In a new book on climate change preparedness, forthcoming from MIT Press this fall, Steve Schneider and his Stanford colleague Michael Mastrandrea argue that we need to start adapting to climate change, now. They write that these efforts should focus primarily on identifying the places and people most at risk and taking anticipatory action. They reject the approach of reactive, unplanned adaptation. They call for dealing equitably with the needs of the most vulnerable people worldwide, who are least able to pay and least responsible for the looming crisis.

Steve Schneider had this in the works. We’re looking forward to seeing this little volume:

Preparing for Climate Change (MIT Press, publication date October 31, 2010)

By Michael D. Mastrandrea and Stephen H. Schneider

Publisher’s description:

Global momentum is building to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So far, so good. The less happy news is that Earth’s temperatures will continue to rise for decades. And evidence shows that climbing temperatures are already having serious consequences for vulnerable people and regions through droughts, extreme weather, and melting glaciers. In this book, climate experts Michael Mastrandrea and Stephen Schneider argue that we need to start adapting to climate change, now. They write that these efforts should focus primarily on identifying the places and people most at risk and taking anticipatory action—from developing drought-resistant crops to building sea walls. The authors roundly reject the idea that reactive, unplanned adaptation will solve our problems—that species will migrate northward as climates warm, and farmers will shift to new crops and more hospitable locations. And they are highly critical of “geoengineering” schemes that are designed to cool the planet by such methods as injecting iron into oceans or exploding volcanoes.

Mastrandrea and Schneider insist that smart adaptation will require a series of local and regional projects, many of them in the countries least able to pay for them and least responsible for the problem itself. Ensuring that we address the needs of these countries, while we work globally to reduce emissions over the long term, is our best chance to avert global disaster and to reduce the terrible, unfair burdens that are likely to accompany global warming.

About the Authors

Michael D. Mastrandrea is Research Associate at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. He contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report in 2007.

Stephen H. Schneider was Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies and Professor of Biology at Stanford University. He was also Coordinating Lead Author of the IPCC’s working group on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from 1997 to 2001, and, with his IPCC colleagues, was awarded a joint Nobel Prize in 2007. He was the author or editor of many books, including Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate and co-editor of Scientists Debate Gaia: The Next Century (MIT Press, 2004; paperback edition 2008).

Schneider and Mastrandrea were also two of the co-editors of the recently-published collection, Climate Change Science and Policy (Island Press, December 14, 2009).  Publisher’s description:

This is the most comprehensive and current reference resource on climate change available today. It features 49 individual chapters by some of the world’s leading climate scientists. Its five sections address climate change in five dimensions: ecological impacts; policy analysis; international considerations; United States considerations; and mitigation options to reduce carbon emissions.

In many ways, this volume supersedes the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Many important developments too recent to be treated by the 2007 IPCC documents are covered here. This book considers not only the IPCC report, but also results of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Bali in December 2007, as well as even more recent research data. Overall, Climate Change Science and Policy paints a direr picture of the effects of climate change than do the IPCC reports. It reveals that climate change has progressed faster than the IPCC reports anticipated and that the outlook for the future is bleaker than the IPCC reported.

In his prologue, John P. Holdren writes that the widely-used term “global warming” is a misnomer. He suggests that a more accurate label would be “global climatic disruption.” This volume, he states, will equip readers with all they need to know to rebut the misrepresentations being propagated by “climate-change skeptics.” No one, he writes, will be a skeptic after reading this book.

See CSW August 23 post, “Ehrlich on Schneider: Being a scientist doesn’t relieve one of the obligations of a citizen”, which also contains links to additional items on Schneider.

Also see May 28 post, “Text of remarks by Obama science adviser John Holdren to the National Climate Adaptation Summit”.

I recall discussing the need for climate change preparedness with Steve in 2008, at the National Council on Science and the Environment annual meeting in Washington DC, and suggesting the need for a new federal coordinating entity.  Steve spoke at the conference on the future role of the IPCC and on communicating climate science and solutions. I spoke on the future of the US Global Change Research Program. All issues still unresolved.