Department of Earth and Environmental Science
Faculty Working Group: "Responses, Risks and Adaptation to Climate Change"
As clearly stated in recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level. The cause of the climate change is also clear: changes in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) and aerosols, land-cover and solar radiation alter the energy balance of the climate system. Continued GHG emissions and land use changes at or above current rates will cause further warming and may induce climatic instabilities in the global climate system during the 21st century that would likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century. A wide array of adaptation options is available, but more extensive adaptation than is currently occurring is required to reduce vulnerability to climate change, regardless of the scale of mitigation undertaken over the next two to three decades. There are also barriers, limits and costs that are not fully understood. Moreover, vulnerability to climate change can be exacerbated by other stresses such as unequal access to resources, food insecurity, trends in economic globalization, conflict and incidence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
Statement of purpose
We have organized an inter-departmental and inter-college Faculty Working Group (FWG) around the theme: “Responses, Risks and Adaptation to Climate Change”. As the reality of climate change becomes more apparent, focus will shift from climate science itself to predicting, mitigating and adapting to environmental responses to climate change. This challenge requires integration of knowledge from multiple disciplines. While there is considerable expertise at Penn regarding issues of environmental and landscape change, sea level rise, carbon cycling, pathogen transmission, human behavior, economics and risk analysis, there has been no coordinated effort to advance our understanding of human/environment vulnerability to climate change. The goal of this FWG is to synthesize disparate research efforts at Penn to identify knowledge gaps that limit our ability to predict and adapt to climate-induced environmental change. In doing so, we will promote synergies among faculty that will hopefully lead to a new institutional emphasis in education and research – helping to place University of Pennsylvania at the forefront of this emerging science.