It’s April, Time to Finally Think About 2015

Published: 6:02 AM GMT on April 07, 2015

It’s April, Time to Finally Think About 2015

April, winter semester at Michigan comes to an end. I’ve been re-grouping myself on the blogging front, thinking about where to pay attention for this year. I'm back.

My climate-change problem-solving class, this term, has had one excellent guest lecturer after another. With the help of my colleague in the Ross School of Business, Andy Hoffman, we decided to experiment with my class to see if we could create something unique and potentially valuable. Our goal is to develop a new type of graduate curriculum, with a focus on, for example, climate change, but with a more formal systems approach to how does climate change fit into the world as a whole. We intend to create a new portfolio of curricular and co-curricular activities which can be used by professional Master’s programs across the university to incorporate sustainability into their programs. The centerpieces of this program are focused on interdisciplinary processes and engaged with real world partners and problems.

Andy Hoffman has a new book How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate. Here’s a nice review from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

My class has always been focused on participatory, cross-disciplinary problem solving, but we worked to integrate more strongly around some themes. We are especially interested in training students who can, perhaps, hit the ground in corporations, governments, non-profits, communities, all – hit the ground with skills on using climate-change knowledge and data in design, planning and management.

Towards the goals of my class, I have formalized, which might mean to make even more tedious, my approaches to structured problem solving. Not completely through it all, yet, but I am collecting the slides and some annotated, recorded lectures at this link.

I will use some of the guest lectures to bring new material to the blog. There has been more, than in previous versions, of a focus on design. We all know that we in the U.S., in fact much of the world, are stunningly inefficient in our use of resources. I have been especially impressed to see the value of design that links function, resource use and use of resource waste. Here is a interesting link to visionary design Infra Eco Logi Urbanism.

Last year, I spent several blogs following the El Niño prediction and its representation in the press. Also spent time being preachy about our fascination with monthly temperature records. This year we still flirt with a small El Niño, and people are talking, mostly with calm, that this year, 2015, is likely to break yet another record. It will not take much warming of the eastern Pacific to assure a very warm year.

This year, I am planning to develop a thread of blogs leading up to the Conference of the Parties in Paris. The University of Michigan is planning to send a delegation, and we will be coaching up some students and faculty for this event. Compared to my normal state of mind, I am more optimistic than previously that Paris will lead to something more substantive than previous international meetings. It might not be possible to develop a whole United Nations wide agreement, but the major players in the world are starting to see strategic advantage and possibility to addressing climate change. Not to mention, of course, the direct consequences of climate change we will have to deal with.

Part of run up to the Conference of the Parties will be what is happening with the climate this year, and in the U.S., political positioning for the 2016 election. There is increasing evidence that the overt political opposition to climate change is cracking up. There are certain aspects of the denial of climate change that are approaching such a level of exaggeration that politicians take on more absurdity than they can manage. I will also highlight some of the science-based findings that I think should bring important, new information to the motivation of taking international actions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. I want to revisit my position that if there are any fundamental inadequacies in climate-change projections, they are aligned with the notion that we have underestimated the changes and the rate of change. I also want to bring forward and organize, more, the role of climate change in national security and international stability.

Along with the high likelihood that 2015 will flirt with being the warmest year in an awful long time, there is little doubt that the drought in California will continue to worsen. The worsening drought, which is a confluence of drought cycles, population, water demand and climate change, will offer a continuing case study in what our climate means to our well being. There are a lot of unsustainable activities in California that are coming into collision. It will not be long before more people recognize the beauty of the weather and the water in the Great Lakes states.

I am also starting a project on planning for climate change at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. This will require me to catch up and analyze the current vigorous research on the jet stream, the Arctic oscillation and whether or not the weather is changing in response to large changes in the Arctic. The cold winter of 2014, and to a lesser extent, the cold winter of 2015, brought large numbers of visitors to Apostle Islands in the winter – think ice caves. Of course, record numbers of winter visitors were not planned for, and that stands in contrast to largely ice-free winters of most recent years. Therefore, we will be evaluating how the observations and emerging research might inform management decisions. Going back to the California drought, I am serious when I talk about people recognizing the Great Lakes states as more desirable places to live. I think managers and planners need to be looking at population trends and imagining the designs for a future of growth.

That’s enough of thinking about themes for the next few months. Look forward to the blogs being more regular than they have been in the past few weeks.

r



Ice Caves at Apostle Islands in 2014

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About The Author
I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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