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Global change - addressing a global concern

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are contributing to the scientific understanding of global climate change— pursuing a broad understanding that will serve as thefoundation for future policy and technology solutions.

"The issues surrounding global climate change span environmental, energy, economic and political arenas," said Bill Pennell, director of the Laboratory's global environmental change research program. "We are learning to recognize and appreciate these complex connections and interrelationships, which is critical to solving this challenging problem."

The program covers research activities ranging from the role of clouds in maintaining the heat balance of the atmosphere, to how climate change might affect human activities, to the roles of economic policy and technological change in finding solutions to the climate change problem.

To help understand the impacts of global change, Pacific Northwest's scientists are investigating how future climate change might affect wheat production in eastern Washington. Using a laboratory-developed regional climate model, they also are examining how climate change over the next 30 to 50 years might affect precipitation patterns, water resources and stream conditions for salmon in the western United States. They have conducted similar "impact assessment" studies for other countries, such as China.

In 1998, Laboratory researchers developed and led the Global Technology Strategy Program. This first serious effort to find a workable solution to the climate problem brings together an international coalition of industry, government, and non-governmental organizations.

In addition to conducting original research, Laboratory scientists contributed to international assessments of the scientific understanding of climate change coordinated by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2001.

"All of this work points to the need to ultimately cap the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," Pennell said. "This will not be an easy thing to do, and it will take time. There are no silver bullets—no simple, single actions either in terms of technology or policy—that will solve the problem."

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