2.1 Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation and Human Health

Monday, 10 January 2000: 3:30 PM
Rosina M. Bierbaum, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Washington, DC

Some climate change in the 21st century is inevitable, due to the inertia of the climate system in responding to greenhouse gases that have been emitted over the last century. The impacts of increased temperature and precipitation will vary by region around the globe. Understanding the patterns of change and the potential consequences for society requires additional research and, more importantly, thinking about climate change research in new way. The complex interactions of multiple stresses and the range and potential effectiveness of adaptation measures must be considered in the assessment of impacts and vulnerability. The ongoing investigation of human health and climate change illustrates this challenge. We are learning that accurate prediction of the potential health impacts of a modified climate depends on the ability to understand and model complex climate/ecology/disease mechanism/social system interactions. Providing useful information to policymakers requires consideration of their needs in the design of research agendas. The design and implementation of effective adaptation measures likewise required flexible policymaking that is responsive to evolving understanding.

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