Worth A Look: System Vulnerability Approach to Climate Change

03 Environmental Degradation, Methods & Process, Worth A Look

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Impacts of Climate Change: A System Vulnerability Approach (2007)

By Nils Gilman, Peter Schwartz, Doug Randall

Over the past two decades, and especially in the last few years, climate change has become one of the most heavily researched subjects in science. Yet climate change impact studies remain at the low end of usefulness for policymakers and others; they are not predictive enough to be actionable because the exact nature of the events that will jar the planet in the near- and long-term future—the wheres, whens, and hows of climate change—remains both unknown and unknowable. This paper offers policymakers an alternative approach to thinking about climate change and its impacts. Instead of starting with climate change and working out toward impacts, we focus on systems that are already generally vulnerable first, and then consider what the geophysics of climate change may do to them. This approach has two benefits. First, it limits the number of logical steps necessary for thinking about the impacts of climate change, enabling more confident insights and conclusions. Second, it cuts across analytic stovepipes and gives regional specialists a framework for thinking about what climate change will mean for their particular areas, based on expertise they already have. Download PDF