Environmental Decision Making

From Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)
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Workshop Schedule (Wednesday July 8, all times PDT)

1:00-1:30pm Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty

Rob Lempert, Senior Scientist, Rand Corp. Presentation Slides

Climate change presents public and private sector decision makers with a fundamental quandary: how to address a potentially serious, long-term, and deeply uncertain threat. By waiting until new science and unfolding events eliminate much of the uncertainty, it may be too late for decision makers to act effectively. If they act without understanding the extent and contours of the problem, they risk making serious miscalculations. He leads a research group at Rand whose objectives are to: i) conduct basic research needed to improve computer-based tools that enable decision makers to make better choices when confronted with deep uncertainty about the future; ii) examine the best means to represent uncertain scientific information for decision makers so they can act on it more effectively, whether as individuals or groups; and iii) strengthen the scientific foundations of robust decision making (RDM), a promising new approach to computer-assisted support for decision makers facing deep uncertainty.

Dr. Lempert is a Senior Physical Scientist at RAND and Professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. He is an expert in science and technology policy, with a special focus on climate change, energy, and the environment. He was a contributor to the IPCC, which was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2007 along with Vice President Al Gore. An internationally-known scholar in the field of decision making under conditions of deep uncertainty, he studies how policy-makers can best use uncertain climate forecasts to support important decisions. This project is helping California water agencies include climate impacts in their long-term water management plans and is assessing responses to potential abrupt climate change. He is co-leading a project comparing the effectiveness of carbon taxes and cap and trade system in reaching long-term climate goals and has recently completed a study on the Federal role in providing terrorism insurance. Dr. Lempert has testified to Congress on the decisions confronting Congress about climate change and he has been interviewed by: NPR, Beyond the Beltway, Fox, and the New York Times. He is author of the book Shaping the Next One Hundred Years: New Methods for Quantitative, Longer-Term Policy Analysis.

1:30-2:00pm Decision/Policy Making Capabilities using the World Forest Observatory

Molly McCaulley, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future Presentation Slides

Resources for the Future (RFF), a Washington-based independent policy research organization, with the support of the Sloan Foundation, is undertaking a project to develop a framework for the comprehensive measuring and monitoring the world's forests. Working in cooperation with GEO, the Group for Earth Observations in Geneva, and drawing on a blue ribbon task force of experts from around the world, the architecture of a world forest observatory (WFO) is being developed. The measurement and monitoring system will involve a host of technologies including satellite remote sensing and airborne LIDAR. The broad concept involves utilizing the tools and data now available and supplementing it with new and additional capacity and data to provide a comprehensive overview of the world's forests. Although the sole purpose is not to measure and monitor forest carbon, forest carbon monitoring and measurement could be a major output at some future date. The four measurement/monitoring benchmarks are forest area, volume, biomass, and carbon. This talk discusses the opportunities for use of this Observatory for policy and decision making.

2:00-2:30pm Water Planning in Phoenix: Managing Risk in the Face of Climatic Uncertainty

Pat Gober, Co-Director, Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State U. Presentation Slides

The Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) was founded in 2004 to develop scientifically-credible support tools to improve water management decisions in the face of growing climatic uncertainty and rapid urbanization in metropolitan Phoenix. At the center of DCDC effort is WaterSim, a model that integrates information about water supply from groundwater, the Colorado River, and upstream watersheds and water demand from land use change and population growth. Decision levers enable users to manipulate model outcomes in response to climate change scenarios, drought conditions, population growth rates, technology innovations, lifestyle changes, and policy decisions. WaterSim allows users to examine the risks of water shortage from global climate change, the tradeoffs between groundwater sustainability and lifestyle choices, the effects of various policy decisions, and the consequences of delaying policy for the exposure to risk. This presentation includes a discussion of how and why WaterSim was developed, its role as a meeting ground between regional scientists and water planners, and future plans.

Dr. Gober is co-Director of the National Science Foundation’s Decision Center for a Desert City at Arizona State University which studies water management decisions in the face of growing climatic uncertainty in Greater Phoenix. She is professor of geographical sciences and sustainability with a research focus on issues of water management and environmental change . She is especially interested in the use of science and visualization for real-world decision-making. She is a past President of the Association of American Geographers, former member of the Population Reference Bureau’s Board of Trustees and the Science Advisory Board of NOAA, and former Chair of the College Board’s Advanced Placement Human Geography Committee. She also served on the National Research Council’s Committee on Geographical Sciences. Her most recent book, Metropolitan Phoenix: Place Making and Community Building in the Desert, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2006.

2:30-3:00pm Data Needs for Decision Making

Lawrence Friedl, Program Manager, NASA HQ

The NASA Applied Sciences Program and other programs in the Federal government promote the use of Earth science data and technology in decision making. The programs use multiple mechanisms to introduce organizations to the range of Earth science data products available, help them identify opportunities where the data products may enhance their decision making activities, and possibly tailor products for their use. While these programs’ activities can demonstrate the potential utility of the products, a key challenge is the acceptance by the end user organizations. Their acceptance involves technical issues to incorporate the data in their standard operating procedures as well as political and managerial issues to accept the products into their standard decision-making procedures.

Lawrence will address programmatic approaches related to encouraging innovative uses of Earth science data in decision making. He will discuss a range of applications-oriented government programs that promote the use of Earth science data for environmental decision making, highlighting some lessons learned from these programs. He will briefly discuss some examples on the use of Earth science data in environmental management and policy.

In addition, Lawrence will give a program manager’s perspective on some key skills and capabilities that the Earth science community needs to develop to bolster Earth science applications overall. In particular, he will address needs related to performance measures and socioeconomic benefit determinations, which are increasingly important in the current political environment and underpin arguments for larger investments in Earth science observations.

Lawrence Friedl serves as the Air Quality Program Manager for the NASA Earth Science Division’s Applied Sciences Program. Since 2002, Lawrence has also served as Deputy Director (Acting) for Applied Sciences, National Applications Lead, and Program Manager for Coastal Management and Water Management applications. He represents NASA and the United States on the international Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the GEO User Interface Committee. In these positions, he has promoted activities to apply NASA Earth science research in decision making for public policy, business, and government management. Lawrence received his Masters Degree in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, specializing in Science and Technology Policy. He holds a Bachelors degree in Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University. His main professional interests focus on the use and value of Earth satellite observations in decision making.


3:30-4:00pm Business and Economic Opportunities Emerging From Climate Change

Menas Kafatos, Dean, Schmid College of Science, Chapman U., Orange, CA Presentation Slides

Climate change is global but its effects are regional or local. As the nations of the world are preparing for the Copenhagen meeting in December 2009, the question of how the dual issues of global climate and global economy are related to each other needs to be addressed. In the past, a lot of emphasis has been placed on carbon trading policies and the associated economic issues. However, the "clear and present danger" of global warming, namely natural and anthropogenic hazards, may have a much bigger impact beyond national economies, increasingly impacting the world economy, and in turn affecting economies of nations where a particular hazard is not an issue.

As such, decision making at local (city), regional (county or State) and national levels requires planning and implementation of adaptive measures. Decision making also requires economic support from governments and institutions at the national level and continental or even global levels. For example, wild fires in southern Europe will eventually be impacting European economies beyond the region, and will require a European response. Similarly, hazards such as fires and hurricanes impacting selected U.S. States, will increasingly be affecting the entire U.S. economy, and by extension the global economy. For developing nations—development banks, governmental development agencies, international organizations, and philanthropic foundations, all are involved in issues such as droughts and desertification.

Unfortunately, in decision making, multi-disciplinary skills and quantitative information on the costs/benefits and planning of responses such as regional adaptation, are currently limited. The need to organize and deploy multi-disciplinary expertise at the regional to national levels, in order to develop adaptation solutions for the regions which are particularly at risk or are facing major climate challenges, will likely become an international imperative. Required expertise includes a variety of practising economists, sociologists, agricultural specialists, public health professionals, climate and hazards scientists, hydrologists, engineers, and of course policy experts with regional knowledge. In this approach, the existing wealth of scientific knowledge has a great potential for addressing a multitude challenges, including how to plan in an environment of increasing unceratinty, how to develop "uncertainty quantification".

As such, we face huge challenges of both mitigation and adaptation as the science itself of coupling global climate to regional impacts involves many different processes and fields, including socio-economic impacts, energy policy, along with understanding Earth system processes themselves. We don't have yet the science to address the total system, Earth/climate/society/economy, this would require a new interdisciplinary science combining different fields.

There are great opportunities not just for the research communities to participate in this emerging field. Equally important are the business opportunities that will be generated for investment and technology approaches. The nations and governments that will generate the right solutions, will provide economic opportunities beyond their own national boundaries. However, the challenges remain great. We will discuss some of the issues involved with concrete examples of realistic hazards impacts on societies, particularly in an ever-increasing climate change.

4:00-4:15pm Data Management Challenges for a Global Sand and Dust Storm Warning System

Bill Sprigg, Research Scientist, U. of Arizona Presentation Slides

Airborne dust affects social, economic and environmental systems and influences weather and climate. The serious consequences have encouraged more than 40 nations to recommend action by the World Meteorological Organization to develop a better understanding of dust storms, the mechanisms for dust entrainment and dispersion in the atmosphere, and a world-wide system to detect, monitor and predict them. An Implementation Plan for an International Sand and Dust Storm Warning Advisory and Assessment System is under review. The Plan calls for research, observations, and advisories to support national weather services and other potential users worldwide. A federated system of regional centres form the core of the new SDS-WAS, providing several nodes for state of the science information on current conditions for sand and dust storms around the globe. A proposal for a Pan-American Centre is under construction, needing a plan for data assembly and distribution.

Dr. Sprigg led the international implementation plan drafting team for the WMO/GEO Sand & Dust Storm Warning Advisory & Assessment System. He currently chairs the Climate Panel for the World Federation of Scientists. He was the architect of the US National Climate Program and headed both the National Climate Program Office and NOAA's Climate Office. He is former Director of the National Research Council Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate.

4:15-4:30pm CEOS Climate Diagnostics: Visualizations for Environmental Decision Making

Tyler Stevens, GCMD Presentation Slides

The climate visualizations are targeted to address the Societal Benefit Areas (SBAs) related to: Disasters, Health, Energy, Climate, Water, Weather, Ecosystems, Agriculture, and Biodiversity. Every description of a climate visualization in the directory is tagged with one or more of the potentially significant Societal Benefit Areas. The visualizations are created from scientific data by a multitude of providers. The site is designed to offer visualizations that could be readily interpreted by decision makers. If a better understanding of the significance of the science can be achieved, the societal benefits of scientific research would be enhanced by providing these visualizations for long-term diagnostic analyses. The visualizations, also known as "Climate Diagnostics", are expected to be supportive and useful in decision-making processes. They have been based on the careful analysis of significant variables. Anticipating future consequences related to climate in the nine Societal Benefit Areas could be pivotal to our survival.

4:30-4:45pm Water Supply and Management in California, Scalable to Regional and National Applications

Stephanie Granger, JPL

Water managers in the western United States are becoming increasingly aware of impacts on water systems due to potential changes in climate, land use and population growth. These changes are anticipated to affect many areas in the United States, with the western U. S. and California especially vulnerable. California’s water supply is critical to the state’s economic vitality, providing water, hydropower, recreation and flood protection. Ames Research Center (ARC), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) are undertaking a pilot project for water supply and management in California focused on improving management under current climate conditions. The multi-center project will be carried out in collaboration with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U. S. Department of Agriculture ARS, agricultural producers and local water districts. One of the project objectives is to establish and demonstrate the integrated infrastructure required to bring NASA instruments, observations, and scientific and technical expertise to bear on water supply and management needs in the State of California. Application of the infrastructure will be demonstrated within the San Joaquin watershed and river. The San Joaquin is one of two major tributaries into the Sacramento - San Joaquin Delta near San Francisco. The Delta supplies nearly 40% of California’s fresh water.

4:45-5:00pm The Spatial Decision Support Consortium

Rob Raskin, JPL Presentation Slides

The Spatial Decision Support (SDS) Consortium is a network of professionals involved in spatial decision applications. This Consortium developed the SDS Knowledge Portal http://institute.redlands.edu/sds and an underlying knowledge base as a resource for decision makers, practitioners and researchers to serve as a unifying theme for the body of knowledge within the discipline. This knowledge base provides the formal specifications for modular SDS component tools and services; it decomposes the spatial decision process into prototypical phases and steps and relates them to commonly used methods and desired systems functionalities for decision support.

5:00-5:30pm Open Discussion, Winter Meeting and Future Activities, Formation of ESIP Decisions Cluster