Scientists studying climate change have focused on greenhouse gases — how we can produce less or maybe remove some of what’s already in the atmosphere. A team at the University of Virginia will take a different approach.
Eleven people from eight different fields including business, law, anthropology and engineering, will look at how we use land as part of a massive mapping and modeling project for planet Earth.
“We could either have food, which we definitely need. We could plant biofuels as a way to try to mitigate climate change, or we can conserve forests and let the forests take up carbon as they have done, and try to keep the atmospheric carbon dioxide in check by having the forests there," says Deborah Lawrence, a professor of environmental sciences at UVA.
Working with the National Center for Atmospheric Research and colleagues from China and Russia, they’ll use sophisticated computer models to create various scenarios for what the world might look like in 2050. They will consider ethical questions and weigh the impact of actions in one place on others.
“If you make corn for biofuels say in Kansas, does that make someone in Amazonia or Indonesia clear forest to grow food?” Lawrence says.
The UVA team hopes to influence international talks on climate change set for late next year in Paris.