IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

2.3.5 Data needs for assessment

Although considerable advances have been made in the development of methods and tools for CCIAV assessment (see previous sections), their application has been constrained by limited availability and access to good-quality data (e.g., Briassoulis, 2001; UNFCCC, 2005; see also Chapter 3, Section 3.8; Chapter 6, Section 6.6; Chapter 7, Section 7.8; Chapter 8, Section 8.8; Chapter 9, Section 9.5; Chapter 10, Section 10.8; Chapter 12, Section 12.8; Chapter 13, Section 13.5; Chapter 15, Section 15.4; Chapter 16, Section 16.7).

In their initial national communications to the UNFCCC, a large number of non-Annex I countries reported on the lack of appropriate institutions and infrastructure to conduct systematic data collection, and poor co-ordination within and/or between different government departments and agencies (UNFCCC, 2005). Significant gaps exist in the geographical coverage and management of existing global and regional Earth-observing systems and in the efforts to retrieve the available historical data. These are especially acute in developing-country regions such as Africa, where lack of funds for modern equipment and infrastructure, inadequate training of staff, high maintenance costs, and issues related to political instability and conflict are major constraints (IRI, 2006). As a result, in some regions, observation systems have been in decline (e.g., GCOS, 2003; see also Chapter 16, Section 16.7).

Major deficiencies in data provision for socio-economic and human systems indicators have been reported as a key barrier to a better understanding of nature-society dynamics in both developed and developing countries (Wilbanks et al., 2003; but see Nordhaus, 2006). Recognising the importance of data and information for policy decisions and risk management under a changing climate, new programmes and initiatives have been put in place to improve the provision of data across disciplines and scales. Prominent among these, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) plan (Group on Earth Observations, 2005) was launched in 2006, with a mission to help all 61 involved countries produce and manage Earth observational data. The Centre for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) provides a wide range of environmental and socio-economic data products.[4] In addition, the IPCC Data Distribution Centre (DDC), overseen by the IPCC Task Group on Data and Scenario Support for Impact and Climate Analysis (TGICA), hosts various sets of outputs from coupled Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs), along with environmental and socio-economic data for CCIAV assessments (Parry, 2002). New sources of data from remote sensing are also becoming available (e.g., Justice et al., 2002), which could fill the gaps where no ground-based data are available but which require resourcing to obtain access. New and updated observational data sets and their deficiencies are also detailed in the WG I report for climate (Trenberth et al., 2007) and sea level (Bindoff et al., 2007).

Efforts are also being made to record human-environment interactions in moderated online databases. For instance, the DesInventar database[5] records climatic disasters of the recent past in Latin America, documenting not only the adverse climatic events themselves, but also the consequences of these events and the parties affected. Information on local coping strategies applied by different communities and sectors is being recorded by the UNFCCC.[6]

Many assessments are now obtaining data through stakeholder elicitation and survey methods. For example, in many traditional societies a large number of social interactions may not be recorded by bureaucratic processes, but knowledge of how societies adapt to climate change, perceive risk, and measure their vulnerability is held by community members (e.g., Cohen, 1997; ACIA, 2005; see also Section 2.3.2). Even in data-rich situations, it is likely that some additional data from stakeholders will be required. However, this also requires adequate resourcing.

  1. ^  http://www.ciesin.org/index.html
  2. ^  http://www.desinventar.org/desinventar.html
  3. ^  http://maindb.unfccc.int/public/adaptation