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Why and How Climate Science Must Change (Invited)

Presentation Date
Thursday, December 12, 2019 at 8:00am
Moscone West 2022-2024, L2



From record-shattering extreme precipitation to dramatic increases in catastrophic wildfire, significant impacts of climate change have emerged over the past decade. In many cases, these changes have not been features of the global climate projections still used to investigate climate change. In addition, many of these changes have also revealed that past resource planning decisions are unsustainable, even without climate change. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase unabated, and global political trends point toward a continued increase rather than a decline. Climate change impacts will likely accelerate in unanticipated ways, making climate change adaptation and its connection to sustainability one of the key challenges of the 21st century. In this talk, I will make the case that climate science must transform itself to rise to the challenge. Climate models must evolve structurally to include those missing earth system components responsible for the novel impacts. Climate scientists must develop simulations that capture the true continuum of extreme precipitation and credibly produce projected changes. And finally, the climate science community must embrace a blurring of disciplinary boundaries, fully engaging the planning and natural resource management community. This new science — quantitatively rigorous, inclusive of human management effects, and infused with environmental ethics — is necessary to manage resources sustainably in the face of a changing climate. In this way, climate science can offer not only warnings of catastrophe, but also workable solutions to the sustainability crisis.