Need For Integrated Assessment Of Global Climate Change

The outline sketched in Figure 1 suggests that climate change should not be treated in isolation from other environmental concerns, particularly the suite of challenges that are part of global environmental changes resulting from unsustainable development. Sustainability requires living within the carrying capacity of Earth, and this has become a highly political and emotional issue in many places as environment and development come into conflict (e.g., toxic wastes, overfishing, deforestation, desertification). Climate change is connected to many of these concerns, yet climate change has often been treated as a narrowly defined question of atmospheric change and greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change is not only about the meteorology and chemistry of the atmosphere. It is about the underlying human (i.e., economic, political, social) sources of this stress, and the potential victims. Understanding these other components requires a more holistic view of the climate change issue, well beyond consideration of atmospheric science alone.

The advantage of trying an integrated approach is that it represents an explicit attempt to incorporate both physical and human dimensions into research on climate change impacts and responses. For example, a study may indicate a projected change in the potential of a region or country to grow corn and wheat. However, just because there is a change in potential does not mean that farmers, other landowners, communities, businesses, governments, and other stakeholders would agree to a land-use change in response to this change in land capability. Another example is the current debate about measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the effectiveness of various alternatives such as a "carbon tax," technology transfer from developed to developing countries (through international or binational agreements), or an emissions trading system.

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