When: April 10, 2013
Where: Fir Room EMU
Schedule Overview (Full Schedule and Abstracts Below):
Climate Change Research Symposium, Fir Room EMU
8:30 am - 10:00 am
Climate Change Through the Human Lens
10:00 am - 11:30 am
UO State of Climate Change Report
11:30 am - 12:30 pm
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Climate Change Economics
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Local Strategies for Global Change
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Climate Politics and Institutional Responses
Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples Lecture, Many Nations Longhouse
Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples Lecture: Keynote Lecture with Kyle Powys Whyte and Frank Lake
Click here for information about the Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples Lecture.
The UO Climate Change Research Symposium is being held in conjunction with the the UO indigenous Peoples and Climate Change Conference which opens at 6:30 pm on 10 April 2013.
6:30 pm Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples Lecture: Keynote Lecture with Kyle Powys Whyte and Frank Lake at Many Nations Longhouse
8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Fir Room, EMU
Panel 1: Climate Change Through the Human Lens
Moderator: Ron Mitchell, Political Science
Tim Christion Myers, Environmental Studies & Philosophy – An Existential Threat Requires an Existential Response: Climate Ethics, the Lifeworld, and Ontological Insecurity
"Due to the socio-economic, cultural, and political momentum responsible for climate change, I begin with the premise that this issue cannot be addressed primarily by experts, governments, or international organizations. That is, insofar as climate change reveals fundamental flaws in the way social relations and socio-ecological relations are institutionally organized, these same institutions cannot be relied upon to successfully address this issue for what it is. Moreover, adequate responses to climate change cannot begin with personal responsibility either. Such a position presumes that virtuous behavior can be dissociated from the social and cultural institutions within which it occurs. This, I submit, is the raison d’être of a collectivistic climate ethics that begins with what phenomenologists call the “lifeworld.” The questions undergirding climate ethics depend primarily on being able to make sense of climate change in ways that will empower public action. Despite considerable concern, however, the public finds itself impotent to respond to climate change in ways commensurate with the magnitude of this issue. In this paper, I make the case that climate change affects us predominantly at the level of the shared public “lifeworld,” and explore the implications of this. In other words, climate change has to be understood, not simply as an issue experienced by individuals, but as something that affects the “background” of experience shared by the public itself—i.e., the collective sensibilities that inform our most basic ways of thinking, feeling, perceiving, and so on. Just as we understand ‘climate’ as the general background condition influencing the weather in a given place and time, the collective lifeworld is the background condition affecting personal experience. In contrast to approaches that rely on current institutional structures or taking personal responsibility for climate change, therefore, I propose an approach that begins with the conflicts between the ways in which we make sense of climate change (as disclosed by the lifeworld), on the one hand, and the scientific and sociological implications of climate change, on the other. Ultimately, this approach enables one to grasp climate change as a totalizing threat to our lifeworld sensibilities, and analyze our collective failure to respond to this issue, accordingly.
In this light, and as sociologist Kari Norgaard argues, what is called “climate denial” cannot simply be understood as an expression of one’s ignorance of climate science, or as the direct result of ideology, greed, apathy, and so on. Rather, as Norgaard says, climate denial represents a “failure to integrate knowledge [of climate change] into everyday life or to transform it into social action.” Extending this analysis, I argue that insofar as the deeper implications of climate change contradict the lifeworld itself, adequately making sense of this issue and taking responsibility for it will remain virtually impossible. Climate denial, however, involves much more than a failure to make sense of climate change. Because the implications of climate change conflict with the lifeworld we rely on, we experience these conflicts as existential threats to our collective ways of being in the world. This results in what Anthony Giddens calls “ontological insecurity,” a condition marked by a shared anxiety that we’re profoundly motivated to avoid. Hence, since the lifeworld is collective, we spontaneously work together to address these subtle yet totalizing threats by engaging in strategies of collective meaning-making meant to preserve the lifeworld we depend on for ontological security intact by keeping the deeper implications of climate change at bay. Insofar as these attempts are successful (and this depends on the community in question), the anxious threat of climate change is minimized, and everyday life continues more or less unscathed.
Hence, I argue that articulating and promoting a climate ethics has to begin with these lifeworld conditions, particularly the problem of ontological insecurity that defines climate change as an existential issue. Ways have to be found at the communal and political level to address ontological insecurity before we can really take in the full implications of climate change and respond to it accordingly. The challenge before us, I believe, thus involves cultivating the ability to challenge lifeworld structures that preserves ways of being inimical to a healthy climate, but without encouraging the ontological insecurity that prompts climate denial. Drawing on phenomenologist Martin Heidegger, I end this paper suggesting that wonder as a world-opening mood is the appropriate antidote to the anxiety that comes with ontological insecurity. In this respect, I make a case for the environmental humanities as playing a central role in the collective project of cultivating an ontologically-secure climate ethics.
M Jackson, Geography – Framing Climate Change: A Critique of Apocalyptic Narrative
This article reviews how media, scientists, government officials, and environmental groups communicate climate change information saturated with increasingly urgent and alarming language. We find that climate change discourse is commonly presented through an apocalyptic framework that is inherently problematic for a variety of reasons, including a) it homogenizes climate change and depicts all humans as “victims,” b) is ineffective as a motivator for social and political behavior change, c) overrides individuals and communities potential for adaptation, d) emphasizes geoengineering solutions and reinforces a “prophetic narrative,” e) and redirects attention towards a potential cataclysmic “moment” and away from the current climate change experiences of the human and more than human world. This article acknowledges and seeks to solve the current lack of comprehensive analyses (Foust and Murphy 2009) investigating the possible implications of such an apocalyptic framework for climate change. We discuss how this framework moved to the forefront of climate change discourse within the last two decades. Lastly, we suggest that climate change communicators should attempt an intentional shift in discourse away from an apocalyptic framework; favoring instead communication that relies on an empowering and inclusive approach for all individual and collective participants.
Sean Munger, History – The Year Without a Summer: The Rapid Global Climate Change Event of 1816
In the summer of 1816, in New England and across the U.S. eastern seaboard, a series of bizarre weather events ranging from snowstorms in June to hard frosts in August puzzled, confused and frightened Americans in all walks of life. Americans’ reactions to the “Year Without a Summer” fell into a wide range of categories. Some blamed sunspots; some saw, or sneered at, prophecies of the end of the world; some argued it was a sign of global cooling, or global warming; some tried to use it for political benefit; some simply denied it was happening at all. Historians have generally treated the Year Without a Summer superficially, as a largely meaningless anomaly or a collection of intriguing anecdotes. In fact Americans’ experiences of 1816 indicate that this sudden rapid climate change event, which was precipitated by the April 1815 eruption of a volcano called Tambora, had a much more significant impact on society than historians have previously identified.
This paper argues that the climate change events of 1816 illustrate broader trends in how people of the time viewed their relationship to their environment, as well as an embryonic appreciation of humans’ delicate and precarious position in a changing world that was incapable of being fully explained by their existing bases of knowledge. These anxieties were particularly sensitive for Americans, who were turning inward toward settlement of their own frontier and whose dreams of future prosperity were dependent upon reducing a hostile wilderness to a civilized domain suitable for human development and use. The Year Without a Summer fell in a transitional phase when superstition was fading but science was not yet adequate to explain the world. Bereft of easy explanations, Americans adapted—or denied—as best they could and each in their own way, but gloomy apprehensions that the processes of nature were inscrutable, inexorable and potentially dangerous could never really be assuaged.
Gordon Sayre, English – A Brief History of Climatic Theories since Antiquity: from Hemispheric, to Local, to Continental, to Global
Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature (1989) is one of the most influential texts in the emergent field of Environmental Humanities. The main idea for which the book is cited is that, by emitting greenhouse gases and changing the climate, humans have altered nature, which no longer can be “independent of Humans” as it has been since biblical times. However, many other studies of climate change and history, such as William Ruddiman’s Plows, Plagues and Petroleum, and Charles C. Mann’s 1491, argue that human impacts on vegetation had already altered climate, both regionally and globally, in the last ten thousand years. This is one of the justifications for the recently-coined Anthropocene Era, replacing the Holocene. In light of these findings, McKibben’s vision of a pristine nature “indepedent of Humans” appears to be more theological than historical.
Environmental studies scholars, whether humanistic or scientific, are rarely knowledgable about the early modern history of beliefs about climate. My presentation will offer a brief summary of these ideas, from classical Greek theorists Hippocrates, and Aristotle and the Roman Posidonius, to early modern explorers of the Americas such as Jacques Cartier to eighteenth-century travelers and scientists like Peter Kalm and Hugh Williamson. Across this broad period see a transition from hemispheric theories of climate, based on latitude, to local and continental theories in the early modern period, to global theories today.
In classical Greek thought Ptolemy and Aristotle both understood the shape and size of the earth, and knew that their mapped or known world included roughly quarter of the entire globe. This quarter-sphere extended from northern frigid zones through Europe and a Mediterranean climate that stretched eastward toward Asia, and then a torrid zone in Saharan Africa which suggested that areas south of that might be uninhabitable for humans.
In the early Modern period, with the exploration of the Americas, it became obvious that climate did not very uniformly with latitude. America was colder, especially Canada, as Jacques Cartier observed. The classical theories had some understanding of how overgrazing may have altered the dominant vegetation and availability of water in Mediterranean settings, but with wider colonization, particuarly of tropical islands, Europeans sought to understand the mechanisms of local climate change. Promotional tracts for colonization argued that local climates would change in response to human improvements. Most often, this took the form of the notion that clearing forests would result in warmer, drier atmosphere that would be favorable to agriculture and to human health.
In the 18th century there emerged the theory of American climatic inferiority. Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon and the Dutch cleric Cornelius dePauw were the leading polemicists for this theory, although neither ever visited America. Many American colonists, including Thomas Jefferson, sought to refute the theory by proving that the animal species of America were just as large and vigourous as those of Eurasia.
In our post-modern era, we think of ourselves, if not as global citizens at home anywhere in the world, at least as autonomous subjects who are not determined by the places we live. The peculiar qualities of natural places inform our selves in an intellectual or emotional manner, but not in an essential or bodily way. If there is an impact of the immediate environment upon our bodies, it is deleterious or poisonous. We speak of ""sick building syndrome"" and fear toxic waste or pollution damaging neurodevelopment, but these poisons are synthetic and artificial; separate from the nature of the places where they occur. But such was not the case in the classical and early modern periods, when the study of climate was inseparable from theories of medicine and health.
Adam Walters, Law – FNIP at 45: Can a Middle-Aged Law Learn to Tackle Climate Change?
The National Flood Insurance Program (FNIP) reflects the nation's concern about the public and private expense of floods. Created by the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, the FNIP was meant to decrease the risk and costs of flooding, temper public expectations for federal disaster assistance, and preserve the beneficial role of natural floodplains. The FNIP's progress in advancing these goals is well-debated, but increasing awareness about the effects of climate change makes the program's adequacy all the more relevant. My developing research considers recent congressional and administrative reform efforts attempting to use the FNIP to protect against the consequences of climate change.
10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Fir Room, EMU
Panel 2: UO State of Climate Change Report
Moderator: Ron Mitchell, Political Science
Steve Mital and Andrew Louw, UO Office of Sustainability – Counting Carbon: 2012 UO Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emission inventory and Climate Action Plan Highlights
This presentation and panel discussion will give an overview of UO’s GHG emissions and climate action planning activity. Which energy activities are the biggest emissions “culprits”? How is the University progressing compared to peer institutions? What steps is the institution taking to curb emissions? A panel of experts from the stakeholder offices will discuss the sustainability opportunities and challenges facing the UO.
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Fir Room, EMU
Panel 3: Climate Justice
Moderator: Kathy Lynn, Environmental Studies
Kirsten Rudestam, Sociology at UC Santa Cruz & UO Environmental Studies Alumnus – Media Coverage of Global Warming in Alaska Newspapers: The Indigenous Factor
This study investigates the reporting of global warming and climate change as it appeared in Alaskan newspapers between the years of 1995 and 2006, with a primary focus on how local media coverage changes over time. My findings corroborate those of scholarly studies on several key points, and suggest an entirely new observation not noted previously, namely, that media coverage about climate change is correlated with views about indigenous people and their relocation. This article focuses on the last of these findings and recommends that communities facing adaptation and relocation keep in mind that they are dealing with long-term issues that receive episodic attention from the media, the public and policy makers.
Carson Viles, Environmental Studies – Foods that Nourish Us: Climate Change Impacts on Indigenous Culture in the Pacific Northwest
Climate change is an emerging concern for indigenous people worldwide. In the Pacific Northwest, the potential and ongoing impacts of climate change to tribal and First Nations are mounting. In response, tribal communities, academics and others are researching what effects climate change may have. Much of existing climate change research is focused on analyzing impacts to natural resources, i.e. on quantifiable impacts. This paper argues that understanding the cultural impacts of climate change on indigenous people provides a more complete picture of what is at stake for native people today. Traditional food use is a major area of concern for climate change effects. My research aims to show how climate change, by impacting traditional food use and species health, also impacts native culture and wellbeing in the Pacific Northwest. This paper details impacts to two aspects of culture: family and sovereignty. Furthermore, this paper demonstrates similarities between climate change and colonization and their effects on traditional food use, family and sovereignty in native communities. Colonization provides context vital to explaining current cultural importance of traditional food use, and demonstrates how disturbances to food use in the past have impacted indigenous culture.
Kirsten Vinyeta, Environmental Studies – Exploring the Role of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Climate Change Initiatives
Indigenous populations are projected to face disproportionate impacts as a result of climate change. For this reason, many American Indian and Alaska Native tribes are identifying and implementing culturally appropriate strategies to assess climate impacts and adapt to projected changes. Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), as the indigenous knowledge system is called, has the potential to play a central role in both indigenous and nonindigenous climate change initiatives. The detection of environmental changes, the development of strategies to adapt to these changes, and the implementation of sustainable land-management principles are all important climate action items that can be informed by TEK. Although there is a significant body of literature on traditional knowledge, this synthesis examines literature that specifically explores the relationship between TEK and climate change. The synthesis describes the potential role of TEK in climate change assessment and adaptation efforts. It also identifies some of the challenges and benefits associated with merging TEK with Western science, and reviews the way in which federal policies and administrative practices facilitate or challenge the incorporation of TEK in climate change initiatives. The synthesis highlights examples of how tribes and others are including TEK into climate research, education, and resource planning and explores strategies to incorporate TEK into climate change policy, assessments, and adaptation efforts at national, regional, and local levels.
12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Fir Room, EMU
Panel 4: Climate Change Economics
Moderator: Craig Kauffman, Political Science
Trudy Cameron, Economics – Extreme Weather Events and Rural-to-Urban Migration
In numerous regions around the globe, climate change can be expected to change the pattern of severe weather events. The nature of future changes in these patterns can be difficult to predict, but it is instructive to consider some of the potential consequences of extreme weather on household migration decisions based on past events. We examine county-to-county migration decisions in the U.S., treating various types of extreme weather events as random exogenous shocks to the affected communities and their economies. We are particularly interested in whether rural-to-urban migration flows are altered systematically in the wake of extreme weather events. We explore a variety of specifications for a panel of roughly half a million significant annual U.S. county-to-county flows. Our models demonstrate that the effects of a number of different types of extreme weather events (i.e. flooding, heat waves, and wildfires) in the origin county on county-to-county migration flows are statistically significantly greater when the destination county is relatively more urbanized. The effect of the number of fatalities from flooding and heat waves in the origin county on migration flows is also amplified when the destination county is more urbanized. Thus it appears that even in a developed country like the U.S., extreme weather events continue to exacerbate rural-to-urban migration flows.
Gulcan Cil, Economics – Extreme Weather Events: Effects on Birth Outcomes, Local Economy, and Fertility Decisions
This study investigates the effects of two types of extreme weather events, tornadoes and severe storms, on birth outcomes for babies who have been exposed to such events while in utero or whose mothers experienced these events prior to conception. Using a monthly panel data for all U.S. counties, and controlling for a selection of socio-demographic characteristics as well as month, year and county fixed effects, we find that tornadoes and severe storms lead to an increase in the proportion of births with low birth weight in a county. We also explore the changes in local economic activity in the aftermath of these extreme weather events. Our findings suggest that current and past tornadoes and severe storms have strong negative impact on businesses and employment in a county, even after controlling for the total damage, and number of injuries and fatalities associated with the events. Despite the long term negative impact on local economy, our analyses indicate that tornadoes and severe storms do not have long-run adverse effect on birth weight. We suggest that a possible explanation for this is the differential fertility response to tornadoes and severe storms and to the change in economic conditions associated with them by race and socioeconomic status. Our findings indicate that tornadoes and severe storms are associated with a fall in the proportion of less educated black mothers who are more likely to have babies with low birth weight.
Anca Cristea, Economics – Trade and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions from International Transport
We collect extensive data on worldwide trade by transportation mode and use this to provide detailed comparisons of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with output versus international transportation of traded goods. International transport is responsible for 33 percent of worldwide trade-related emissions, and over 75 percent of emissions for major manufacturing categories. Including transport dramatically changes the ranking of countries by emissions per dollar of trade. We systematically investigate whether trade inclusive of transport can lower emissions. In one quarter of cases, the difference in output emissions is more than enough to compensate for the emissions cost of transport. Finally, we examine how likely patterns of global trade growth will affect modal use and emissions. Full liberalization of tariffs and GDP growth concentrated in China and India lead to transport emissions growing much faster than the value of trade, due to trade shifting toward distant trading partners.
Thibaud Henin, Political Science – Designing Effective Environmental Institutions
This paper examines whether the eight characteristics of effective local-level institutions identified by Dr. Elinor Ostrom are also present in effective international institutions. Dr. Ostrom has identified eight design principles derived from studies of local long-enduring institutions for governing sustainable resources. I upscale these principles to the international level by first defining international common-pool resources, then selecting cases from the International Regimes Database which meet these criteria. I then test the relationship between variables proxying for Ostrom’s common-pool resource design principles, as well as scope of the institutions, with a measure for regime effectiveness. The results are mixed as I find support for some, but not all, of Dr. Ostrom’s principles at the international level.
Derek Wolfson, Economics – Weather and Parks: The Effects of Acute Weather Events on National Park Visitation
We evaluate the impacts of different types of acute weather events on park visitation in the US, using a thirty-year panel of monthly visitation to U.S. National Park Service (NPS) parks. We analyze empirically the demand for NPS parks, using fixed effects specifications to control for unobserved heterogeneity. The results suggest that flood events, and to lesser extent winter weather events, have a negative impact on park visitation. This research contributes to the existing body of literature that analyzes various potential impacts of climate change on human activity. Our findings will be of use to park managers as they contemplate appropriate mitigation or adaptation policies.
2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Fir Room, EMU
Panel 5: Local Strategies for Global Change
Moderator: Mark Carey, Clark Honors College
Craig Kauffman, Political Science – Framing Strategies in Campaigns for Local Watershed Management Reform
The importance of strategic framing for transnational networks advocating new policies is well established. Policy advocates seeking to alter an issue’s master frame are frequently resisted by defenders of the status quo, leading to framing contests in which rival groups compete to make their frame dominant. Much framing research analyzes attempts to construct a convincing counter-frame that can undermine and/or replace an existing interpretive framework. Yet very little is known about why some frames resonate more than others, and thus why some strategic framing attempts succeed while others fail. This paper addresses this question by comparing successful and failed framing strategies used by five transnational coalitions advocating watershed management reforms in Ecuador. Framing strategies are compared both across cases and within cases over time. The case comparisons suggest that the resonance of a new master frame, and thus the success of policy advocates, may have more to do with the framing strategy used than with frame attributes or power relationships. In successful cases, reform advocates adopted a frame displacement strategy that redefined the dominant “production-poverty” frame to include watershed management reform policies. By contrast, reform attempts were less successful to the extent they relied on a counter-framing strategy that challenged the “production-poverty” frame with an alternative “conservation” or “market” frame.
Matt McRae, City of Eugene – Eugene: Rising Awareness and Falling Emissions
Cassandra Moseley, Institute for a Sustainable Environment & Ecosystem Workforce Program –Impacts and Community Response to Increasing Wildfires in the American West
Wildland fires are getting larger and more expensive as summer seasons get hotter, longer, and drier in many areas. As firefighters battle increasingly large blazes, nearby communities also feel the impact of both more extensive, and more expensive wildfires. For affected communities, large wildfires can present a mixed bag of positive and negative impacts. The lives of nearby workers, employers, and families can be disrupted, and losses in recreation, tourism, forestry, and other natural resource industries may occur with large tracts of burnt land. In contrast, the money spent on suppression and support services in the communities can contribute to positive growth in local employment and wages, and support existing local business capacity. Our research investigated the impacts of large wildfires and associated spending on the economies located near them. We examined how suppression spending can help mediate negative impacts of wildfires, and explored factors that influence whether local businesses capture suppression spending. As large wildfires become more numerous as the climate continues to warm, an understanding of the impacts on local economies will help natural resource managers, policymakers, and communities better anticipate and make management decisions that support affected economies.
Kelsey Ward, Environmental Studies & Clark Honors College – Motivations Behind National Park Management Practices and Education in Response to Climate Change
The language of the Organic Act of 1916 explicitly defines the national park mission: “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein, and to provide for the same in such manner…as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” As the world around national parks changes, unimpairment is increasingly difficult, bordering on impossible. Climate change is conceptualized as an “unprecedented challenge” for park managers because of technical/scientific uncertainty—in predictions, understanding, and interpretation of climate change and its effects, as well as social uncertainty—the cultural and organizational capability to respond. It has the potential to reshape our understanding of the National Park System as well as the national park idea. In the face of large and diverse uncertainties, thus far the National Park Service has taken a “safe-to-fail” approach to management, which emphasizes neither ensuring success nor avoiding failure in adaptation and mitigation, but instead taking the safe, but often compromising, middle ground. This paper explores the tension between park managers’ action on climate change and visitor expectations for enjoyment, arguing that this tension is steeped in a rich history of federal land management and the Organic Act of 1916, sublime landscapes, wilderness, and outdoor recreation. Though climate change presents a challenge, it also is creating positive new ideas about national parks, including the view of these protected areas as vital cores of much larger ecosystems, and the emerging idea of national parks assuming a more prominent role in public education. While climate change threatens the “natural state” of national parks as set in the Organic Act, it also provides a unique opportunity to re-emphasize the multiple values of protected areas and the ecosystem services, and services to humans, they provide.
Rebecca Weiss, Anthropology – A Late Quaternary Reconstruction of the Carmel Coast Stratigraphy and the Implications for the Archaeological Record
As debates over modern climate change continue to capture worldwide attention, the study of the past effects of climate, and sea level change on settlements has found a renewed importance in an attempt to understand what settlements may face in the future.
The aim of this project is to use large-scale macro analysis of the landscape and environmental changes during the Holocene to provide context for the high resolution archaeological record, and assess Holocene changes to the coastal zone, and the response, if any, of local human settlements to changing conditions. ArcGIS 10 software was used to interpolate sediment core data and create surface and isopach maps. These were analysed within the context of topographic, satellite and bathymetric data. By assessing the sea-level and coastal position through different time slices, it became apparent that sea-level change was not a driving force behind kurkar ridge formation or Holocene marsh development. Additionally, clay deposition centres were identified on the marsh isopach that were topographically tied to rivers flowing westward from the Carmel Mountain range.
Based on changing annual precipitation rates through the Holocene, and modern sediment dynamics of these river systems, I propose the variable rates of river velocity and clay transport in response to changing rainfall rates were central to the formation and termination of the marshes. From this work, it is apparent that there are two areas in need of further research; (a)the base of the Carmel range in the rivers deposition centres and the related outlets and coastal areas and (b) The kurkar ridges and trough surfaces.
3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Fir Room, EMU
Panel 6: Climate Change Through the Human Lens
Moderator: Cassandra Moseley, Institute for a Sustainable Environment
Greg Bothun, Physics – Deep Tropical Convection: The Trigger for Global Climate Change
"Tropical atmospheric deep convection is a critical element in the earth’s climate. Convective latent heat release is physically the main driving mechanism for large-scale atmospheric circulation for the bulk of the atmosphere (polar regions are excluded). Cloud formation associated with deep convection strongly affects the overall radiation budget of the Earth. Increases in tropical convection may very well lead to the Earth being populated with more low level clouds thus exacerbating global warming. In addition, the vertical redistribution of water vapor by deep convective updrafts is responsible for determining the overall water vapor content of the atmosphere (e.g. the humidity).
Any increase in this activity again acts as positive feedback to global warming. Overall, deep tropical convection is a very big deal in terms of global climate change, yet this topic is almost never discussed.
We discuss it here.
Furthermore, many large scale features of deep tropical convection are still unknown, including the critical coupling between the rate of convection and the sea surface temperature (SST). Locally, SST can have an important effect. For instance, during the dramatic Hurricane season of 2005, the Gulf of Mexico had a SST which was 3.5 degrees (F) larger than normal. That elevated SST is likely responsible for the 3 CAT 5 Hurricane occurrences (Katrina, Rita, Wilma) that marked that Hurricane season. Since then, the local SST in the Gulf of Mexico has not reached such high temperatures and this overall process remains poorly understood. The relationship between tropical convection and the occurrences of El Nino/La Nina are similarly poorly understood as is the overall role of possible change upper air wind patterns and pressure surface heights.
Using a recently acquired “supercomputer” known as ACISS, research at the University of Oregon, in collaboration with faculty at New Mexico Tech, is now addressing some of these issues by modeling convection via an adaptive mesh grid over a very large domain of 512x512 km (approximately the size of the Gulf of Mexico). Variables such as SST, horizontal wind velocities, and changes in droplet size are being investigated to determine their overall influence on the amplitude of deep tropical convection and the resulting redistribution of atmospheric water vapor. Recently, the UO was able to run a 100 day simulation in about 25 days of run time on ACISS. This is the longest time yet run for simulations of this kind. The results of these model runs will be discussed in this talk along with more general results on deep tropical convection. Most of the data (theoretical and observational) is consistent with an Earth that is seeing increasing humidity and thus an amplification of the water vapor feedback loop which only enhances the amount of warming we are likely to get as a direct result of the systematic dumping of waste heat into the world’s ocean by the combined industrial activities of humans.
Elizabeth Brown, Law – Existing International Legal Obligations to Address Loss and Damage from Climate Change
There is an emerging third paradigm in international climate policy, beyond mitigation and adaptation, called “Loss and Damage.” Because of the failure of developed countries to imme¬diately and drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the adverse impacts of climate change (mitigation), the capacity of developing countries to reduce and manage the risks of adverse climate impacts (adaptation) is being reached. The phrase “loss and damage” does not have an official definition but refers to the wide range of damage and permanent loss associated with climate change impacts in particularly vulnerable developing countries that can no longer be avoided through mitigation or adaptation.
The loss and damage associated with climate change include both economic and non-economic losses that are expected to increase over time. In the short term, losses are caused by the increase in frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events. Slow onset events result in losses in the mid to longer term, e.g., sea-level rise, increasing temperatures, ocean acidi¬fication, glacial retreat and related impacts, land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity, salinization, and desertification.
There is a debate within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) between the parties on whether to establish an international mechanism to address loss and damage. My research with inform this debate and focus on the existing legal obligations of states to take responsibility for the loss and damage occurring in other countries. The purpose of my paper will be to distill and refine the arguments and legal concepts that form the basis for these legal obligations into language that can be understood by a non-legal, non-specialist audience.
Richard Hildreth, Law & Dominique Rossi, Law – The Other Carbon Problem--Addressing Ocean Acidification on the West Coast
Atmospheric climate change is increasingly at the forefront of environmental policymaking. However, few existing laws seeks to regulate how GHG emissions impact the oceans. This is a significant oversight given that oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and have absorbed half of all fossil fuels released into the atmosphere since the dawn of the industrial revolution. The overburdening of the ocean’s sequestration process has resulted in 30% overall increase in acidity. The changing chemical composition of the oceans affect the vital functions of calcifying animals that are the foundation for a majority of marine ecosystems. University of Oregon Law Professor Richard Hildreth and Legal Researcher Dominique Rossi will be presenting on various legal frameworks that can potentially be adapted to address ocean acidification. They will discuss international treaties as well as recent developments under the United States’ Endangered Species Act.
James Puerini, Environmental Studies & Political Science – Climate Change and Partisan Politics: Explaining the Growing Divide
My research is entitled “Climate Change and Partisan Politics: Explaining the Growing Divide”. The paper uses the polling research of Yale professor and University of Oregon alumni Anthony Leiserowitz to assess the relationship and dynamics between climate change efficacy in the general public and the growing atmosphere of partisanship in modern politics.
Emily Sanchirico, Environmental Studies – A Strong Institutional Climate: Regional Trade Networks and Climate Action
Climate change has been described as a malign, wicked, and super wicked problem. I focus on key characteristics that make international collective action challenging: asymmetry, fear of free riding, scientific uncertainty, and inherent interdependencies. I argue that an institution designed to tackle such a complex problem requires a key set of features: leadership, linkage, quality information, differentiated obligations, monitoring/enforcement, transparency, and flexibility. I assess the UNFCCC to determine what aspects are missing. I then ask why the EU, with incentives to the contrary, set broad unilateral goals. I argue that the framework of political and economic integration made deep cooperation possible. Lastly, I consider whether this experience is specific to the EU, and ask whether regional trade networks have a role in the global arsenal of climate change solutions.
Climate change is a multi-faceted global crisis. Professors and students in the arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences examine different facets of this important global challenge. The UO Climate Change Research Symposium brings together individuals whose problem-driven research and works of art transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries. The sharing of perspectives and exchange of ideas will produce a lasting dialogue that will enrich the depth of academic discourse at the University of Oregon.
The University of Oregon Climate Change Research Group