The University of Arizona

Eight From UA Contribute to National Climate Change Report

By Sarah LeRoy, Institute of the Environment | May 6, 2014
Wildfires in the Southwest have increased due to warmer temperatures, drought and insect outbreaks, all associated with climate change. Models project even more wildfire in the future, increasing risks to local communities. Pictured here is the Poco Wildfire burning near Young, Arizona, in June 2012. (Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Wildfires in the Southwest have increased due to warmer temperatures, drought and insect outbreaks, all associated with climate change. Models project even more wildfire in the future, increasing risks to local communities. Pictured here is the Poco Wildfire burning near Young, Arizona, in June 2012. (Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Eight UA researchers helped produce a comprehensive national assessment of climate change, released this week by the White House.

Recent drought has led to crop failure in many states across the Southwest, most notably in Texas and California. Warmer temperatures in the future are projected to prolong and intensify droughts in the region. (Photo: USDA)
Recent drought has led to crop failure in many states across the Southwest, most notably in Texas and California. Warmer temperatures in the future are projected to prolong and intensify droughts in the region. (Photo: USDA)
UA researchers are working on numerous projects aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change. Pictured here is former UA doctoral student Henry Adams talking to Biosphere 2 visitors about his research project to evaluate if trees die faster during warmer, drought conditions. His research was cited in the new NCA report. (Photo: Chris B. Zou)
UA researchers are working on numerous projects aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change. Pictured here is former UA doctoral student Henry Adams talking to Biosphere 2 visitors about his research project to evaluate if trees die faster during warmer, drought conditions. His research was cited in the new NCA report. (Photo: Chris B. Zou)

University of Arizona researchers played a significant role in a new climate change assessment, released this week by the White House and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, that informs U.S. citizens, communities and businesses on the science of climate change, observed and projected changes, and impacts across the country.

Written by more than 240 authors and overseen by a 60-member federal advisory committee, the third National Climate Assessment, or NCA, is the most comprehensive national effort to assess the science and effects of climate change in the U.S.

“People across the United States will find important information about things that matter to them in this report, from climate impacts and projections in their own region to impacts elsewhere that affect our food, water and energy supply,” said Katharine Jacobs, who directed the NCA while serving in the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House before returning to the UA as director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions.

“Climate change is no longer a problem only for the future; it is affecting us now and the evidence is clear, from extreme heat to more intense rainfall to sea level rise,” said Jacobs, who is also a professor in the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science.

In addition to Jacobs, seven scientists from the UA – more than any other university in the country – helped produce the report. Five of them, along with one scientist from Arizona State University, will join Jacobs for a panel discussion about the NCA and its implications for the Southwest, as well as the nation as a whole, on Thursday 8 at 7 p.m. in McClelland Park on the UA campus. They will each briefly discuss various aspects of the report and field questions from the public and media. Jacobs will also hold an “Ask Me Anything” conversation on the website Reddit with other UA authors on Friday at 11 a.m.

Managing Climate Risk Across Sectors and Regions

The report is designed to help officials, businesses and members of the public in all regions and sectors of the country make the best decisions when dealing with climate change and managing related risk. The NCA also illustrates how these regions and sectors are connected.

“If California agriculture, for example, were to take a major hit due to climate, people around the country would feel it in their pocketbooks,” said Gregg Garfin, a lead author on the Southwest Regional chapter of the NCA and deputy director for science translation and outreach at the UA Institute of the Environment. “The NCA informs decision-makers about the kinds of policies we need to address these interlinked things.”

Garfin also led the development of the Southwest technical input, a 500-page book published in 2013 by Island Press that informed several chapters of the NCA, including a chapter devoted entirely to climate change in the Southwest. According to the NCA, the Southwest region is particularly vulnerable to future climate changes, with warming occurring faster than any other region in the country. Water supply is projected to become less reliable in parts of the region and more wildfires will increase risks to even more communities across extensive areas.

The federal government, through the U.S. Global Change Research Program, is charged with producing a climate assessment every four years. A draft of the report was released last year as part of the public review process, and Jacobs’ team addressed the more than 4,000 comments made by individuals and agencies. The NCA was submitted for review five times, making it one of the most highly vetted reports on climate change.

Unlike previous assessments, this NCA has been released as an interactive website to make it more accessible and useful to both citizens and scientists.

“Providing access to the underlying data and resources makes this Web-based version of the NCA much more useful than its predecessors," Jacobs said. "Decision-makers can see what the evidence is that supports the authors’ conclusions and use the underlying data for management purposes."

Six Other UA Scientists Contribute to Report

Six other UA researchers helped write and produce the report: David Breshears, School of Natural Resources and the Environment (Forestry chapter); Jim Buizer, Institute of the Environment and School of Natural Resources and the Environment (Mitigation and Sustained Assessment chapters); Provost Andrew Comrie (Southwest chapter); Diana Liverman, Institute of the Environment and School of Geography and Development (Science Agenda chapter); Marcela Vásquez-León, School of Anthropology (Rural Communities chapter); and Christopher Scott, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy (review editor).

Liverman and Buizer also served on the NCA’s federal advisory committee. Buizer played many other roles in the development of the report, including serving on the committee’s Executive Secretariat, coordinating all of the sectoral assessments, analyzing the entire 1,100-page report for consistency as part of the Report Integration Team, and serving as a lead author on a companion document titled "Report on Preparing the Nation for Change: Building a Sustained National Climate Assessment Process."

National Climate Assessment Panel Discussion

The panel discussion will take place on Thursday, May 8, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the UA's McClelland Park, room 105, 650 N Park Ave, Tucson, Arizona 85721.  Free parking is available in the 6th Street and Tyndall Ave. garages. For a complete list of panelists and topics please visit the Institute of the Environment's event page.

Contacts

Katharine Jacobs

jacobsk@email.arizona.edu

520-405-7395
 

Gregg Garfin

gmgarfin@email.arizona.edu

520-591-9543