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From global climate change to local consequences

Some will be luckier than others when it comes to climate change. The effects of a climate change on me will depend on where I live. In some regions, changes may not be as noticeable as in others. So what are the impacts in my region?

In other to understand the local impacts of a climate change, I need to address the question of how I can calculate the regional response from a global change perspective. This is called ‘downscaling‘.

Regional and local climate aspects are computed, based on different climate models, statistical analyses, empirical data, and assumptions. The choice of calculation method varies from case to case, and depends on what I want to know and how I think a local climate change will affect me.

These days, questions about local and regional climate change, as well as methods and climate models, are discussed at the International Conference on Regional Climate – CORDEX2013 (Brussels, 4-7 November, 2013). The major theme of this conference is the Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment (CORDEX).

For those who want to follow the news about regional climate modelling efforts, there is a live streaming at the conference website, and through twitter with hash tag ‘#CORDEX2013‘, you can take part in the discussions (please indicate to whom you address your questions).

The conference is organised by the European Commission, the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, most of the high-level talks will take place at the first day, and the subsequent three days will be devoted to the real climate scientists.

13 Responses to “From global climate change to local consequences”

  1. 1
    guthrie says:

    I think you mean “In order to understand” on line 4.
    Sorry this isn’t a properly useful comment.

    [Response: Thanks! -rasmus]

  2. 2
    GlenFergus says:

    Another not-so-useful comment, but it’s interesting that we now all call this downscaling. In the sense of map scales, we’re talking about going a very small scale (global; say maybe 1:100,000,000) to a larger scale ratio (regional – maybe 1:10,000,000 or 1:1,000,000) … which process might better have been called upscaling. OK, “scale” is just meant in the rhetorical sense of “size”, but that’s not exactly sciency. Maybe it should have been downsizing?

  3. 3
    wili says:

    I think McKibben had it about right when he said the best place to be in the coming tumultuous decades is anywhere where there is a strong, mutually supportive, resilient community (or something like that).

  4. 4
    Fergus Brown says:

    What’s the latest view on the ability of GCMs to capture regional scale changes? This has been a subject of contention in the past – has the reliability of models improved recently, or are different methodologies being used these days?

  5. 5

    #3–Yes; the most useful and radical thing one could do would be to build relationships of trust and cooperation.

  6. 6
    Brian Lux says:

    wili, yes, I think that and emphasizing local economy is very much what Bill has said. Richard Heinberg as well has talked about living in communities of interdependence and local economy.

  7. 7
    Bob Bingham says:

    New Zealand has a very detailed analysis of the effects of climate change which takes the areas down to just a few hundred square miles. The information is normally there but it is in the state or farming advisory sites.

  8. 8
    William Gloege says:

    Downscaling seems like the frog in the pot with temperature slowly moving upward. The frog may think he can take some useful steps to avoid death by boiling, but then he’s thinking short term.

    Long term temperatures can only go one way with billions of pounds of carbon being pumped into our fragile atmosphere. The consequences are inevitable.

    Yes, some areas may have delayed negative impacts, but it is only a matter of time before all areas suffer.

    And what about food? Major food producing areas like Russia, the US Grain Belt, and the South have already taken devastating climate hits and seen crops wiped out. We all eat and we all get food from these vulnerable areas. My State, California, is a case in point. We are pumping our ground water dry and the drought hangs on, year after year. If you have one, please give us the “adaptation strategy” for agriculture when water runs out. Please hurry with those ideas.

  9. 9
    Andrew b says:

    What if the elliptical orbit is elongated and that’s causing opposite extremes in weather and has thrown the earth off in the long run for potential for big collission

  10. 10
    Charles says:

    While your state, California, may be experiencing agricultural issues, the South and Midwest are not. Crops yields have been increasing for decades, albeit with a few speed bumps along the way. 2013 was a bumper year for Modeled simulations show a general increase in productivity with future warming, even under the worst case scenarios.

  11. 11
    Rasmus says:

    Videos of the presentations are available from:

  12. 12
    Hank Roberts says:

    Charles points to Reilly et al., US agriculture and climate change: new results — that’s a 2003 climate model paper. The authors there say their models suggest that climate change will not harm US agriculture. One of the coauthors is or was at NASA; perhaps someone knows of followups to that?
    It’s been cited nearly 200 times:

    The cites include subsequent work by some of the same authors, e.g.
    Günther Fischer, Mahendra Shah, Francesco N. Tubiello,and Harrij van Velhuizen

    Socio-economic and climate change impacts on agriculture: an integrated assessment, 1990–2080 Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 2005 360 1463 2067-2083doi:10.1098/rstb.2005.1744 (published 29 November 2005) 1471-2970

    The results from the study suggest that critical impact asymmetries due to both climate and socio-economic structures may deepen current production and consumption gaps between developed and developing world; it is suggested that adaptation of agricultural techniques will be central to limit potential damages under climate change.

    So the models suggest big changes are needed in agriculture, because otherwise the rich and fat will be doing all right, and the rest of the world will be feeling the damage. Does this sound at all familiar?

    How would you feel if the world was falling apart around you
    Pieces of the sky were falling in your neighbors yard
    But not on you
    Wouldn’t you feel just a little bit funny
    Think maybe there’s something you oughta do

    from “Before Believing” (Danny Flowers)

  13. 13
  14. 14
    Hank Roberts says:

    From the RealEconomics blog:
    The costs of extreme weather

    The main reason I cover climate change issues so relentlessly is because any meaningful solution to this problem will cost big bucks and the current economic environment will not allow us to spend that kind of money. So obviously, the economic thinking needs to be changed. Lobbying for such changes is the main reason I write this blog.

    But once in a while, I am reminded that the costs of doing nothing are also enormous.  So we find ourselves in the situation where an economic brain-lock prevents us from spending the money we need for remediation while at the same time, we are forced to spend the money anyway to clean up the damage….