September 11, 2005 Brown University's Environmental Change Initiative (ECI) and the Watson Institute's Global Environmental Program jointly sponsored a conference from September 15 to 16 titled the "Frontiers of Environmental Change Research: Climate Change Drivers, Impacts, and Policy." It explored emerging new directions within climate change research and assessed areas in which Brown University could make substantial new contributions to current and future studies.
Location: Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street, Providence
Grappling with the global climate change problem requires scholars to draw on a wide range of disciplines. In the broadest terms, climate change can be defined as the human activity (primarily energy and land use) that leads to emissions of various gases and aerosols and results in changes in atmospheric composition, which in turn drive other changes in the climate, negatively affecting ecosystems and society. Thus, researchers analyzing the climate change issue deal extensively with a disparate set of factors, including the socio-economic forces driving energy and land use; biogeochemical cycles, atmospheric chemistry, and other components of the climate system; the sensitivity of ecosystems and various economic sectors to changes in climate; and domestic and international policy processes. Formal methods of integrating knowledge from across these areas are strongly needed in order to apply policy relevant questions to these problems, giving rise to the "integrated assessment" field.
During the two-day conference, 14 experts presented papers on topics ranging from energy and emissions to land use and land cover change and from climate change impacts to integrated assessments. Among those presenting papers (with tentative titles) were:
Jim Clark, Department of Biology, Duke University, "Environmental Change Research on Vegetation: Assimilating the Evidence for Understanding and Prediction"
Tim Herbert, Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, "Relevance of Paleoclimatology to Potential Future Climate Changes and Impacts"
Skee Houghton, Woods Hole Research Center, "Global Carbon Emissions, the Historical Record"
Atul Jain, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois, "Land Use, the Carbon Cycle, and Climate Change"
Dan Kammen, Director, Renewal and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, University of California at Berkeley, "Energy, Climate Change, and Development"
Jerry Melillo, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole Research Center, "Terrestrial Ecosystem Modeling and Land Use Projections"
Brian O'Neill, Watson Institute, Brown University/International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, "Demography, Energy, and Emissions"
Michael Oppenheimer, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, "'Dangerous' Climate Change Impacts and Climate Policy"
Camille Parmesan, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin, "Climate Change and Wild Life: Understanding Recent Impacts and Projecting into the Future"
Mercedes Pascual, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, "Climate Variability and Health"
Hugh Pitcher, DOE/PNNL, Joint Global Change Research Institute, "The Development and Use of Long-Term Emissions Scenarios"
Simone Pulver, Watson Institute, Brown University, "Private Sector Role in Climate Policy"
Mort Webster, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "Uncertainty and Integrated Assessment"
Gary Yohe, Department of Economics, Wesleyan University, "Hedging Strategies for Climate Change Policy"
Further information about the conference is available on the "Frontiers of Environmental Change Research" website. This site is being updated continually.