Climate Impacts

The climate impacts research group at CCSR works on the improved understanding of how climate affects human society, and 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, human 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.

ADVANCE is a partnership between World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR) at the Earth Institute, and more recently expanded to include several Columbia centers.

Launched in 2015, ADVANCE facilitates adaptation by providing new ways of generating and integrating climate risk information into conservation and development planning, policies, and practice. ADVANCE works with local governments, communities, civil society and educational institutions to provide adaptation and climate change mitigation options to communities already responding to climate change.  

ADVANCE does this through 3 key functions:

  1. Strengthen climate expertise in developing countries
  2. Support enhanced understanding of complex interactions between people, biodiversity, and the climate through research and monitoring
  3. Assist in the design and monitoring of on-the-ground activities to help people and nature adapt to a rapidly changing world

ADVANCE’s projects to date vary based on each country’s unique local context, objectives, and needs.

For further information about ADVANCE, please contact Manishka De Mel (manishka.demel@columbia.edu)

Snapshot

  • ADVANCE has implemented 10 projects since January 2015
  • ADVANCE has produced projections for regions in 12 countries: Myanmar, Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Mongolia, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Zambia
  • Reached over 500 people directly through workshops and conference sessions
  • Led or presented at 15 workshops and 3 conference sessions
  • Visited 7 countries for workshops and 3 countries for conferences

Core ADVANCE Team

  • Radley Horton (Principal Investigator and Science Lead)
  • Cynthia Rosenzweig (Senior Advisor)
  • Manishka De Mel (Research and Program Management)

ADVANCE Projects

  1. Valuing Nature in Myanmar’s Changing Climate

In Myanmar, ADVANCE collaborated with WWF Myanmar and Stanford University to integrate climate projections into the country’s natural capital assessment. Using this information, The Natural Capital Project and WWF created nationwide maps and an assessment showcasing how Myanmar’s ecosystem of mangroves, forests and watersheds help to buffer the country from climate change impacts. The climate risk information developed by ADVANCE was published as a Climate Risk Assessment for Myanmar, highlighting projections by region. ADVANCE also provided climate science support for two township vulnerability assessments led by UN-Habitat and the Myanmar Climate Change Alliance.

  1. Conservation and Adaptation in Asia’s High Mountains

ADVANCE supported Climate-Smart Landscape Planning in Asia’s High Mountains by providing climate risk information for six regions for a USAID project implemented by WWF and its partners. The headwaters of Asia’s great rivers are a vital source of freshwater for millions of people and is also home to the endangered snow leopard. By integrating climate risk information to landscape management plans, ADVANCE is addressing the challenges brought on by climate change, benefiting both people and nature.  

  1. Climate-Smart Conservation in Bhutan

Bhutan has large extents of forested land, covering more than half of the country. Under its constitution, 60% of its land must remain natural. To ensure that Bhutan remains economically and environmentally sustainable during changing times, WWF and the Government of Bhutan committed to create an innovative funding approach called ‘Bhutan for Life’ to maintain the country’s protected areas in perpetuity. ADVANCE presented climate risk information to Bhutan’s National Environmental Commission to support climate-smart conservation that takes a changing climate into account when planning and managing its protected area system.

  1. Redesigning Mangrove Conservation in Colombia

In Colombia, mangrove conservation is vital to maintaining ecosystem services, for example by keeping carbon out of the atmosphere, and by buffering coastal communities from storms and sea level rise. With climate science support from ADVANCE, WWF Colombia and its local partners are updating conservation strategies for mangrove forests along Colombia’s Pacific coast.

  1. Harnessing Nature to Help People Adapt in Central Asia

ADVANCE worked with the German international development agency, GIZ, to help remote communities in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan build resilience in the face of climate change through ecosystem-based adaptation. Climate information developed by CCSR were used in village-level ecosystem-based adaptation projects. Lessons learned from this work will be used to inform future efforts that help remote communities prepare for change.

  1. Resilient Beef and Soy Production to Reduce Deforestation in Paraguay

With support from ADVANCE, WWF Paraguay is helping to assess the impacts of climate change on beef producers in the Chaco region and soy producers in the Atlantic Forest. The goal of the project is to support sustainability of local livelihoods, in order to reduce deforestation and protect Paraguay’s dwindling forest cover and biodiversity.

  1. Climate Risk Information for the Kafue Basin in the Zambezi Watershed

WWF Netherlands’ is carrying out freshwater and agriculture resilience work to support local communities in the Zambezi watershed. Previously available climate information did not align with project needs, both in terms of content and spatial scale. In response, ADVANCE developed climate scenarios tailored to stakeholder needs, focusing on alternate climate futures that can be used in watershed planning and management.  

  1. Climate Risk Information for Protected Area Expansion and Planning in Colombia

WWF Colombia was tasked with supporting climate-integrated protected area management in some regions of the country, including newly declared parks. To support this initiative, ADVANCE continued its engagement in Colombia by providing climate information and scenario planning guidance.  

  1. Preparing for Change in the Bolivian Amazon

Communities living in and around Bolivia’s Manuripi Amazonian National Wildlife Reserve rely on sustainable foraging of the forests’ Brazil nuts to support their livelihoods. In recent years, the production of Brazil nuts has declined significantly, with changing weather patterns identified as a contributor to this phenomenon. ADVANCE produced climate projections to help park managers and local communities plan for future changes. WWF Bolivia is helping these communities understand how climate change is affecting Manuripi and Brazil nut production, while also introducing alternatives.

  1.  Climate Change Risk Index for Protected Areas

The Climate Change Risk Index for Protected Areas (PARC Index) is being designed to help conservation planners and practitioners better balance risks and resilience across the portfolio of protected areas that they support. The index is currently under development as a pilot initiative and will include a range of criteria, with ADVANCE providing climate projections for 14 protected areas in Africa that are vital for elephant conservation.

Key Events and Activities

Since 2015, ADVANCE has participated in several key events and carried out non-project related activities to strengthen the collaboration between the two institutions and share lessons learned.

Conferences

ADVANCE has presented at the Adaptation Futures Conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands, The IUCN World Congress in Hawaii and The Asia Pacific Climate Change Forum in Sri Lanka in 2016.  

Fuller Symposium

Cynthia Rosenzweig moderated a session on ‘Inevitable Change’ during WWF’s Fuller Symposium in November 2016.

Survey

Over 200 questionnaires were conducted during ADVANCE workshops to evaluate understand the use of climate information by stakeholders and its challenges.

WWF Food Lab Online Session

In January 2017, Alex Ruane (NASA/CCSR) presented on understanding local and global pressures on current and future food systems during a WWF Food Lab online workshop.

Sustainable Development Class Project with Columbia University Seniors

Columbia’s Sustainable Development seniors carried out a review of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) of the Paris Agreement. Professor Stuart Gaffin’s students reviewed the INDCs of 26 WWF countries to uncover threats and opportunities for conservation across WWF’s six goals.

Climate thresholds database for species and ecosystems

ADVANCE is building a database to document known climate thresholds of key ecosystems and species in project countries to better understand research gaps and needs.

Publications

Printed publications

Peer-reviewed Publications

Reports

  • Climate Risk Information for Ecosystem-Based Adaptation to Climate Change in the High Mountainous Regions of Central Asia: Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
  • Climate Risk Information for Labutta and Pakokku in Myanmar
  • Climate Risk Information for Asia's High Mountains
  • Climate Change in the Manuripi Amazonian National Wildlife Reserve
  • Climate Change in the Kafue Basin in the Zambezi Watershed

Sample Communications and media

Myanmar Times - Is Myanmar ready for climate change? [November, 2016]

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 extend 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.

We are funding ten research and coordination teams to conduct integrated assessments of climate, crop, and economic impacts of variable and changing climate. This activity is funded by a grant from UKaid through the Department for International Development (DFID), in conjunction with the US Department of Agriculture. We are also developing near term climate scenarios and global gridded modeling activities in collaboration with other research centers with support from USAID/IRG. Beyond this, AgMIP has ongoing crop pilot activities in Europe, Australia, South America, and China. In these settings researchers are utilizing AgMIP protocols to explore crop model intercomparisons over multiple crops, models, and time periods. It is ground-breaking work that engages the best thinkers in agriculture world-wide.

The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) is a major international effort linking the climate, crop, and economic modeling communities with cutting-edge information technology to produce improved crop and economic models and the next generation of climate impact projections for the agricultural sector.

The goals of AgMIP are to improve substantially the characterization of world food security due to climate change and to enhance adaptation capacity in both developing and developed countries. Analyses of the agricultural impacts of climate variability and change require a transdisciplinary effort to consistently link state-of-the-art climate scenarios to crop and economic models. Crop model outputs are aggregated as inputs to regional and global economic models to determine regional vulnerabilities, changes in comparative advantage, price effects, and potential adaptation strategies in the agricultural sector. Climate, crop model, economics, and information technology protocols are presented to guide coordinated AgMIP research activities around the world, along with cross-cutting themes that address aggregation, uncertainty, and the development of Representative Agricultural Pathways (RAPs) to enable testing of climate change adaptations in the context of other global trends. The organization of research activities by geographic region and specific crops is described, along with project milestones.

Learn more about AgMIP at www.agmip.org

GISS researchers explore how to characterize a broad range of impacts of potential emissions trajectories, with a particular emphasis on near-term emissions pathways designed to reduce multiple environmental damages. We evaluate the effects of the full suite of climate-altering pollutants emitted by particular activities and how these might change under different policies, and along with assessing the effect on global temperatures we evaluate the simultaneous responses of regional temperatures, precipitation and air quality (including the impact on human and ecosystem health of improved air quality).

CCSR is home to the leading academic center studying New York City climate and environmental issues. Buildings research is a rapidly growing area of work due to the renewed appreciation for the role that buildings play in worldwide energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, the ever-continuing growth of urban populations, and the adverse impacts of buildings on the landscape (e.g., storm water runoff, urban heat island). Urban heat island projects include work with the U.S. Postal Service to monitor biodiversity and water retention on their 2.75 acre Morgan facility green roof project, currently the largest such roof in the City.

In addition, CCSR is the core office for the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN), a NOAA-funded multi-institutional project that has as its mission the conduct of stakeholder-driven research to reduce climate-related vulnerability and advance opportunities for adaptation in the urban Northeast corridor (Philadelphia - New York - Boston).

The mission of the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN) is to understand how climate variability and change is impacting urban areas in the Northeastern United States, and to conduct stakeholder-driven research that 1) reduces climate-related vulnerability, and 2) advances opportunities for adaptation in the region.

CCRUN was founded in 2010 as part of NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences & Assessments (RISA) Program and encompasses the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Through the initial years of the project, our focus has been on the Boston, New York City and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. In future years, we will be expanding to include smaller cities in the region as well.

With the cross-cutting themes of climate and vulnerability/evaluation in mind, CCRUN has identified the most vulnerable sectors in the region to be water (availability, quality and management), coasts (management and reduction of hazards associated with coastal storms and sea level rise), and public health (impacts of extreme heat, air and water pollution). Within each sector, our stakeholders consist of federal, state and city agencies, as well as various private organizations for which reducing vulnerability and improving adaptive capacity in the face of climate change is a priority.

Our team is comprised of investigators, research & support staff and graduate students from five institutions across the CCRUN project area: Columbia University in New York City, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, City College of the City University of New York, Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, and Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Learn more about CCRUN at www.ccrun.org

Freshwater, the most essential of our natural resources, is particularly susceptible to changes in climate. At CCSR, on-going research focuses on improving our understanding of the water-climate link. This work includes basin-level analyses of climate information from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) archives for key basins in Africa, Latin America, Arab States and Europe (funded by the United Nations Development Programme). Another key research project looks at the global trade of virtual water and its susceptibility to extreme weather events and shifts in climate. Other work at CCSR involves understanding the impacts of irrigation and groundwater on the climate system. Together these projects will advance our understanding of the connections between water resources and climate, ultimately informing policy-making efforts that promote sustainability.

The Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN) is a consortium of individuals and institutions dedicated to the analysis of climate change mitigation and adaptation and energy issues from an urban perspective.

It is designed to enhance cutting-edge scientific, economic, and planning-related research and to promote knowledge sharing among researchers and urban decision-makers as well as stakeholders about all aspects of climate change and cities. The network is a valuable resource for researchers, individual cities, coalitions of Mayors, and organizations focused on providing technical assistance to cities.

The goals of UCCRN are to develop a shared research agenda on urban climate change issues with stakeholders and to facilitate research collaborations within and across cities and metropolitan areas. Moreover, UCCRN aims to promote knowledge sharing among resarchers, urban decision-makers and stakeholders; exchange lessons learned across cities; and assess and report on on-going mitigation and adaptation research and practice in major cities.

UCCRN will increase the level of attention on urban climate change issues by different tiers of government, transnational organizations, the media, and advocacy communities and by engaging students to promote the development of the next generation of urban climate change researchers and planners. UCCRN has published an assessment report on mitigation and adaptation research practices in cities around the globe: Assessment Report on Climate Change in Cities (ARC3).

To learn more about UCCRN, please visit https://uccrn.ei.columbia.edu/.