Climate Impacts and Adaptation
The Climate Impacts and Adaptation Initiative addresses the challenge of understanding and adapting to unavoidable impacts of climate change.
In the world of contemporary American politics, the dangers
of climate change remain hazy and indistinct. But among
scientists a consensus has formed: We must act. Although
there is still much we don't know, an overwhelming majority
of scientists who study the issue believe that global
warming is already changing our climate, with dangerous
and potentially deadly consequences for the future.
The threat of climate change cuts across all of the Pacific
Institute's programs and has been a focus of our work
from the beginning. The Climate Impacts and Adaptation Initiative is dedicated
to studying the impacts of climate change, educating policymakers
about the dangers, and creating real-world solutions to
slow or reverse this threat.
The Hidden Dangers of Global
Many researchers have brought attention to the better-understood
impacts of climate changes like rising sea levels and
changes in weather patterns. The Global Change program
has contributed to these efforts while also drawing attention
to hidden, but critical, threats.
One example is the impact of climate change on water
resources. As rainfall and snowmelt patterns change, water
systems from New York to Beijing to Cairo will be threatened.
And long before they are directly threatened by rising
sea levels, Pacific Island nations and low-lying coastal
areas may become uninhabitable as ocean water contaminates
fresh water supplies.
Since our founding, we have been studying the impacts
of climate change on water resources in the western United
States and beyond. In the mid-1990s, we completed a major
assessment of the potential effects of climate change
on the Colorado River basin, and in 2000 we directed the
research and writing for the Water Sector chapter of the
U.S. national climate change assessment. The good news
is that a few states-notably California-have begun to
act. The bad news is that too many policymakers still
ignore the danger.
Another poorly understood threat from climate change
is the threat it poses to national and international security.
Flooding, changes in weather patterns, and spreading tropical
diseases will cause dislocations and migrations across
borders, raise economic and political tensions, and even
directly threaten military operations. Here, too, much
remains to be done, but work by the Pacific Institute
has begun to make headway against the entrenched assumptions
of security policymakers.
In 1996, we began publishing Global Change Magazine,
a major research and policy newsletter. This publication
has served as a critical link between climate scientists,
policymakers, business leaders, professional journalists,
and the public. By highlighting new science and policy
developments in a clear, easy-to-digest form, we are contributing
to a broader and more open debate, and speeding the implementation
In the late 1990s, we expanded our efforts on climate
change to include education and outreach to the developing
world. Through our work with the Consortium for North-
South Dialogue and Partnership on Climate Change, we've
helped give developing nations the tools they need to
respond to global warming and its threats.
Most recently, we've begun to combine our expertise on
international standards with our work on climate change
to ensure that new rules being created by the International
Organization for Standardization protect the public interest
and lead to real action on global warming.
We've made significant progress in improving our understanding
of the threats from, and solutions to, climate change.
Unfortunately, political leaders-especially here in the
United States-have lagged far behind the scientists. We
know what we must do to slow the onset of climate change,
and we are learning what will happen if we fail. Our task
now is to convince our leaders to act in a timely and
Research Topics and Projects:
Supply and the Impacts of Climate Change
and Climate Change Bibliography