Vulnerability to climate change is a pressing policy issue at local, state, national, and global scales. Public and private organizations, policy makers, and resource managers are concerned with how communities at these scales can adjust to climate change and an increasingly uncertain future. With the future inherently unknowable and policies derived from understandings based on narrow windows of time and space, management for "long-term sustainability" is a daunting task. Archaeology has a strong contribution to make to climate-change policy because it investigates long sequences of social and climate change at multiple scales. In essence, the sequences of changes in human-landscape-climate interactions represent examples of outcomes that can help to think about the impacts of climate change.
This proposal requests funds to initiate a Research Collaboration Network involving two research teams - the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization (NABO) in the circumpolar North Atlantic region and Long-Term Vulnerability and Transformation Project (LTVTP) in the arid and semi-arid deserts of the southwestern US and northern Mexico. Each team investigates the relationship between climate change and social change in extremely different settings and over many centuries. This proposed work will address 1) how rigidity of social systems influences adjustments to climate change and 2) whether infrequent climate changes (outside of human memory) are more impactful than frequent changes. The teams request funding to support initiation of a Research Collaboration Network involving archaeologists, modelers, climate scientists, and experts on sustainability from NABO and LTVTP, who will synthesize archaeologically known sequences in ways that are relevant both to archaeology and current policy.
This research will address the impacts of social responses to climate change, an issue central to contemporary policy and relevant to public and private organizations, policy makers, and resource managers interested in promoting resilience to climate change. The comparative work, engaging long sequences from contrasting regions of the world, will expand knowledge beyond the short-term and the regionally specific. Research results will synthesize resilience and vulnerability over the long term. This synthesis will include understanding of the social processes of rigidity and path dependence that affect human impacts on environmental conditions and human responses to climate change. The proposed project represents the first collaboration within the new Global Human Ecodynamics Alliance. The archived data will provide a permanent resource of long-term climate, social, and demographic data for a range of scientists. The research collaborations will include a range of students, offering them a unique, cross-regional and interdisciplinary educational experience.
National Science Foundation Arctic Sciences Division
February 2011 - January 2013