Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SNAP featured before governor's cabinet

Sharing informed research with policymakers requires much more than bumper stickers, UA President Mark Hamilton said Oct. 28 while addressing Gov. Sarah Palin’s cabinet at UAF. “As we see urgency in climate change this cabinet in this state today shares the responsibility of being at the head of the curve,” Hamilton said.

SNAP was one of the research highlights presented to the group. Associate Professor of Forestry and SNAP Director Scott Rupp told the cabinet about Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning. Under the UA Geography Program, SNAP is a way of getting all the players together to provide scenarios of what future landscapes will look like, Rupp explained. “This will improve your ability to make decisions and understand the uncertainties.”

SNAP can have a big impact on many state and national issues, Rupp said. “We are harnessing high-latitude research from the university system and making projections. How cold will it be? How wet? How warm? What will be the growing season lengths?

“This is where the rubber meets the road. We’ve got something that works well.”

By using data sets and maps, SNAP works to project future conditions for selected variables, and comes up with rules and models that develop projections based on historical conditions and trends. Among the topics SNAP focuses on are the frequency of intense storms, the risk of wildfire or flooding, and habitat and wildlife changes associated with such events. Scientists are examining the effects of climate change on biophysical processes, then studying the effects of physical changes on society. SNAP is a useful way for university researchers to convey the societal significance of their research to Alaska’s decision makers and other stakeholders, making current climate change research more recognizable regionally and more relevant globally.

SNAP receives no state funding, Hamilton said. “It is supported with BP and ConocoPhillips dollars.” He urged the cabinet members to recommend state funding. “We are the canary in the coal mine,” he said. “We need long-range public policy decisions based on research. We cannot pass this on to the next generation.”

Calling SNAP the centerpiece for cooperation, Hamilton told the panel not to look to other states to see how this type of program is operating because Alaska is the leader in this research.

Buck Sharpton, vice chancellor for research at UAF, called Tuesday’s forum the first stop on a long and fruitful journey. Panels addressed energy, engineering, climate impacts, health research, and life sciences. In a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner guest opinion, "State, university can cooperate in research," Sharpton stated, “This is the first step in developing a state research coalition that is greater than the sum of the parts. Ultimately, however, Alaska needs a state research and development plan that identifies state research and development priorities, lays out effective and efficient approaches to addressing these priorities, establishes measurable ways to benchmark success, and finds ways of sustaining and growing research at a time when it is sorely needed.”

Further reading:
Alaska Center for Climate Assessment & Policy
Gov. Palin's Sub-cabinet on Climate Change
"Alaska researchers, policymakers seek cooperation on climate issues" Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

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