A leading scientist known internationally for his achievements in global change and water research will speak to researchers, public officials and private sector leaders involved in climate adaptation on May 29 at the University of Arizona.
Joseph Alcamo, chief scientist of the United Nations Environment Program, or UNEP, will discuss the challenges of responding to and planning for climate change during the Adaptation Futures 2012 conference. He is visiting Tucson just a week before joining the nations of the world in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Environment Development.
Co-hosted and convened by the UA and UNEP's Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation, or PROVIA, the conference will take place May 29-31 at the UA Student Union Memorial Center.
More than 750 researchers, policy makers and practitioners from developed and developing countries are expected to attend to discuss how the world can respond to drought, severe storms, floods, sea level rise and other risks related to climate variability and change through successful adaptation.
"We are delighted to welcome Dr. Alcamo and other colleagues from around the world to Tucson to learn from their research and to share our own work with them," said Diana Liverman, co-director of the UA Institute of the Environment and co-chair of the conference organizing committee.
"Given the UA's focus on water, we are especially pleased to host so many experts who are seeking solutions to water problems around the world and other pressing concerns."
The first chief scientist in the United Nations system, Alcamo is on leave as director and professor at the Center for Environmental Systems Research at the University of Kassel, Germany, where he has led the development and application of global environmental models since 1996.
From 1992 to 1998 he led the global climate change modeling team at the National Institute of Environment and Public Health in The Netherlands and provided scientific support for the Kyoto Climate Treaty negotiations.
In addition, he co-founded and co-chairs the Global Water System Project to stimulate the new field of global water research, and he has argued for a global viewpoint of water as a scientific and policy issue.
He was a coordinating lead author of the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, which was released in 2007; the IPCC was the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize that year.
He also has published numerous scientific articles about new research on climate change impacts on land use, agriculture and water resources and has published five books on global environmental themes.
For his contributions to global modeling and for his applications of global models to policymaking, Alcamo was co-winner of the 1998 Max Planck Research Prize. He was the first environmental scientist to win the award.
Alcamo will kick off the first plenary session, followed by Anand Patwardhan, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology and an expert in mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change and the adoption of clean technology.
UA President Eugene G. Sander, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, and Katharine Jacobs, assistant director for climate adaptation and assessment in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, are among those scheduled to make opening remarks. Jacobs also is a professor in the UA department of soil, water and environmental science.
"This is a fantastic opportunity to share knowledge and successful strategies on how to respond to problems such as water shortages, forest fires, heat waves and other stresses associated with climate variations and changes," said Liverman, a Regents' Professor in the School of Geography and Development.
"We have some of the very best researchers in the world coming to the conference to talk about their latest results and discuss their implications with decision makers. And because there are many students from the UA and across the U.S. and the world, it is an opportunity for the next generation of scientists to learn about the latest research."
The UA provides an ideal venue for the conference because it sits in the Southwestern U.S. – the region is a hot spot for climate change, having the highest projected temperature changes in the continental U.S. – and because the campus is a living laboratory for the kind of sustainable adaptation strategies the region will need, Liverman said.
The University has been a leader in sustainability for more than a decade and was recently recognized as one of the top six U.S. universities to embrace a comprehensive approach to sustainability.
The UA also is one of more than 650 universities that have signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, affirming its commitment to reduce its carbon footprint, track greenhouse gas emissions and comprehensively report on progress and results.
In addition, the UA Institute of the Environment has identified climate adaptation as a University-wide area of excellence, with dozens of scientists from engineering, geosciences, ecology, law, hydrology, geography, anthropology and other disciplines researching the topic. A number of them will present their research at the conference.
A delegation of about 40 scientists from Australia who have expertise in coping with drought and wildfire – similar climate adaptation challenges that the Southwest faces – also will attend.
The conference follows on the success of the pioneering Climate Adaptation Futures Conference in Australia in 2010.
Participants at the Tucson conference represent 380 public agencies, private businesses, non-profit organizations and academic institutions from 59 countries. They will explore practical adaptation policies and approaches and share strategies for decision making from the international to the local scale.
Topics will cover virtually every aspect of the adaptation spectrum, from energy to wildlife to the particular vulnerabilities of women and the poor.
Sponsors for Adaptation Futures include the UA; PROVIA; the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation of Australia, or CSIRO; Climate Change Research Program, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; the UA Institute of the Environment, Renewable Energy Network, and Water Sustainability Program; the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University; and the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research.
The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, also was a major sponsor. Since 1961, USAID, operating under the foreign-policy direction of the U.S. Secretary of State, has been the principal U.S. Government agency extending assistance to countries worldwide.
USAID's Regional Development Mission for Asia works to address problems that cross national boundaries, such as human and wildlife trafficking, climate change mitigation and adaptation, infectious diseases, natural resources conservation, trade and conflict.