Events & Media



"Global Knowledge Action Network for Adaptation to Climate Change"

Charles F. Kennel
Director and Distinguished Professor Emeritus
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD

Monday, May 19, 2014
11:30 - 12:30
Bren Hall 1414

"Prior to arriving at Bren, Kennel will be delivering a talk in Vatican City at a Joint Workshop of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, titled "Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature: Our Responsibility." He should bring back some interesting conclusions and new ideas that will be relevant here. Kennel has had a long and distinguished career in a multitude of scientific disciplines; as such, he is the perfect Bren speaker."

— Ty Brandt, PhD student host


When adaptation joins greenhouse gas mitigation as a major climate management responsibility, it becomes essential to grapple with the great diversity of regional climate change impacts, to understand the highly specific needs of local communities, and to deliver trustworthy knowledge to a huge variety of decision-makers. This leaves us with an important question. How can the relatively small science, policy, and technology community develop the capacity to serve the needs of millions of decision-makers in thousands of communities having different cultural, economic, and environmental characteristics?

Already, the world climate science community is stretched thin in providing the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change every seven years. Part of the answer to this capacity problem is a planned deployment of modern knowledge management services and technologies to support the assessment process. Add to this a requirement for global, regional, and local coordination, and we see that smart cyber-infrastructure that informs and integrates global, regiona,l and local decision-making is needed.

Here we argue that assessment is the critical first step in the management of climate change impacts in an adaptive framework. While adaptation governance requires correlated policies and actions at the global, regional, and local levels, the primary locus of effective adaptation action will be at the level of communities. In any distributed assessment-governance network, success depends on flexible communication of situational awareness and outcomes of decisions amont many decision-makers and stakeholders. Thus, the precursor to governance is the development of a knowledge action network for adaptation and disaster management. There are few approaches to adaptation that appeal to the interests of both developed and developing countries. However, there is a potential mutuality of interest in a global knowledge action network for disaster management and adaptation. The considerable infrastructure built in the 20th century for the management of research knowledge could and should become the basis of an extended system that supports polycentric decision making for adaptation.

Charles F. Kennel was educated in astronomy and astrophysics at Harvard and Princeton. After a post-doctoral year at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, he joined the UCLA Department of Physics and its Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics. There, he pursued research and teaching in theoretical space plasma physics and astrophysics, eventually chairing the Physics Department. He served as UCLA’s executive vice chancellor from 1996 to 1998.

As a consultant to TRW Systems (now Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems), he participated in numerous satellite experiments, including the Voyager missions. His experiences while serving as Associate Administrator at NASA and Director of Mission to Planet Earth led him to Earth and climate science, and he has devoted the rest of his career to these fields. He served as the ninth director and dean of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and was vice chancellor of marine sciences at UC San Diego from 1998 to 2006.

Kennel is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the International Academy of Astronautics. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has been awarded the James Clerk Maxwell Prize (American Physical Society), the first Hannes Alfven Prize (European Geophysical Union), the Aurelio Peccei Prize (Accademia Lincei, Rome), and the NASA Distinguished Service and Distinguished Public Service Medals (twice). He has been a Fulbright senior lecturer, and a Sloan and Guggenheim Foundation Fellow.

Kennel has chaired the U.S. National Academy’s Board on Physics and Astronomy and its Committee on Global Change Research. He served for 13 years on the NASA Advisory, and was a member of the Presidential (“Augustine”) Commission on human space flight in 2009. He was also a member of the founding board of the California Climate Action Registry, and the first chairman of the California Ocean Sciences Trust. He has had numerous international visiting appointments

NOTE: Community colloquia are generally talks of broad interest geared toward a diverse, sophisticated audience. Their purpose is not only to enhance knowledge and understanding, but also to bring people together and promote interaction that will strengthen the community.


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