Even before newspapers recently embraced “hyper-localism” as a strategy for stemming circulation and advertising losses, it’s a safe bet that editors commonly asked environmental reporters what climate change might mean in their own neck of the woods.

Science, of course, has not been providing much in the way of detailed answers. But that’s changing.

A new draft report, posted online by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on July 25 for public comment, is one more example of scientists’ unfolding efforts to move beyond global- and continental-scale projections as they refine methods for making regional and local calculations about potential impacts.

The report, produced by the EPA’s Global Change Research Program, is titled “Preliminary Steps Towards Integrating Climate and Land Use: the Development of Land-Use Scenarios Consistent with Climate Change Emissions Storylines.”

It uses the different demographic “storylines” developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to develop methods for projecting the changes that may occur – along with various population and socioeconomic changes – in housing distribution, impervious surface, and associated watershed impacts in the 48 contiguous states until 2100.

A description of this effort, the EPA’s Integrated Climate and Land Use Scenarios (ICLUS) Project, was posted on the website of the nonprofit Center for Clean Air Policy prior to publication of the draft report:

“The resulting scenarios will (1) enable us, our partners, and our clients to conduct assessments of both climate and land use change effects across the U.S.; (2) provide consistent benchmarks for local and regional land use change studies; and (3) identify areas where climate-land use interactions may exacerbate impacts or create adaptation opportunities.”

The draft report marks a first phase of the ICLUS project, which could serve as the basis for geographically focused analyses of climate change’s possible impacts on public health and the environment.

The EPA’s announcement of the draft’s availability said the absence of projections of land use changes tied to the IPCC’s population and socioeconomic scenarios had been hampering efforts to carry out such analyses:

“The lack of these consistent scenarios has impeded progress of integrated assessments of climate and land-use change on endpoints of concern, such as water quality, aquatic ecosystems, air quality, and human health.”

Topics: Climate Science