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Decision Center for a Desert City: The Science and Policy of Climate Uncertainty

SES #0345945, 2004-2010, funded by the National Science Foundation

The confluence of rapid population growth and the threat of global warming in an uncertain climate environment pose challenging policy and decision-making issues for the urbanizing desert of Central Arizona. The Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) will coordinate a program of interdisciplinary research and community outreach to improve water-management decisions in central Arizona. To that end, DCDC will study the cognitive processes by which individuals and water managers make decisions, apply sophisticated models of decision science to water-allocation problems, develop GIS-based decision-support tools that foster better long-term and more integrated decision making, use climate models to define the dimensions of uncertain water availability both locally and regionally, and develop innovative educational programs organized around water, climate, and decision making. DCDC seeks to build a new model of science and policy engagement that allows decision makers and scientists to collaborate on important research questions and experiment with new methods.

Even the best climate science cannot reduce significantly the uncertainty associated with global climate change, the climate cycles that lead to droughts and floods, and the expanding and intensifying urban heat island that now grips the rapidly growing Phoenix area. In collaboration with local, state, and regional water managers, DCDC will produce basic interdisciplinary research about water availability, climatic uncertainty, and human decision making, create decision support tools to foster better water-management decisions, develop scenarios of different water futures and share them with decision makers and the public, and investigate the nature of research activity and decision making within DCDC itself for lessons about to build an effective organization at the boundary of science and policy. DCDC is closely aligned with Arizona State University's Decision Theater, a 3-D immersive space for visualization and outreach to the community. Many of the nation's, and indeed the world's, most rapidly growing urban areas are in arid environments and face a future of greater water uncertainty. Arid cities therefore will benefit from a clearer articulation of the effects of climate change on urban water demand and supply and on community response to growing uncertainty.

CePoD Involvement: Patricia Gober (Principal Investigator), Charles Redman (co-Principal Investigator)

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