UI Researchers Contribute High-Mountain Climate Expertise to IPCC Report

Friday, May 2 2014

MOSCOW, Idaho – May 1, 2014 – The University of Idaho’s Vladimir and Elena Aizen joined researchers across the globe to write the latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which was released in April.

The Aizens, a husband-and-wife research team in the UI Department of Geography, are contributing authors for the report’s chapter on Asia, providing their expertise in Earth’s high-mountain climate and glacier water resources. 

“The Aizens’ contribution to the IPCC report demonstrates the international importance of research at the University of Idaho,” said Jack McIver, UI’s vice president for research and economic development. “Our people are collaborating with the world’s best researchers, and through those partnerships creating global-scale understanding and solutions.”

As the Earth’s population has more than doubled in the past 50 years, the demand for water has exploded along with it. Asia is home not only to the world’s most populous countries, but also to its most vast mountainous areas. Much of the continent’s water resources originate from seasonal snow, glaciers and permafrost in areas such as Tibet, Pamir, Tien Shan and the Himalayas.

The IPCC report states that warming trends and increasing air temperature extremes have been observed in central Asia over the past 100 years, affecting seasonally snow-covered areas. Seasonal snow and glaciers supply more than 80 percent of Asia’s water, Vladimir Aizen said.

He said the high mountains are very sensitive to climate change, and air-temperature increases will contribute to reduced water supplies in densely populated Asia. This “will have an increasing impact on agriculture, human health, livelihoods and poverty, regional and local security,” according to the report.

Water scarcity is projected to be a major issue among these climate-related challenges, in light of the rapidly growing population and demand for water and food. Water contamination is the second extremely important issue in Asia and other developing countries in the world, Vladimir Aizen said.

“In Asia we have more than half the population of the whole world,” he said. “It’s very important to understand what will be with water resources for global and regional planning and sustainable development.”

The Aizens have been working and have contributed to the past two IPCC reports. Vladimir Aizen said he has found it interesting to collaborate with different people and listen to researchers from different areas, as well as to provide accurate information from his own area of specialty. 

He said the IPCC report is targeted mostly toward influencing international government action concerning climate effects and options for adaptation and mitigation. But it also provides valuable information for industries such as tourism, energy, agriculture and more.

“Understanding climate impacts on agriculture and water resources may give some clue how American businesses or their connections with international business may contribute to it,” he said.

The Aizens have completed their work with the IPCC but continue to collaborate with international researchers on global-scale projects. For the past 15 years they have worked with scientists from several U.S. universities, as well as universities in Germany, Japan and central Asian countries. They will soon being a new five-year investigation about the effects of climate change on water resources in Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains and neighboring countries, as well as participating in a research and education project connecting a consortium of Northwest universities with the University of Central Asia. 


Tara Roberts
UI Communications
(208) 885-7725

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