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A historical perspective on climate change assessment

Abstract

The arid lands controversy beginning in the late 19th century provides a unique perspective on the role that large scale climate assessments play in the policy process. Initially the climate of the western arid lands divided scientists, policy makers, and the public between those that believed new conditions would require specialized policies and adaptations and those that argued conditions would not be severe. The consensus eventually emerged for a large-scale response, a consensus based on the seminal Report on the Arid Lands of the United States and later scientific assessments that coupled the physical and human dimensions of climatic change. This earlier debate demonstrates how climate assessments in the United States play out in policy deliberations with public opinion and climatological events to ultimately control the fate of responses.

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Acknowledgments

The author would like to acknowledge the late M. Gordon “Reds” Wolman, a mentor for this work and member of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering. Long an advocate for systems approaches to environmental analysis and education, Reds was a remarkable teacher who inspired generations of students and collegues. The author also would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Correspondence to K. John Holmes.

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Holmes, K.J. A historical perspective on climate change assessment. Climatic Change 129, 351–361 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1331-4

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Keywords

  • United States Geological Survey
  • Arid Land
  • Irrigation District
  • Scientific Assessment
  • Climate Issue