A ‘Back to the Future’ approach to climate that reads just like science fiction

From the University of Cincinnati, climate science conducted by one-on-one interviews with small sample sizes. No DeLoreans or “Mr. Fusion” needed.

A ‘Back to the Future’ Approach to Taking Action on Climate Change

Researchers take on fighting the disastrous consequences of extreme changes in climate before they occur.

By: Dawn Fuller  Photos By: Carina Wyborn

UC ingot   How can communities dodge future disasters from Mother Nature before she has dealt the blow? Researchers are taking a unique approach to the issue and gaining input and support from community stakeholders. Daniel Murphy, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of anthropology, will present findings on March 20, at the 74th annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SFAA) in Albuquerque, N.M.

View of Fraser Valley
A view of Fraser Valley, Grand County, Colo.

The presentation reveals an innovative, interdisciplinary research technique for approaching climate change vulnerability that’s called Multi-scale, Interactive Scenario-Building (MISB). The project focuses on two geographic case studies: Big Hole Valley in Montana – a high-altitude ranching valley – and Grand County in Colorado – a resort community west of Denver and south of Rocky Mountain National Park.

The researchers conducted a series of one-on-one interviews at those sites to get an array of community contributors thinking and planning for future ecological hazards, and to consider the impact of those decisions.

The researchers posed three scenarios involving future drastic climate changes. The one-on-one interviews involved around 30 people for each region, ranging from ranchers to teachers, small business owners, hunting guides, county planners and representatives from federal and state agencies. Ecologists on the research team would then predict the impact of the suggested planning.

The three possible scenarios were:

Some Like it Hot – Describes years and years of consistent summer drought.

The Seasons, They’re a-Changing – Describes changes in seasonality, such as significantly increased rainfall in the spring.

Feast or Famine – Describes big swings in temperature and precipitation between years.

“Areas like the Big Hole depend on snow to irrigate their hayfields,” explains Murphy, “so little snowfall could pose a big problem. Not only does it affect their hay crop, but in a region with the Arctic Grayling, a candidate for endangered listing, the water shortage would affect wildlife. Because of these scenarios, more groups were open to conservation efforts. All community interests were able to see the benefits of conservation efforts.”

Murphy says scenarios to remove or shrink grazing allotments for ranchers were also big concerns, since ranchers would turn to grazing allotments to offset the effect of drought on herds.

“Flood irrigation, for example, has environmental impacts that are really, really good. So, we looked at the impact of stopping flood irrigation and switching to center pivot irrigation. It could rob the groundwater, it would evaporate off the soil and it wouldn’t go back into the river, so river levels would go down and stress the fish. So in examining that scenario, ranchers could see how this feeds back and that’s the iteration,” says Murphy.

Tree killed by Pine Bark Beetle
Tree killed by Pine Bark Beetle in Grand County, Colo.

Murphy adds that one of the major concerns in Grand County, Colo., is also water, because much of the snow melt there feeds into a lake that’s a reservoir for Denver’s water. “Ranchers, irrigators and home owners are concerned about rising water prices if there is less snow, so that was a conflict that seemed to emerge there.”

Murphy says that in both Grand County and Big Hole Valley, the second scenario was perceived as an opportunity, because despite any temperature increases or other issues, it involved continuous rain in the spring.

Murphy is now exploring climate vulnerability in Ohio’s Appalachia near the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio, where he says future flooding could pose a threat.

“A lot of research in this area tends to focus on past vulnerability or past adaptation, and from my perspective, that’s come and gone. The real opportunities lie in the future, and we’re examining how city planners, urban planners and extension agents can utilize our research in future decision-making,” says Murphy.

Funding for the project was supported by the U.S. Forest Service at the Rocky Mountain Research Station. The interdisciplinary project involved the expertise of anthropologists, conservation social scientists, ecologists and a hydrologist.

Co-researchers on the project are Laurie Yung, associate professor of natural resource social science, University of Montana; Carina Wyborn, a postdoctoral researcher at University of Montana and visiting fellow, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University; and Daniel Williams, research social scientist, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

The SFAA promotes interdisciplinary research in addressing issues affecting human beings around the world. The destinations theme of the spring conference focuses on transience and mobility.

UC’s Department of Anthropology in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) is involved in active field research stretching from Madagascar to Mongolia. Its emphasis on research and teaching covers bioevolutionary approaches to health, ecosystem dynamics and forms of social inequality.

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46 thoughts on “A ‘Back to the Future’ approach to climate that reads just like science fiction

  1. The three possible scenarios were: common
    ..and people will deal with them exactly like they have in the past

  2. Taking Action on Climate Change
    1. Figure out how much the oceans will rise in 20 years and buy property at that elevation because it will be beach front property.
    2. Buy as much frozen tundra property as you can, in 20 years it will be great farm land.
    3. Sell you oil stocks because as the earth warms less energy will be needed to stay warm.

  3. This is a great place to try out Climate Change actions.

    There are most likely caves in this region to move back into and lots of firewood for cave-heating and cooking. No electricity needed. It will eventually warm up enough in this region from global warming that they can probably cast off their clothes as well.

  4. Reminds me of the North Carolina attempt by state regulators to pass laws “in case” the sea levels really went up by 100 cm by 2100. The reaction by the State Legislature was to pass a law stating they could only plan for the historical average — which then was branded as “those rubes in NC just outlawed global warming.”

  5. The co2er hallucination is based on what? Predictions from unvalidated models that cannot recreate past known climate. They are afraid of and trying to solve a problem that does not exist.

    Chronophobia is described as “an experience of unease and anxiety about time, a feeling that events are moving too fast and are thus hard to make sense of.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronophobia

  6. Idiots!
    Researchers take on fighting the disastrous consequences of extreme changes in climate before they occur.
    Maybe it should be–
    “Researchers take on fighting the disastrous consequences of extreme adjustments in data and records before they occur.

    That might be of some use.

  7. Interesting that the dead trees seem to have little live ones growing up beside them.
    Maybe the best thing is just to take what comes and learn to live with it.

    What do you mean, “how old fashioned”?

  8. Not bad. In which case I think we need a ‘Back to the Future’ approach to fight the disastrous consequences of letting researchers dictate policy based on speculative climate pseudo-science before they occur.

  9. the munch screamers are so blinded and deafened by the screaming going on in their heads they have no ability to process new data and facts.

  10. My Real Science comment:
    45 years of fear mongering bs:
    “In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.” -Paul Ehrlich, Earth Day 1970
    “By the turn of the century [2000], an ecological catastrophe [will occur] which will witness devastation as complete, as irreversible as any nuclear holocaust.” -Mustafa Tolba, 1982, former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program
    “Entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000. Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of eco-refugees, threatening political chaos.” -Noel Brown, ex UNEP Director, 1989
    “If Canada proceeds [with its tar sands oil development] sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction.” -James Hansen, 2012

    The truth:
    “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” -Kevin Trenberth, Climategate Email, 2009
    “At present, however, the warming is taking a break… There can be no argument about that.”
    -Dr. Phil Jones, BBC, 2010
    “I’d like the world to warm up quicker.” -Phil Jones Climategate Email 2008
    “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” -Phil Jones
    “There is nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine.” -George Carlin

  11. “From Twisting Truth through Group Consensus: “Tension, created by diversity, is essential to the dialectic process. It energizes members and — when manipulated by well-trained facilitators — produces synergy. You can’t guide people toward synthesis (compromise) unless there are opposing views — both “thesis and antithesis.” That’s why the consensus process must include all these elements:

    a diverse group

    dialoguing to consensus

    over a social issue

    led by a trained facilitator

    toward a pre-planned outcome.

    The true dialectic group never reaches a final consensus, for “continual change” is an ongoing process: one step today, another tomorrow. To permanently change the way we think and relate to each other, our leaders must set the stage for conflict and compromise week after week, year after year. Dialectical thinking and group consensus must become as normal as eating. Eventually, people learn to discard their old mental anchors and boundaries — all the facts and certainties that built firm convictions. They become like boats adrift, always ready to shift with the changing winds and currents.”

    The “small group” was also used in China as a means of enforcing population control and other party issues. I have not had time to look into the subject in depth, but someone here may have. I have read accounts of poor farmers and ranchers in Central and South America being forced to participate in small groups pushing “sustainable practices.” The person holding the ball in the “small group” is forced to read the desired script. It passes as voluntary action.

  12. Elitist fraud, by the powers that be, is always controlled by a thing we call money. Just follow the money, and you will discover the hoax. No matter what the “PROBLEM” is called.
    Gore created $400,000,000+ with his fraud. Just follow the money, and the truth will be revealed.

  13. elmer says:
    March 18, 2014 at 11:11 am
    Taking Action on Climate Change
    3. Sell you oil stocks because as the earth warms less energy will be needed to stay warm.

    Elmer, re your point 3, I believe you’d want to sell your natural gas stocks with the warmer weather coming and keep the oil stock! Oil (gasoline & diesel) would likely become more valuable as people drive more frequently to newly hospitable vacation spots!

  14. Far better to allow for the full range of natural climate variation, which is seriously underestimated by conventional models relied on by this study. See
    Koutsoyiannis, D., Hurst-Kolmogorov dynamics and uncertainty, Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 47 (3), 481–495, 2011.

    In reality, long-term deterministic predictions are difficult or impossible. . . .The stationary description with Hurst-Kolmogorov (HK) stochastic dynamics demonstrates that nonstationary and classical stationary descriptions underestimate the uncertainty.

  15. (Ponderosa) “Pine killed by bark beetle.” Bark beetles (both Rocky Mtn. and Ipps and Spruce bud worm) have ravaged pines and firs in Colorado since urban sprawl and resort development prevented forest fires from clearing out stressed patches of forest. These trees were stressed by a continuing drought and fairly warm winters to be honest but fires would have alleviated the problem before it got serious – as it truly is throughout the Inter-mountain West.

  16. So give three possible and horrific outcomes where you end up dead, dying, or barely surviving – don’t offer the possibility there might be others or that some might not be catastrophic. Then present the results of how terrified people are of catastrophic change. Sounds like ground breaking work.

  17. The authors should have used “MIBS” as their acronym [with apologies to the Coneheads]!

  18. Expat says:
    March 18, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    These trees were stressed

    ===============

    That’s how it is here in the southeast. Pinebark beetles can’t kill a healthy tree, only a stressed one.

  19. Zeke says:
    March 18, 2014 at 11:53 am;
    “The true dialectic group never reaches a final consensus, for “continual change” is an ongoing process: one step today, another tomorrow. To permanently change the way we think and relate to each other, our leaders must set the stage for conflict and compromise week after week, year after year. Dialectical thinking and group consensus must become as normal as eating. Eventually, people learn to discard their old mental anchors and boundaries — all the facts and certainties that built firm convictions. They become like boats adrift, always ready to shift with the changing winds and currents.”
    Forty or so years ago I was attempting to describe this process for an Environmental Studies graduate presentation… at the time I could not find a “term” to represent this idea and invented my own, the “synchronous dialectic”… inspired in part by Jung’s concept of synchronicity.

  20. Bit disappointed. I expected a project to reconfigure spacetime into a Gödel metric to create closed timelike loops and break causality. Would be a wonderful shovel-ready project for all the QE money.

  21. elmer says:
    March 18, 2014 at 11:11 am
    “2. Buy as much frozen tundra property as you can, in 20 years it will be great farm land.”

    I don’t think so. In summer the ground is frozen below one foot depth now; after 20 years of Global Warming it’s probably frozen below one foot and one inch.

  22. I am impressed by Dawn Fuller’s ability to write all that with a ‘straight face.’ I could never do that.

    If I understand this write-up, the researchers would get a group of stakeholders together to form a consensus on how to react to coming weather. For example, in my state, it snowed (a lot!) this year. In their wisdom, the researchers would get an appropriate group of stakeholders together – perhaps commuters, school administrators, business owners, cross country skiers, snowflake lovers, prisoners on death row, Big Oil and Big Green, a farmer or two, ice fishermen – in the summer or fall a year or so ahead to come to a consensus on whether or not to plow and/or salt the roads in the coming winters. Sounds equitable to me. Crazy enough that it just might work!

    Who needs the DOT lording it all over us and deciding whether or not to plow after it snows? Besides, they come up with the same ol’ decision to plow every stinkin’ time with never a by-your-leave to anyone. Sheesh!

    (ok… /sarc)

  23. Not only does it affect their hay crop, but in a region with the Arctic Grayling, a candidate for endangered listing, the water shortage would affect wildlife.

    What is a ‘candidate for endangered listing’? Is having the Arctic Grayling necessary for the water shortage to affect wildlife or will other ‘candidates for endangered listing’ suffice? Will it affect the polar bears?

  24. I have come to the conclusion that most of the alarmist fear mongering climate scientists have both a pseudo Nostradamus complex, ie; they appear to firmly believe that they and they alone can accurately predict the future for some decades ahead or even in the odd serious psycho alarmist scientist case, some centuries ahead.
    As well most of those same climate scientists have a very advanced case of the Messiah complex; ie they quite firmly believe that they are the Chosen Ones sent to Save the Planet and they and they only have the answers right here and now which must be widely proclaimed [ to justify their funding ] on how the Planet is to be Saved.

    Of course if they can just happen to set themselves up in a nice comfortable tax payer funded financial situation while Saving the Planet so much the better from their point of view.

    What the Planet needs to be Saved from is a very big and getting bigger mystery to most of us non climate science lay persons and appears to vary considerably depending on where the alarmist climate scientists current funding sources are coming from and what they will need to produce in the Saving the Planet meme to ensure continuing access to those same lucrative funding sources.

  25. I own a second home within a mile of where this Fraser Valley picture was taken and spent probably $10,000 spraying trees to prevent complete loss on my property over a period of 5 years from 2003 – 2008 so I think I qualify as having been impacted by the pine beetle. I also don’t think the cause was anything other than a natural event exacerbated by human intervention in the composition of the forests. The problem with the Fraser Valley was the monolithic nature of the vegetation. All the trees were of similar ages and densely packed due to being replanted roughly 100 years ago after clear cut timber harvests. This is contrary to the way natural forest fires periodically kill swaths of trees until the wind changes directions and burns itself out. Without these natural forest fires and/or mitigation of them when they occur, the trees grew to an unsustainable density and then were vulnerable to a multiple year drought which occurred in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. So now, in 2014, I have some large, generously spaced Ponderosa and Lodgepole pines (the ones I sprayed) interspersed with young saplings about 5 years old and some open meadows with wildflowers (in the areas where the pine beetles beat me to the punch). I find the property much more interesting to look at and I am sure it is more beneficial to a greater variety of wildlife than what was there before. This is something I (and most people) did not expect 10 years ago when the forest was ravaged. The lesson I take from this is; cut trees for timber, but cut many smaller plots as opposed to one huge area. And plant several species of new saplings, but don’t plant them everywhere. Leave some meadows. This is what is called forest management and would allow business to make money on timber sales. But no, that makes too much sense. It’s probably better to spend tax dollars on planning for a non-event. (sarc)

  26. Oh, and Gamecock is correct. I stopped spraying the trees in 2008 after we started getting some wet winters and what do you know? Not one tree has been hit!

  27. David Norman says:
    March 18, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Thank you David, for the bit of history. I enjoyed your anecdote quite a lot. However, if the facilitator of these groups is always guiding toward a particular outcome (such as greater and greater water restrictions for ranchers), then this is anything but a synchronous, open process. It is just meant to look like one.

    Cheers

  28. Make work, make work, make work.

    NOTING OF VALUE HERE.

    Nothing that any business would spend 10 cents on. It is a project written by government grant-seekers to please government grant-givers to please government policy advocates (er, lobbyists and government-paid bureaucrats) to satisfy government regulators’ religious zealotry.

    All intended to advertise and “communicate” their CAGW deism. As required by the democrats in charge.

  29. Weather is what kills us like floods, bush fires, typhoons and cyclones.. PLUS – Like volcanoes, meteors or asteroids, earthquakes, tsunamis, disease and epidemics, and they can occur any time despite the climate. And murderers.

  30. If Europe has had a mild winter well done, as England didn’t. Wait and see the
    bounce back. My cousin in France told me they had a flood watch where he lives, at Christmas time. (Near Callais) I must ring him and ask him how the winter generally was.

  31. Gamecock says:
    March 18, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    “That’s how it is here in the southeast. Pinebark beetles can’t kill a healthy tree, only a stressed one.”

    I noticed this with Colorado potato beetles on potato plants. I’d have bushy dark green plant foliage in lines and you would see, here and there, a potato plant virtually denuded and covered with immature beetles. Apparently a sickly plant gives off a sweetish smell that attracts them. I’d pull out the badly infested plant and put it in the burn pile. Planting the potatoes in at different parts of the garden each spring was a pretty good strategy because the bugs winter over in the soil near where they do their work. I suppose now I could be charged with mentally stressing the bugs. Man if we don’t do something to defund and defrock these guys, I’m worried about the future even if the climate stays the same. What in the devil is an anthropologist doing in this neck of the woods? Next the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker will be doing climate studies instead of doing what they were trained for.

  32. Nothing more than a way for a Cincinnati professor to get tax payer funded trips to the mountains.

  33. Scholars aren’t always good scientists….. some never understood the theories of science they had to study, other never studied enough mathematic to understand statistic….. Then there are those who never learnt what for example Archimedes principle is. It’s easy to understand the big blunder the climate change people, scholars or not, made. If you haven’t knowledge enough, then that problem can’t be solved by using corrected figures nor undergraduate-levelskill in programming :-)

  34. Researchers take on fighting the disastrous consequences of extreme changes in climate before they occur.

    Huh…. Odd they didn’t take on fighting the disastrous consequences of a mile or more thick, continent spanning glacier, as this is a well documented extreme change in climate that has happened repeatedly on planet Earth ….. and is just about due to start up all over again.
    Odd, that. Don’tcha think?

    Maybe the idea of ‘fighting’ a mile thick layer of implacably advancing ice the size of trans-Canada is just too frightening, given the high probability it will occur???? Poor dears……… Safer for their psyches and easier to just continue their studies at the College of Data Manipulation and Overt Scare Mongering, m’thinks.

    Lesssseee….. Fighting Two degrees C of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming will require :
    – More gin
    – More limes
    – More tonic, er… diet tonic
    – More huckleberry jam
    – More SPF 30 lotion
    – More shorts, T shirts, and swim suits
    – Sunglasses (aviator mirror shades, check)
    – Straw hat or two
    – Some new sandals
    – Mask, snorkel, and fins
    – and a new volleyball
    Anybody have these Boy Scouts/researchers email? I’d like add these to their ‘Be Prepared for Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming’ list.

  35. ROM says:
    March 18, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    As well most of those same climate scientists have a very advanced case of the Messiah complex; ie they quite firmly believe that they are the Chosen Ones sent to Save the Planet and they and they only have the answers right here and now which must be widely proclaimed [ to justify their funding ] on how the Planet is to be Saved.

    Mencken called it, “the messianic delusion.”

  36. This is what happens when you don’t feel embarrassment. Also, see the NOAA thread for another example.

  37. The pine deaths due to bark beetle was down to lack of wildfires, which control beetle numbers. Many tree species thrive after fires, a fact that is just surfacing. Fire clears the underbrush, consumes old and dead trees, encourages some species to sow seeds and these seeds to germinate and grow under the cleared canopy. Rejuvenation at zero cost to the environment even the extra CO2 helps tree growth.

  38. johnmarshall says:
    March 19, 2014 at 4:17 am

    The pine deaths due to bark beetle was down to lack of wildfires, which control beetle numbers.

    ===========================

    Beetle numbers is a head fake. The beetles are ubiquitous. If you have week trees, you will have beetles. Regardless of what happened last winter.

  39. Sci-fi is often based on actual science while openly acknowledging it is fiction. “Climate (junk)science is based on fraud and nothing more.

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