Thursday, April 12, 2012


cc: Mike Hulme <>
date: Thu, 24 Apr 1997 16:51:05 +0100
from: Mick Kelly <>
subject: Re: Project thoughts
to: "jim.paine" <>

Dear James
I've now had time to discuss the proposal with Mike Hulme who has done most
work here on climate scenarios and we reckon you need to do some serious
thinking! Basically, the problem is that to do better than has been done
before in this area probably requires a lot more time and investment that
you've estimated.

Main point is that this kind of analysis has been done before by Hank
Shuggart and others who have used, eg, the Holdridge classification to
identify areas of stress on existing climate-determined habitats on a
global basis and identified areas, including reserves, at risk. To do
better, i.e. to make any impact at Kyoto, requires quite a substantial

Using rates of change alone (rather than some climate-ecosystem model) is
somewhat different but neglects the precip. contribution to moisture
availability side which is likely to be crucial in many areas and the
conclusions would therefore be vulnerable to criticism. But what is a
critical rate of change in precipitation?

One approach would be to compare the projected rates for both temperature
and precip. with the past record (probably derived from model control
simulations) and then argue that what has not been experienced in the past
is probably likely to cause damage. This would be original and is
definitely worth doing. But... it's a lot more work! And I suspect it
would not reveal that many areas at risk in the near-term as the past rates
of change can be quite large.

A less critical point is that there is absolutely no chance that the Kyoto
conference will result in deep cuts. It can't because the developing
nations are excluded and there is no way the indust. nations will agree to
much more than a slight strengthening and extension in time of the current

So you are only left with one scenario really as the current commitments,
even with some strengthening, are little different from what would have
happened without a climate treaty. I know this sounds negative but it's
the reality of the current situation.

But that's maybe not a major problem as the way to pitch the analysis is to
argue that precautionary action must be taken now to protect reserves etc
against the inevitable (given current emission controls) change in climate.

To go this route would probably involve CRU in at least a couple of months
of work, i.e. a fair amount of money!, and I'm not even sure it's
manageable in time for Kyoto - and I have a feeling that the results would
not be zappy enough to support a real splash there anyway as there would be
so many caveats. For example, there are many uncertainties in the climate
projections which would have to be covered and would dilute the main story.

Now - you could do the work you propose by accessing the Hadley Centre
climate projections we have here in the Unit through the Link Project, set
up by the DoE to provide impact analysts with input data for studies just
such as you propose. That data would come free, but I'm not sure I'd
advise you to go this alternative route unless you're confident you have
in-house backup on the climate side.

There is, thinking about it, a whole other way to highlight the climate
change-biodiversity link which would to use the GIS databases you have to
identify areas at risk from biodiversity loss in the present-day and then
access projections for a few illustrative areas and draw out the link that
way. Again, in terms of comparision with the past variability. That might
cut the workload somewhat but I still reckon you could double you projected
cost and still run into completion problems by year's end.

Frankly, the most useful and practical thing to do might be to commission a
review of work in this area backed up by maps of areas at risk from your
GIS databases and some climate projections from us without actually
attempting to do any fresh analysis linking the biodiversity risk areas and
the climate projections explicitly.

I think we may be able to commit to that final option but we are very
nervous about taking anything more ambitious on given the timing. And even
that won't be cheap at our end if we are doing anything other than
providing data.

Hope I've balanced the negative comments with some constructive
suggestions! I do think that there is a very good scientific project
lurking here which we could develop over a longer timescale - and we'd like
to do that - but I can't really see that targetting the work at Kyoto is
going to be feasible.

OK - over to you. I'm away till early next week now but will pick this up
again then.

Best wishes

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