Japanese(日本語) / English

Integrated Climate Assessment – Risks, Uncertainties and Society (ICA-RUS)

1. Introduction

The Cancun Agreements of the 16th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP16) set the goal of keeping an average temperature rise within 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Many actions are being taken in order to meet this goal. Under the Cancun Agreements, a review will take place from 2013 to 2015 in order to evaluate the adequacy of the goal in relation to Article 2 of the framework convention, international mitigation activities and the framework for encouragement of mitigation activities to accomplish the goal. If the 2°C goal is to be met, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be reduced considerably on a global scale. However, movement towards international consensus on such reductions is stalled and the time needed to achieve major reductions is being lost.

The project will develop and propose strategies for the global-scale management of climate change risks; specifically, the project will consider constraints, uncertainties, risk management options and societal value judgments through studies including (1) “analysis of critical climate change risks,” (2) “analysis of strategies for optimal use of land, water and ecosystems for climate change risk management,” (3) “evaluation of options for climate change risk management” and (4) “application of science and technology studies to issues of climate change risk management.” Through these studies, we will contribute to international consensus building, support Japan’s negotiating position and development of domestic policies, and help citizens develop a deeper understanding of the climate change issue.

Furthermore, the Project will be conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment Strategic Research and Development Area S-8 (Comprehensive Study of Climate Change Impacts Assessment and Adaptation Policy) as well as Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) projects related to prediction of climate change and assessment of its impacts.

2. Research overview

The Project will develop and propose strategies for the global-scale management of climate change risks that will consider constraints, uncertainties, risk management options and societal value judgments by carrying out the studies described in (1) to (5) below. We will also establish and operate an advisory board to efficiently manage the Project.

(1) Comprehensive analysis of global-scale strategies for climate change risk management

The Synthesis Team will act as the “control tower” for overall strategic issues by analyzing strategies for the management of global scale climate change risks, synthesizing findings produced by each study theme and building a framework for analysis of risk management strategies. The team will ensure coordination and collaboration among the study themes as well as be responsible for the overall progress of the project. The findings contributed by each study theme on climate change risks and control measures will be synthesized quantitatively through incorporation into an integrated assessment tool and qualitatively through the collation of knowledge and discussions to analyze risk management strategies. Also, the study will review the framework for risk management analysis regularly during the project period based on the results of studies on mathematical application of decision-making theories and risk communication through practical activities.

(2) Optimal land, water and ecosystem use strategies for climate change risk management

The critical processes or points for climate change mitigation activities will be identified through a comprehensive assessment of the effects of climate change on ecosystems and the availability of food, water and energy. The tradeoff and co-benefit relationships between constraints on the future use of land, water and ecosystems as well as measures for climate change mitigation and food production, water resources and ecosystems will be quantitatively analyzed. In order to fulfill these goals, an integrated terrestrial model will be developed that describes land, water, agriculture and ecosystems. Given the effects of climate change and the requirements of climate change control measures, the model will be used to consider the purpose, methods and extent of the desirable use of land, water and ecosystems along with geographical distribution from the viewpoint of sustainability. An attempt will be made to establish and assess various sustainability indicators such as water resource security and ecosystem services. In addition, we will upgrade the ecosystem, water resource, land use and agricultural production models that compose the integrated terrestrial model and analyze the interaction of these models.

(3) Research on critical climate change risks

Risk analysis in this study characterizes the events that could be caused by climate change and estimates their effects on society. In order to characterize climate change risks, events that might be caused by climate change will be investigated focusing on critical geophysical phenomena such as changes in thermohaline circulation (THC) in oceans and the large-scale melting of the Greenland and other ice sheets. The results of numerical experiments with climate models and paleoclimate studies will be referenced in listing up these phenomena. The trigger mechanisms, tendency to occur and relationship of these phenomena to global climate will be clarified.

(4) Evaluation of climate change risk management options under technological, societal and economic uncertainty

A variety of mid- to long-term energy economy models of mitigation measures for climate change have been developed and evaluated. Many of the models in the past have assumed that perfect foreknowledge-type rational actions would be taken, and thus focused mainly on the evaluation of potentials in an ideal situation. When specific actions have been considered, insufficient attention has been paid to evaluating the divergence between decision-making actions in reality and theoretical results when implementing a specific action, or the issue of reducing this divergence. In this study, the status of approaches for linking conventional modeling methodologies and realistic actions will be investigated. An attempt will be made to expand the model methodology in order to contribute to realistic policy decision-making. In addition, we will carry out a meta-analysis of adaptive measures and geo-engineering that have not been considered in modeling evaluations. A modeling methodology will be developed that takes into account multifaceted technological, societal and economic uncertainties and a portfolio of mitigation measures will be recommended.

(5) Study of the interaction of scientific and social rationales in climate change risk management

The issue of the global-scale management of climate change risks is a challenge that requires decision-making by society even though it contains uncertainties. When a public solution for a problem involving factors that are not predictable even by scientists is necessary, in addition to the scientific rationale, the development of the “social rationale” that forms the basis for public consensus and decision-making as a meta-agreement is required. In order to ensure the social rationale, diverse decision-making entities, assurance of information disclosure and a wide variety of options, assurance of the transparency and openness to the public of the decision-making and consensus forming processes, and clarification of procedures are necessary. At the time of decision-making, the problems of scientific communication or public understanding of science as well as value judgments based on it cannot be avoided. This includes how people, the backbone of decision making, perceive, recognize or understand the risks. This study theme will synthesize the scientific findings of other themes in respect of the issue of climate change risk management encompassing risk awareness, communication and value judgments that are necessary for assurance of the social rationale. The strategies for global-scale management of climate change risks will be analyzed from the point of view of the social rationale. Furthermore, the results of the analysis will be fed back to study themes (1) to (4) and will contribute to the periodical reviews of the framework for the analysis of risk management strategies.


Plan and Initial Results (PDF)