Impacts World 2013 - International Conference on Climate Change Effects, Potsdam, May 27 - 30

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The IMPACTS WORLD 2013 conference aims to develop a new vision for climate impacts research by laying the foundations for regular, community-driven syntheses of climate change impact analyses. It will bring together leading scientists and decision makers from local to international levels. more

IMPACTS WORLD 2013 is a discussion-based conference designed to tackle five fundamental challenges:

1. Can we integrate our existing knowledge across sectors?

Climate change will have impacts in a wide range of sectors that belong to both the natural and the socio-economic sphere. The issue transcends the traditional research boundaries and creates multiple cross-disciplinary challenges.

  • How can we understand interactions and feedbacks between sectors, including possible non-linear amplifications of impacts?
  • How can we advance our understanding of cross-cutting, cascading impacts of future extreme-event regimes?
  • How do we achieve cross-sectoral integration without losing necessary sectoral detail?
  • What are adequate biophysical and socio-economic metrics and models to synthesize impacts across sectors and regions (including policy decisions)?
  • What are the most useful common baselines for different sectors to identify pure climate change induced impacts, and to quantify the effects of different adaptation measures?

2. How certain are we?

The utility and credibility of climate impacts research is heavily reliant on the robustness of impact projections. Uncertainty propagates from observational data, climate models and socio-economic scenarios, through to impact and adaptation assessments.

  • How can we improve the observational data base for the impacts we already observe? Which role can field experiments play in improving impact models? How can we deal with small sample sizes and incomplete data sets?
  • How can we ensure rigorous validation and quality-check of impact models? What are the main sources of uncertainty along the chain from climate change and socio-economic drivers to impact projections?
  • For the benefit of adaptation strategies, are we able to project the timing of impacts?
  • How can assumptions about different levels of adaptation be factored into the discussion about model uncertainty?
  • What is the most relevant time horizon for measuring uncertainty?
  • Can observations of past extreme events help to reduce related uncertainty? How can an ongoing observation effort be ensured to study impacts of extreme events?

3. What is still missing?

A comprehensive and systematic gap analysis is needed to identify mechanisms, sectors and regions which are currently under-researched.

  • Where are the gaps in climate impact research with respect to sectoral coverage?
  • Are our current models the adequate tools to identify biophysical and/or social tipping points? If not, what else is needed?
  • What is needed to better understand impacts of extreme events?
  • Which impacts can be avoided or notably reduced by adaptation measures for different sectors at different scales?
  • What is needed to systematically address individual and societal consequences of climate change impacts? What methods are appropriate for this?
  • How can biophysical impact studies (e.g. on ecosystems, water availability, agricultural crops) be used for quantification of impacts on human systems (e.g. food security, wildfire management, public health, power generation)?
  • How can we improve consistency between interacting climate and impact models?

4. How do we bridge the divide between regional and global impact studies?

Global assessments of climate change impacts are important to inform the policy making process at international, regional, and local levels. Therefore, to ensure that research meets the demands of decision-makers and communities for reliable and timely information, details of climate impacts must be provided at the appropriate geographic scale. Bridging the scales between global and regional impact research and models can go in both directions.

  • How do we ensure representative sets of comparative regional case studies?
  • How should we apply and couple regional models to achieve a global picture for different sectors, whilst retaining the regional resolution?
  • How can we achieve a more complete regional coverage of impact studies? Can results for a representative set of regions be transferred to other regions?
  • How can the SSP process be utilized as a context for coordinated development of global, regional and local impact studies?
  • How does a global perspective influence local adaptation decisions and (how) should this be accounted for in impact assessments?

5. Is anybody listening?

Research provides crucial information to global, regional, national and local policy makers and practitioners. Research results must be relevant, intelligible and concise not only for the scientific community, but also to stakeholders and the wider public. Quantitative syntheses as well as powerful narratives are crucial.

  • How shall we marry impacts and adaptation research?
  • How has impacts research influenced adaptation policy-making thus far? What has and has not worked at the science-policy interface?
  • How can we achieve more active exchange and a better two-way communication with policy makers?
  • How can we ensure a systematic quantification of adaptation options including local knowledge?
  • How do we improve the construction of damage functions, in order to produce more consistent economic risk assessments? How do we appropriately address concerns of equity and discounting?
  • How do we best communicate the magnitude and inevitability of uncertainty in order to support policy makers in dealing with climate-related risks?
  • How can the widespread use of global mean temperature as base variable among policy makers be reconciled with a more broad approach suggested by science?
  • How can attribution of observed impacts best be communicated without sacrificing scientific rigor?

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