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International climate negotiations seek to limit warming to an average of two degrees Celsius (2°C). This objective is justified by the claim that scientists have identified two degrees of warming as the point at which climate change becomes dangerous. Climate scientists themselves maintain that while science can provide projections of possible impacts at different levels of warming, determining what constitutes an acceptable level of risk is not a matter to be decided by science alone, but is a value choice to be deliberated upon by societies as a whole. Hence, while climate science can inform debates about how much warming is too much, it cannot provide a definitive answer to that question. In order to fully understand how climate change came to be defined as a phenomenon with a single global dangerous limit of 2°C, it is necessary to incorporate insights from the social sciences.
Political economy, culture, economics, sociology, geography, and social psychology have all played a role in defining what constitutes an acceptable level of climate risk. These perspectives can be applied through the framework of institutional analysis to examine reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other international organizations. This interdisciplinary approach offers the potential to provide a comprehensive history of how climate science has been interpreted in policy making. An interdisciplinary analysis is also essential in order to move beyond historical description to provide a narrative of considerable explanatory power. Such insights offer a valuable framework for considering current debates about whether or not it will be possible to limit warming to 2°C.
Benjamin Mark Sanderson
Long-term planning for many sectors of society—including infrastructure, human health, agriculture, food security, water supply, insurance, conflict, and migration—requires an assessment of the range of possible futures which the planet might experience. Unlike short-term forecasts for which validation data exists for comparing forecast to observation, long-term forecasts have almost no validation data. As a result, researchers must rely on supporting evidence to make their projections. A review of methods for quantifying the uncertainty of climate predictions is given. The primary tool for quantifying these uncertainties are climate models, which attempt to model all the relevant processes that are important in climate change. However, neither the construction nor calibration of climate models is perfect, and therefore the uncertainties due to model errors must also be taken into account in the uncertainty quantification.
Typically, prediction uncertainty is quantified by generating ensembles of solutions from climate models to span possible futures. For instance, initial condition uncertainty is quantified by generating an ensemble of initial states that are consistent with available observations and then integrating the climate model starting from each initial condition. A climate model is itself subject to uncertain choices in modeling certain physical processes. Some of these choices can be sampled using so-called perturbed physics ensembles, whereby uncertain parameters or structural switches are perturbed within a single climate model framework. For a variety of reasons, there is a strong reliance on so-called ensembles of opportunity, which are multi-model ensembles (MMEs) formed by collecting predictions from different climate modeling centers, each using a potentially different framework to represent relevant processes for climate change. The most extensive collection of these MMEs is associated with the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). However, the component models have biases, simplifications, and interdependencies that must be taken into account when making formal risk assessments. Techniques and concepts for integrating model projections in MMEs are reviewed, including differing paradigms of ensembles and how they relate to observations and reality. Aspects of these conceptual issues then inform the more practical matters of how to combine and weight model projections to best represent the uncertainties associated with projected climate change.
The understanding of past changes in climate and ocean circulation is to a large extent based on information from marine sediments. Marine deposits contain a variety of microfossils, which archive (paleo)-environmental information, both in their floral and faunal assemblages and in their stable isotope and trace element compositions. Sampling campaigns in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were dedicated to the inventory of sediment types and microfossil taxa. With the initiation of various national and international drilling programs in the second half of the 20th century, sediment cores were systematically recovered from all ocean basins and since then have shaped our knowledge of the oceans and climate history. The stable oxygen isotope composition of foraminiferal tests from the sediment cores delivered a continuous record of late Cretaceous–Cenozoic glaciation history. This record impressively proved the effects of periodic changes in the orbital configuration of the Earth on climate on timescales of tens to hundreds of thousands of years, described as Milankovitch cycles. Based on the origination and extinction patterns of marine microfossil groups, biostratigraphic schemes have been established, which are readily used for the dating of sediment successions. The species composition of assemblages of planktic microfossils, such as planktic foraminifera, radiolarians, dinoflagellates, coccolithophorids, and diatoms, is mainly related to sea-surface temperature and salinity but also to the distribution of nutrients and sea ice. Benthic microfossil groups, in particular benthic foraminifera but also ostracods, respond to changes in water depth, oxygen, and food availability at the sea floor, and provide information on sea-level changes and benthic-pelagic coupling in the ocean. The establishment and application of transfer functions delivers quantitative environmental data, which can be used in the validation of results from ocean and climate modeling experiments. Progress in analytical facilities and procedures allows for the development of new proxies based on the stable isotope and trace element composition of calcareous, siliceous, and organic microfossils. The combination of faunal and geochemical data delivers information on both environmental and biotic changes from the same sample set. Knowledge of the response of marine microorganisms to past climate changes at various amplitudes and pacing serves as a basis for the assessment of future resilience of marine ecosystems to the anticipated impacts of global warming.
An orbitally induced increase in summer insolation during the last glacial-interglacial transition enhanced the thermal contrast between land and sea, with land masses heating up compared to the adjacent ocean surface. In North Africa, warmer land surfaces created a low-pressure zone, driving the northward penetration of monsoonal rains originating from the Atlantic Ocean. As a consequence, regions today among the driest of the world were covered by permanent and deep freshwater lakes, some of them being exceptionally large, such as the “Mega” Lake Chad, which covered some 400 000 square kilometers. A dense network of rivers developed.
What were the consequences of this climate change on plant distribution and biodiversity? Pollen grains that accumulated over time in lake sediments are useful tools to reconstruct past vegetation assemblages since they are extremely resistant to decay and are produced in great quantities. In addition, their morphological character allows the determination of most plant families and genera.
In response to the postglacial humidity increase, tropical taxa that survived as strongly reduced populations during the last glacial period spread widely, shifting latitudes or elevations, expanding population size, or both. In the Saharan desert, pollen of tropical trees (e.g., Celtis) were found in sites located at up to 25°N in southern Libya. In the Equatorial mountains, trees (e.g., Olea and Podocarpus) migrated to higher elevations to form the present-day Afro-montane forests. Patterns of migration were individualistic, with the entire range of some taxa displaced to higher latitudes or shifted from one elevation belt to another. New combinations of climate/environmental conditions allowed the cooccurrences of taxa growing today in separate regions. Such migrational processes and species-overlapping ranges led to a tremendous increase in biodiversity, particularly in the Saharan desert, where more humid-adapted taxa expanded along water courses, lakes, and wetlands, whereas xerophytic populations persisted in drier areas.
At the end of the Holocene era, some 2,500 to 4,500 years ago, the majority of sites in tropical Africa recorded a shift to drier conditions, with many lakes and wetlands drying out. The vegetation response to this shift was the overall disruption of the forests and the wide expansion of open landscapes (wooded grasslands, grasslands, and steppes). This environmental crisis created favorable conditions for further plant exploitation and cereal cultivation in the Congo Basin.
Vienna was a metropolis in the middle of the Danube monarchy of Austria-Hungary and under the rule (1848–1916) of Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830–1916) the city experienced rapid growth and an unprecedented flowering of culture, the arts, architecture and science. The capital of the monarchy, an intellectual melting pot, was a city of distinguished personalities who formed the Second Viennese School of music, the Austrian School of economic thought and many more doctrines, including the ideas of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. Vienna clearly reflected the zeitgeist of the fin de siècle in its economic, scientific, and cultural heyday.
At the end of the 19th century, meteorology and climatology became recognized scientific disciplines, and dynamical meteorology developed during the first quarter of the 20th century. The fact that imperial Austria took a leading position in these developments mostly owes to the work of renowned scientists of the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik, ZAMG) in Vienna.
The institute was founded in 1851, and the astronomer Karl Kreil (1798–1862) became the first director. One of Kreil’s goals was to ensure that both the central meteorological station and the growing number of new meteorological stations across the entire territory of the Austrian Empire were equipped with all the appropriate instruments. Another important goal was the processing of the existing observations to publish in the institute’s yearbooks. In truth, that was the starting signal for all further scientific developments, including that of the Viennese School of Climatology.
During the first decade of the 1900s, Julius Hann (1839–1921), the third director of the ZAMG, was already being acknowledged as a renowned meteorologist and climatologist. He was a pioneer in gathering and synthesizing global climatological and meteorological data, and his Handbook of Climatology (Handbuch der Klimatologie; Hann, 1883 [Hann, J. (1883). Handbuch der Klimatologie. Stuttgart, Germany: J. Engelhorn]) and Textbook of Meteorology (Hann, 1901 [Hann, J. (1901). Lehrbuch der Meteorologie. Leipzig, Germany: C. H. Tauchnitz]) were standard setters (Davies, 2001 [Davies, H. C. (2001). Vienna and the founding of dynamical meteorology. In C. Hammerl, W. Lenhardt, R. Steinacker, & P. Steinhauser (Eds.), Die Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik 1851–2001: 150 Jahre Meteorologie und Geophysik in Österreich (pp. 301–312). Graz, Austria: Leykam Buchverlagsgesellschaft]). In Hann’s era, one began to speak of a “Viennese or Austrian school.” Heinrich Ficker, who later became director of the institute, defined its distinguishing characteristic as a school that did not simply adhere to one direction but promoted each direction, every peculiar talent, and the ideas that a meteorologist with necessary characteristics was always present at key turning points in meteorological research.
Robyn S. Wilson, Sarah M. McCaffrey, and Eric Toman
Throughout the late 19th century and most of the 20th century, risks associated with wildfire were addressed by suppressing fires as quickly as possible. However, by the 1960s, it became clear that fire exclusion policies were having adverse effects on ecological health, as well as contributing to larger and more damaging wildfires over time. Although federal fire policy has changed to allow fire to be used as a management tool on the landscape, this change has been slow to take place, while the number of people living in high-risk wildland–urban interface communities continues to increase. Under a variety of climate scenarios, in particular for states in the western United States, it is expected that the frequency and severity of fires will continue to increase, posing even greater risks to local communities and regional economies.
Resource managers and public safety officials are increasingly aware of the need for strategic communication to both encourage appropriate risk mitigation behavior at the household level, as well as build continued public support for the use of fire as a management tool aimed at reducing future wildfire risk. Household decision making encompasses both proactively engaging in risk mitigation activities on private property, as well as taking appropriate action during a wildfire event to protect personal safety. Very little research has directly explored the connection between climate-related beliefs, wildfire risk perception, and action; however, the limited existing research suggests that climate-related beliefs have little direct effect on wildfire-related action. Instead, action appears to depend on understanding the benefits of different mitigation actions and in engaging the public in interactive, participatory communication programs that build trust between the public and natural resource managers. A relatively new line of research focuses on resource managers as critical decision makers in the risk management process, pointing to the need to thoughtfully engage audiences other than the lay public to improve risk management.
Ultimately, improving the decision making of both the public and managers charged with mitigating the risks associated with wildfire can be achieved by carefully addressing several common themes from the literature. These themes are to (1) promote increased efficacy through interactive learning, (2) build trust and capacity through social interaction, (3) account for behavioral constraints and barriers to action, and (4) facilitate thoughtful consideration of risk-benefit tradeoffs. Careful attention to these challenges will improve the likelihood of successfully managing the increasing risks that wildfire poses to the public and ecosystems alike in a changing climate.
Maria Ojala and Yuliya Lakew
One important group to include in efforts to combat climate change is young people. This group comprises the future leaders of society, besides being citizens of today, and they will be the ones handling the future negative consequences of this global problem. This article provides an overview of some research about climate change communication and young people. The aim is to gain a better understanding of how this group relates to and communicates about climate change in different contexts, and how to best promote knowledge, a sense of efficacy, and engagement concerning this problem. The focus is on young people who are between late childhood and young adulthood. Questions in focus are: How do media messages about climate change influence young people, and how do they themselves use media, for instance social networks, to engage with this issue? Can art-based and entertainment approaches to communication overcome the distant and complex character of climate change and make young people feel more empowered and engaged? Is it possible to communicate about climate change and raise awareness by promoting contact with nature and animals? How do young people cope with the negative emotions that are often evoked by information about this problem? In what way do young people communicate in everyday life with parents, peers, and teachers about climate change? Are participatory approaches to climate change communication a good way to prepare young people for future extreme climate events?
A great deal of learning takes place outside of the standard curriculum. School-based education is often insufficient to address climate change; many schools do little to cover the topic, perhaps out of the desire to avoid political controversy. This leaves social media, mainstream news media, and informal learning environments to cover the gap. Although social media and mainstream news media can be politically polarized, science museums, zoos, and other informal learning environments draw a broad and diverse audience, and are generally trusted by people across the political spectrum. This makes them an important location for climate change education.
Informal learning environments are settings outside traditional educational institutions in which information is communicated. Environments such as zoos and nature centers, which provide information about animals, ecology, and the natural environment, have several attributes that are important to their role in climate change communication. One significant feature is that they are social contexts, in which social interaction is both expected and encouraged. If the people who are encountering the message talk to each other about it, they can develop a shared understanding of, and response to, the content. The social experiences provide an opportunity to affirm shared values for nature, and understandings of the potential impacts of climate change.
Another key characteristic of these environments is that they have at least a minimal entertainment function along with the education function. People are required to attend formal educational settings, at least within certain parameters, but informal settings are usually optional. That means that those who run the sites have to think about ways to encourage attendance, by providing an emotionally engaging experience. The personal experience of curiosity, awe, and connection to nature can be dramatic, as can be seen by observing visitors at a zoo exhibit. Such connections can provide a powerful basis for empathy, a precursor to concern about the impacts of climate change on animals and ecosystems.
Climate literacy requires “an understanding of your influence on climate and climate’s influence on you and society” (U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), 2009, p. 4). Such an understanding can be frightening if people feel helpless. In addition to providing information about climate change, informal learning environments can do more to overcome denial. Well-constructed exhibits can promote concern through interest and engagement. But they also need to avoid a message that is too pessimistic. Beyond this, informal learning centers should take advantage of their social context. The very experience of learning about climate change in an institutional setting can empower visitors, who can feel reassured that society acknowledges the issue, cares about it, and has suggestions for effective action.
After reviewing aspects of environmental learning and the ways in which it occurs in informal settings, this chapter will present some suggestions about how zoos and other science museums can more effectively capitalize on their strengths to communicate with the public about climate change.