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The Frontiers of Human Dimensions Science Research Seminar Series

Through this seminar series we bring in top level researchers in human dimensions of global change research. Their presentations are meant to inform and stimulate discussions on the most recent new research and research directions for this theme, including such topics as sustainability science, adaptation to climate change, the value of global environmental assessments, and approaches to vulnerability assessment.

List of the 2007 seminar series by month
January | February | March | April | May | June | July |September

September 12, 2007
Title: Design of Decision-Support Research Programs to Support Adaptive Water Management
Speaker: Dr. Kathy Jacobs
Location: Foothills Lab campus FL2 - 1022 Auditorium
Time: 2:00 - 3:15 pm
Materials: Flyer (Word)

Abstract: This presentation will discuss the design of the Arizona Water Institute, which is a collaboration of the three Arizona state universities focused on using university resources to support water sustainability for the state, and a specific project within the Institute: “Enhancing Water Supply Reliability through Improved Predictive Capacity,” which is an unusual research partnership with the US Bureau of Reclamation. The Arizona Water Institute is designed to be a boundary organization that functions to support water related decision-making and economic development by building a knowledge network across the state to maximize the potential for university resources to be used in agency and community decision-making.

The Enhancing Water Supply Reliability project is the largest project of the Water Institute, and is an interdisciplinary research project focused on enhancing Arizona’s water supply reliability from the Colorado River. The project, now in its fourth year, has assessed Reclamation’s use of climate information in river modeling; identified strategies to better utilize paleoclimatology, climate forecasts and climate change predictions to improve water supply predictive capacity for the lower Colorado River and the Central Arizona Project; evaluated management tools and stakeholder engagement strategies for dealing with uncertainty in the shortage sharing process and in translating improved predictive capacity into enhanced supply reliability for water users (particularly through dry-year options). The investigators on this project include a surface water hydrologist, a dendrochronologist, an agricultural economist and water management/stakeholder engagement expertise. The rationale of this approach is to provide planning tools and new ways to integrate sources of paleoclimate, seasonal to interannual climate data, and climate change information, along with alternative modeling and management strategies into management of the Colorado. The research agenda was designed based on stakeholders’ research questions and includes an ongoing engagement and outreach component.

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July 30, 2007
Title: Whither Sustainability Science - a view from the South
Speaker: Dr. Coleen Vogel
Location: Foothills Lab campus FL2 - 1022 Auditorium
Time: 2:00 - 3:15 pm
Materials: View presentation (pdf) | Webcast (requires RealPlayer)
Abstract: Sustainability science is a key theme in scientific discourses, particularly for those engaged in strongly applied sciences. Academics engaged in academic positions and research in the south face some difficult challenges, particularly those that involve the often encountered tensions between advocacy, ‘honest science broker’ and science. Some of the challenges facing those engaged in such science, from a 'southern' perspective, are examined using climate change and environmental change as focal points. Climate change implications for Africa and southern Africa are discussed including an assessment of some of the inputs to the recent IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. Additional themes profiled include the links and/or disconnections between currently developing research foci (e.g. climate justice, disaster risk reduction, environment and development). Finally, synergies between emerging science from international programs (e.g. IHDP – Human Dimensions Programme) and developing science agendas in the south are examined (e.g. environmental human security; institutional dimensions of global environmental change, adaptive risk governance etc). An update of some of the developments in the emerging IHDP strategic- vision will be shared.

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June 19, 2007
Title: Global Environmental Assessments: Information and Influence
Speaker: Dr. William Clark
Location: Foothills Lab campus FL2 - 1022 Auditorium
Time: 1:30 - 3:00 pm
Materials: View presentation (pdf) | Webcast (requires RealPlayer)
Abstract: Over the last quarter century, the scientific community has invested unprecedented time and effort in conducting assessments of global environmental problems. The rationale for this investment – most of it at substantial sacrifice of time lost from research and teaching – has been simple and laudable: a desire to make scientific knowledge available in forms that will support appropriate and effective action in the international arena. Some of these assessments have clearly been influential. By any reasonable accounting, however, most have not. What’s the difference between the few influential assessments and the many that just gather dust? I report in this talk on a recently completed study to evaluate the impact of global environmental assessments. My colleagues and I conducted a comparative analysis of over 40 assessments, seeking to understand how, and under what conditions, global environmental assessments influence political and economic decision makers. We found that global environmental assessments are more likely to be influential to those who perceive them to be not only scientifically credible but also salient to policy concerns and legitimate in the sense of being unbiased and fair. Our studies show that although the content of the assessment clearly matters, its influence is often determined more by the process that generated it and by external factors affecting the receptiveness of different audiences. Assessments that involve ongoing interactions among scientists, stakeholders, and policymakers prove particularly likely to influence behaviors. Finally, I will comment on our findings about the relationship of formal assessments to the larger knowledge-action system through which science becomes engaged in global environmental politics.

Further information on the project on which I have based this talk is available at http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/gea/pubs/geavol_info.htm.

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May 15, 2007
Title: Climate, Uncertainty and Decision Making
Speaker: Prof. M. Granger Morgan
Location: Foothills Lab campus FL2 - Room 1001
Time: 1:30-2:45 pm
Materials: View presentation (pdf)
Abstract: Uncertainty is ubiquitous in climate science, impacts and policy. This talk begins with a discussion of the nature and sources of uncertainty, strategies that can be used to characterize and deal with uncertainty, and cognitive issues that can complicate and bias judgments about uncertainty. Then it will turn to a discussion of uncertainty in the context of: 1) climate forcing; 2) the resulting changes in climate; and 3) the impacts that result from those changes. The final portion of the talk will argue that while there are many things that are unique about climate problems, irreducible uncertainty is not one of them. The talk will conclude with some discussion of implications for climate-related decision-making and public policy.

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April 24, 2007
Title: Carbon Finance, Adaptation, and Climate Science:
How should research respond to the climate regime?
Speaker: Diana Liverman
Location: Foothills Lab campus FL2 - 1022 Auditorium
Time: 1:30-2:45 pm
Materials: Flyer (pdf) | Webcast (requires RealPlayer)
Abstract: The human response to climate change and the rapid expansion of the new carbon economy, especially carbon trading and adaptation, raises a new set of challenges for climate researchers across the world. The carbon finance feedbacks on global change science raise the bar because there are now billions of dollars flowing into climate mitigation, especially in Europe. This lecture will explore some of the new research needs and imperatives associated with the response to climate change including (a) regional climate and socioeconomic science for adaptation (b) the carbon science needed for accurate assessment of baselines, leakage, and reporting of tradeable carbon credits and (c) the socioeconomic knowledge needed for a legitimate and stable carbon trading regime.

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March 13, 2007
Title: Integrative Approaches to Vulnerability Assessment:
Multiple Stresses and Social-Ecological Systems
Speaker: Dr. Roger Kasperson
Location: Foothills Lab campus FL2 - 1022 Auditorium
Time: 1:30 - 2:45 pm
Materials: Flyer (pdf) | Webcast (requires RealPlayer)

Abstract: The analysis of vulnerability of places, peoples, and ecosystems to environmental change is both a very old and a very new topic. To date, both research and assessment have been significantly fragmented and specific to particular projects or types of environmental change. It is clear from the work of the IPCC and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment that more integrative and systemic modes of analysis must be found. This presentation puts into perspective recent progress in vulnerability assessment and then inquires into how more integrative approaches can be created, particularly ones that take into account multiple stresses, scale interactions, and linkages between ecological and human systems.
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February 23, 2007
Title: Sustainability and Climate Change: Issues for Adaptation
Speaker: Dr. Rosina Bierbaum
Location: Center Green Auditorium
Time: 1:00 - 2:15 pm
Materials: Flyer (pdf) | Webcast (requires RealPlayer)

Abstract: Significant climate disruption is likely to curtail opportunities to meet the Millennium Development Goals for generations to come. Substantial funding has been expended to evaluate how much the climate will change in response to greenhouse gases, but there has been much less funding to analyze the consequences of climate change and other concomitant stresses on sustainability. This talk will highlight what is known about the vulnerability of systems to climate change, discuss some existing institutional mechanisms and technologies that can advance adaptive capacity at different scales, and discuss key research and integration needs. Information will be drawn from the US National Assessment and the UN Scientific Expert Group analyses.
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January 23, 2007
Title: Crossing Boundaries: The Value of Multidisciplinary and Interdisciplinary Research for Disaster Loss Reduction
Speaker: Dr. Kathleen Tierney
Location: NCAR's Mesa Lab Main Seminar Room
Time: 1:00 - 2:15 pm
Materials: Flyer (Word)
Abstract: It is widely recognized that collaboration among physical scientists, engineers, and social scientists is required in order to save lives and reduce losses from future disasters.  Despite calls for more collaborative research, achieving success in research that spans disciplinary boundaries is difficult.  This presentation focuses first on barriers that need to be overcome in order to achieve effective interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary collaboration.  Next, using two case examples--disaster warning systems and hazard loss estimation--Prof. Tierney illustrates why addressing such challenges cannot be addressed except through contributions from multiple disciplines.  The presentation concludes with a discussion of factors that lead to successful collaborative work across disciplines.

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Albert Einstein

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