Climate change may disrupt more than weather |

Climate change may disrupt more than weather

Todd Neff
AP Photo/Daily Camera, Sammy Dallal Michael Glantz, a senior scientist with National Center for Atmospheric Research, wrote the book Climate Affairs, a synthesis of a career-long effort to help society manage the impacts of weather and climate variability.

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – Affairs are rampant in academia, even excluding the sort depicted on television’s “Desperate Housewives”: public affairs, international affairs, urban affairs, national security affairs, marine affairs.Michael Glantz believes climate affairs should be thrown into the mix.Glantz, 65, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, wrote the book “Climate Affairs” in 2003. It was a synthesis of a career-long effort to help society manage the impacts of weather and climate variability. Now, he’s taking climate affairs to the streets and everywhere from New York to Urumqi, China.Through his new NCAR Center for Capacity Building, Glantz is trying to get the study of climate affairs into universities and institutions around the world.He’s making progress.

Glantz, a Ph.D. political scientist, was the first social scientist the National Center for Atmospheric Research hired when he came on 31 years ago. He remains among about 20 political scientists, economists and statisticians among the 250 or so Ph.D.s at an institution famous for its climate modeling and quantitative analyses of the atmosphere.He is one of the world’s most sought-after authorities on the societal impacts of climate, traveling frequently – he recently spent a week addressing audiences in Japan. He is the author or editor of many books on topics ranging from “desertification” in Africa to the desiccation of the Aral Sea in Central Asia.”The idea of ‘Climate Affairs’ originates with Mickey,” said Mark Cane, a Columbia University professor and director of Columbia’s master of arts program in climate and society, in an e-mail. “Mickey wrote the prospectus documents for our program.”Cane also shaped the program, which graduated its first class of 18 students in August. It is still the only master’s degree of its kind. Glantz would settle for less.”I don’t care if it’s a course, a seminar or a certificate program,” Glantz said. “I just like the idea of a multidisciplinary approach to climate change.”Glantz’s vision for climate affairs is, on one hand, to help students and policy makers understand climate science and how the climate system works. But it also teaches how society is a key component of the climate system. The field as Glantz envisions it includes climate impacts on ecosystems and economies, and how climate figures into politics, policy and law.It even addresses ethical concerns as they relate to climate: Is it right for Americans to burn a quarter of the world’s oil? To allow the world’s poorest to suffer from droughts of complex climatic origin?

He contrasted Hurricane Katrina’s high-profile Gulf Coast destruction with its much quieter long-term impacts: the effect of climate refugees – in Houston and elsewhere – on the cities, the schools, the kids in the schools.”Climate influences society in obvious ways and not-so-obvious ways,” Glantz said.Climate affairs doesn’t dwell on global warming, but the societal upheaval implicit in many global-warming scenarios – rising sea levels, a melting Arctic, regional droughts – makes the field’s lessons widely applicable. Glantz is finding particularly warm reception to the idea in Asia, where coastline mega-cities could face profound challenges with a warming planet.He is working on a program at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and with the Chinese government on three centers. They include the International Center for Desert Affairs at Xinjiang University in Urumqi, western China; the new Center for Coastal Urban Affairs in Shanghai; and the International Center for Creeping Environmental Problems in Lanzhou, central China.”Almost all environmental problems are creeping,” Glantz said. “Eventually, creeping problems become crises, but almost no government deals with creeping environmental change.”—

On the Net:NCAR Center for Capacity Building:—This story from the Boulder Daily Camera, via the Associated Press. Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism