Improved understanding of how climate affects human society involves development of a framework to analyze complex interactions among biophysical and socio-economic processes. Virtually every natural and managed system is affected by climate, prime examples being the geographic distribution of natural ecosystems; productivity of managed ecosystems such as agriculture, regional water resources, coastal habitation and wetlands; and energy generation and demand. Moreover, man's alteration of ecosystems and their own natural processes have their own impact on the atmosphere and hence upon the climate system.
At CCSR, we investigate the chain of causes and effects linking climate and its impacts, utilizing the global climate models, physically based impact models, chemical tracer models and interdisciplinary teams. Distinctive features of our methods include regional disaggregation, high spatial and temporal resolution, and theoretical improvement in the treatment of uncertainty.
Climate impacts study includes assessment of the impacts of current climate variability, e.g., El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events, and potential impacts of climate change resulting from greenhouse gas emissions. Observed climate data and climate model outputs (e.g., temperature, precipitation, solar radiation) are used as inputs to "impact models" to produce regional changes in variables such as crop yields, water availability, and forests. These changes may then be evaluated in terms of economic and social costs, including numbers of people threatened by hunger, drought, or coastal storm surges.
Such assessments extends analysis of climate impacts beyond strict market values, which do not fully capture societal implications of populations at risk. Both components are needed for a comprehensive evaluation of the consequences of any policy decision regarding societal preparation for either short-term or longer-term climate impacts.