Initiative preps Yale for climate change

A new initiative from the Yale Climate & Energy Institute will model the effects of climate change over the next century.
A new initiative from the Yale Climate & Energy Institute will model the effects of climate change over the next century. Photo by Selin Uman .

A new initiative from the Yale Climate & Energy Institute will model the effects of climate change over the next century to help the university prepare for the impact of global warming.

The effort is a partnership between researchers at Yale, the University of New Hampshire, University of Massachusetts-Amherst and MIT to understand how climate change will shape the environment in the northeast United States. The project will analyze the impact of climate change on issues including the role of aerosol in warming the planet, ecology, agriculture, sea levels and forests. With the initiative, Yale hopes to be proactive in protecting its campus from the long-term effects of climate change, director of YCEI Mark Pagani said.

“All of the imminent climate changes will impact the economy,” he said. “People want to build infrastructure that will last for 100 years, not just 10 years and then be damaged by rising groundwater and seawater levels.”

The recent superstorms Nemo and Sandy demonstrate the need for Yale to consider the changing climate in designing and renovating buildings on campus, Pagani said. With this initiative, Yale is hoping to understand how to prepare for the numerous effects of climate change.

Yale’s environment cannot be viewed within a small bubble but rather under the umbrella of the entire northeastern region, Pagani said. To understand the impact of climate change on Yale, he said it is important to study the Northeast region because its weather patterns are so unique.

One of the first projects will explore how climate change influences patterns of Lyme disease.

Since ticks carrying Lyme disease are particularly sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, climate change may influence Lyme disease transmission, Yale School of Public Health professor and project collaborator Maria Diuk-Wasser said in an email to the News. In particular, the Lyme disease pathogen thrives with increasing temperature, which suggests climate change may worsen the disease, she added.

The study also plans to create regional temperature and precipitation projections for future scenarios of CO2-induced global warming. The team is particularly interested in aerosols because they mask the effects of global warming, Yale professor of geology and geophysics Trude Storelvmo said in an email to the News. She added that the current generation of climate models now predict that the global temperature will increase one to six degrees Celsius by 2100.

While the initiative is currently funded by the universities involved, Pagani said he hopes to attract external grant funding for the project.

“I hope what we do will be viewed as a model for other principalities and institutes” Pagani said.

Climate change threatens to reduce GDP by $22 billion and cost 100,000 jobs in New England by 2050 if left unaddressed, according to the American Security Project.

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