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Use of Climate Information in International Negotiations for Adaptation Resources, Stanford University

Adaptation of vulnerable areas to climate change is---and will continue to be---an important subject of negotiations taking place in several international forums, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; the Major Economies negotiations; and the G-8 talks. Ideally, adaptation assistance to any given nation would be commensurate with the social and economic impacts of future climate change and the cost of the required adaptation measures. Instead, neither is known. Climatic changes themselves are only projected in broad strokes: important details at the regional and sub-seasonal scale---such as the changes in frequency of monsoon breaks in the Niger River basin, to make just one example---are not simulated directly by current climate models. Moreover, determining the economic impact of a given climate scenario is challenging, as is assessing the cost and efficacy of adaptation scenarios, as demonstrated by the controversy that followed the Stern review.

Yet, as imperfect and incomplete as it is, the output of climate and economic models must inform negotiations for international adaptation funds---if those are not to be solely the result of political expediency. The aim of this project is to bring together climate scientists, economists, and law scholars to identify how to best achieve the goal of bringing climate and economic modeling results to bear on these negotiations. In particular, we want to identify (i) what is the most useful information that can be delivered to negotiators by state-of-the-art climatic and economic models, (ii) how that information can be most effectively presented, and (iii) how measures of uncertainty can be brought into the negotiation process as additional, valuable information.

The proposed project is organized around three main questions that address (i) the nature of the information needed for the best allocation of resources, (ii) the form in which such information should be framed in order for it to be most comprehensible and useful to negotiators, and (iii) the extent to which uncertainty in the projections is now used to discount climate impact information and how instead uncertainty estimates can be reformulated as valuable information regarding the range and likelihood of possible outcomes and incorporated in the negotiation process.




  • Kaiyu Guan, Postdoctoral Research fellow, Environmental Earth System Science

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Principal Investigator:

David Lobell

Current Research Interests: 
I study the interactions between food production, food security, and the environment using a range of modern tools. Current work focuses on three main areas of research: how to effectively adapt agriculture to climate change, how to reduce yield gaps in major cropping regions, and how to quantify environmental consequences of biofuel and food crop production. A common theme is the use of large datasets to constrain and improve models that represent our understanding of how the world works. Prospective students interested in food security, climate change, and/or how to combine...
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