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New Directions in Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts, and Adaptation Assessment: Summary of a Workshop Wrap-Up Comments Martin Parry, Cynthia Rosenzweig, and Thomas Wilbanks offered wrap-up comments on the workshop. Their comments addressed changes in the context of vulnerabilities, impacts, and adaptation research; research challenges; organizational needs; and anticipation of the fifth IPCC assessment report. THE CHANGING CONTEXT As noted by Wilbanks, the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC sharpened the focus of global climate change science and policy making on impacts, vulnerabilities, and mitigation and adaptation. After a period in which support for most research on climate change impacts and adaptation was scarce, policy makers began seeking answers to urgent questions on those topics. Wilbanks also pointed out three other changes in the context. First, there is a wide sense of greater urgency in response to the very real possibility that the magnitudes of climate change will be greater than previously estimated. Second, there is increasing interest in collaboration among different parts of the climate change research community. Third, the prospect for increases in research support seem to be improving.
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New Directions in Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts, and Adaptation Assessment: Summary of a Workshop RESEARCH CHALLENGES Rosenzweig pointed out that there is a strong contrast between the urgency expressed by agency program managers seeking help in the short term and longer-term needs. In the short term, managers want help for decision making regarding climate change impacts and adaptation (such as rapid, stakeholder-driven assessments). At the same time, there is a longer-term need to develop in-depth, rigorously tested research on vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation, including model comparisons and large-scale comparative studies. Especially for that longer-term need, the rigor of vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation research needs sharpening, not necessarily through the use of quantitative models, but through enhanced data collection, availability, and analysis, and a spectrum of research methods that can continue to address uncertainties. One needed focus is on costs and metrics, involving both monetary and nonmonetary social variables. Emerging risk management paradigms frame analyses in terms of vulnerabilities and risk management, in contrast to older paradigms that emphasize impact projection and cost estimation. New methods are emerging for creating risk profiles for groups and locales on both short-term and long-term time scales. The synergies and conflicts between mitigation and adaptation need to be characterized. Finally, the role of vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation research in the future development of new emissions and climate scenarios is unclear. Though some researchers have worked hard to participate in this arena, the outcomes do not yet benefit from full collaboration. It is helpful to invest in those partnerships, but this community of researchers needs to self-organize on broader terms in order to strengthen those research outcomes. Wilbanks summarized additional challenges to the vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation research community. First, it is difficult to cope with urgent needs for timely assessments while simultaneously strengthening a seriously incomplete research base. The field may need to move on two parallel tracks—with different organizational frameworks but a common base of knowledge and expertise. Second, the possibility that the magnitudes of climate change impacts and adaptation challenges will be greater than previously assumed adds to the importance and urgency of considering possible thresholds and assuring anticipatory monitoring. Third, there is a need to consider climate change impacts and responses in the broader context of sustainability. This consideration needs to include specific development pathways, evolving socioeconomic conditions, multiple stresses, gaps between anticipated and actual human behavior, and associated complexities inherent to the relationships among strategy, policy, and action. Fourth, the existing scholarship on vulnerabilities and risks does not sufficiently fulfill decision makers’ requests for specific
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New Directions in Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts, and Adaptation Assessment: Summary of a Workshop estimates of climate impacts, including the costs of failing to mitigate. These estimates are needed to inform economic tradeoffs. ORGANIZATIONAL NEEDS Parry, Rosenzweig, and Wilbanks said that an effective self-organization process is needed. Such a process will require mobilization to improve communications both in the vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation community and between that community and other parts of the climate science effort, including earth system and integrated assessment modeling. Researchers focusing on vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation can contribute geographic and sectoral diversity to the larger effort, as other researchers mainly work through larger, more aggregated models. Such a process of self-organization needs to be sensitive to the diversity and bottom-up culture of the vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation research community to establish full collaboration with the earth system and integrated assessment modeling communities. THE IPCC FIFTH ASSESSMENT REPORT Parry noted that IPCC organization will be influenced not only by scientific opinion, but also by intergovernmental negotiations. The organization issues discussed included relationships between Working Group II and other working groups, such as possibilities for early identification of questions and key messages in the development of synthesis report outlines. The participants identified several key issues for the next IPCC assessment, including the need to strengthen the knowledge base in peer-reviewed research, especially for such understudied sectors as cities and settlements; maintaining the risk management paradigm, including non-climate changes in projections of longer-term impacts and costs; and developing reference scenarios for vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation assessments.