Climatic Constraints and Human Activities

The volume of proceedings entitled “Climatic Constraints and Human Activities” contains a summary essay and seven invited papers from the Task Force meeting on the Nature of Climate Society Research convened in February 1980 at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. This, the introductory essay, examines the differences in research methods on questions of short-term climate variability and longer-term climatic change, identifies some important avenues for research, and briefly surveys the papers. Ausubel and Meyer-Abich take broad looks at climate and public policy. Ausubel offers arguments from an economic point of view as to why the atmosphere is increasingly associated with developments, like climatic change, which are threatening to human activity. The paper by Meyer-Abich surveys from a political point of view the reasons that regulation of activities which could control or prevent climatic change is unlikely to take place, and why adaptation is the most likely path to be followed, especially given the current weakness of the interdisciplinary analysis of the problem of climatic change. The paper by Biswas narrows the focus and illuminates the uncertainty associated with one specific but very prominent area, the relationship between climate and crops, which one might easily assume otherwise to be a more secure area of knowledge. Three case study approaches follow, two emphasizing a geographical perspective and one a social group. Warrick’s historical study of the possible “lessening” of drought impacts in the Great Plains of the United States emphasizes the need for a clear setting out of the hypotheses to be tested in research on the relationship of climate and society and the need for improvements of the modeling of the overall system. Spitz develops a model of a food producing class which is also self-provisioning, that is, where food has a dual nature as both a basic need and as merchandise to be traded, and explores the significance of drought to such a group, with particular reference to Eastern India. Czelnai’s paper on the Great Plain of the Danube Basin offers interesting insights into the extent into which natural systems have already been transformed by man and proposes ways in which sensitivity and vulnerability to climatic factors may be defined and explored. Finally, Sergin proposes a method of estimating plausible patterns of climatic change based on the similarity between seasonal changes and climatic changes of physical fields on longer time scales.

Edited by Jesse Ausubel and Asit K. Biswas, 1980, Pergamon Press, Oxford, 205 pages.

Climatic Constraints and Human Activities, Part I

Climatic Constraints and Human Activities, Part II

Climatic Constraints and Human Activities, Part III