Prof Carlos M. Duarte

Networked solutions needed for climate change adaptation

The 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21) led to a shift in focus in climate change research towards finding solutions. The hope is that these solutions will prepare society to adapt and mitigate the consequences of a warming planet, but the research shift to finding solutions is not easy.

“An important aspect that has made climate change difficult is that energy is an intrinsic component of our lives and our activities — from food production systems to transit systems, to adaptation systems,” said Carlos M. Duarte, who is recognized as one of the most influential scientists in the world by Thompson Reuters and is the current Tarek Ahmed Juffali Research Chair in Red Sea Ecology at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
Because energy affects so many aspects of our lives, Duarte says it’s difficult to address the issues on how to build systems that are both efficient and don’t contribute to the problem of climate change without encompassing a whole array of disciplines.

An example he gives is LED technology. While these lights are saving cities money and use less energy, they create light pollution that is drastically greater than traditional light bulbs. According to research, this could disrupt the behavior patterns of nocturnal animals, the production of melatonin in people and create other health issues — all aspects that were not taken into consideration when the technology was introduced. In other words, in order to find effective solutions for climate change adaption, scientists need input from experts in natural sciences, physical sciences, technology, engineering and social sciences.

“The issues of deriving solutions for climate change are cross-cutting across all domains of human knowledge,” Duarte said. “We need to create solutions that are networked, and therefore we need to start looking at connections between an action in this realm and a consequence in another realm.”

Duarte says that rather than scattering efforts, it would be more efficient to provide an articulated approach in delivering options for climate change adaptation and mitigation. One way he is doing this is through an unique research topic through Frontiers entitled “The Pathway to Solutions: New Frontiers in Climate Change Adaptation & Mitigation.” Through this topic, he and the other topic editors are asking researchers to send in a simple proposal on new approaches, concepts, technologies and renewable energies. The topic crosses traditional academic boundaries by feeding into solutions for the blue, green and circular economy and covering areas related to food, water, energy and environmental security.

“Sometimes scientists might think this is just about regular climate change research, but it’s not. Our focus is on solutions,” he said. “Climate change has reached a critical point and need to focus on how we will be able to adapt to the changes.”

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This article was written by Michelle Ponto, Frontiers Science Writer. Read the original interview and see republishing guidelines here.

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