Madjid Abbasi, Pedram Attarod, Sahar Baniyaghoob, Michael Bergin, Antonio Busalacchi, Michael Clegg, Najmeh Etemad-Saeed, Sima Fakheran, Jean Jouzel, David Laylin, Kevin Lansey, Pierre Léna, Hervé Le Treut, Yves Quéré, Glenn Schweitzer (organizer), Saviz Sehatkashani, Yousef Sobouti (Sobooti), Armin Sorooshian, Ahad Sotoudeh, Hassan Vafai
by Glenn Schweitzer
19 – 24 octobre 2015
Twenty scientists, including five early-career scientists, discussed adverse developments in Iran, driven in part by climate change, and particularly declining access to water in this thirsty country. Global concerns over climate change provided a context for considering current and future activities to reduce adverse changes in the physical and human landscape of the country. The current economic recession together with aspirations of greater involvement of Iran in the global discussions and programs directed to reducing adverse environmental trends provided a context for the technical sessions of the workshop. During the final workshop session, the participants offered their personal recommendations for steps that could be considered by Iranian governmental and non-governmental organizations, in collaboration with the international community, to reduce adverse trends linked to climate change. They also identified technical uncertainties that could be addressed through new research efforts.
Keywords: climate change, Iranian environment, Iranian economy, water shortages, water evaporation, air pollution, dust storms, Iranian research priorities, protected areas, forests, wetlands, temperature variations, greenhouse gases, atmospheric modelling, U.N. environmental programs
The twenty participants in this workshop included a wide range of specialists, given the extensive reach of causes and impacts of climate change. The Iranian group was comprised of four early-career female scientists, several mid-career scientists, and one senior scientist. The French participants were senior scientists with long careers at universities and at the Academy of Sciences of France. The American group included senior scientists in a number of fields and one early-career scientist who has important environmental publications.
The initial session was devoted to a broad-ranging discussion of the context for addressing climate change. Updates on the activities of the International Panel on Climate Change and its forthcoming meeting in Paris were highlighted. Discussions concerning the environmental interests of the U.N. agencies in Iran, and particularly programs that address vanishing wetlands and other water-related problems, included an audio-visual presentation prepared for the workshop by the U.N. office in Tehran. Representatives of the academies of science of the United States, France, and Iran provided overviews of relevant international interests and activities of their academies. The findings of a related U.S.-Iran workshop in California in 2014 were considered, with an emphasis on the opportunities identified at that workshop for future collaborative efforts—particularly joint efforts related to water issues.
The initial technical session addressed evidence of change and the role of atmospheric sciences. Dispersion, chemical transformations, effects of winds, and dispersion patterns were highlighted. Climatology of desert-related events in Iran and the use of synoptic and spectral analysis were considered. The participants agreed that emphasis should be given to series analyses of surface air temperatures.
A technical session then focused on historical evidence of climate change. The decline of oak forests and investigations of Neoproterozoic glaciation attracted considerable interest. Suggestions for further exploring these developments, and particularly on-the-ground efforts to save the forests of Iran, were considered.
Impacts of air pollution and dust storms both on human health and on climate change, fuel desulfurization, geological investigations in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, resiliency of populated areas, and monitoring of greenhouse gases were on the agenda of the next session.
Biological impacts of climate then came into the foreground. Protected areas, protected pathways between separated areas, and attendant land-use changes were described. The profound implications of climate change for agriculture were highlighted, including the many linkages of the entire food supply system to climate change.
A separate session was devoted to early education, with suggestions that included but extended far beyond climate change. The topic of education is so broad that it deserves consideration at a series of workshops, not just during one session of a single workshop.
The technical sessions concluded with recognition of the grand challenges confronting all countries in considering climate change. While addressing the problems of today and tomorrow is important, the fundamental long-term changes linked to climate change cannot be underestimated. A particularly important step is to address specific regional and local problems. Only then will broad concepts be transformed into actionable initiatives. For example, workshop participants viewed an Iranian film on the shrinkage of Lake Urmia during the past two decades. And a discussion of future problems of the Chesapeake Bay raised new concerns.
During the final session the participants discussed future steps that academies and institutions of the countries could take to expand collaboration. Also, each participant offered suggestions as to steps that could be taken by governments and non-governmental organizations, individually and collectively, to improve the prospects for reversing the decline in the quality of life associated with climate change. These suggestions will be catalogued in the overall compendium of documents considered during at the workshop, which should be available at the beginning of 2016.