide is written to help scientists, especially from UMaine, better navigate the COP by providing explanations of negotiating processes, ways that science interfaces with the negotiations, and tips on making the most of one’s time at the conference. This year, COP24 will be held in Katowice, Poland, where thousands of delegates from around the world will gather to negotiate the next stage of post-Paris Agreement climate actions, share knowledge, and learn about the impacts of climate change around the world. UMaine will again send a small delegation to attend COP24 to share our science, hear what others are doing, and learn how we can better shape our science to address policy relevant questions.