Responding Locally to Global Problems

Climate, Energy and Environment

An increase of even a few degrees in the Earth’s climate will have tremendous consequences for billions of people. Researchers at NYU Abu Dhabi are trying to determine how climate change will affect humanity's collective future and how to better understand changes that are taking place.

David Holland runs the Center for Global Sea Level Change (CSLC). Through observation and intricate mathematical models, Holland and his team are trying to figure out how the melting ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland will influence global sea level. The group has installed a sophisticated radar in Greenland that is tracking a massive glacier’s retreat up a fjord. The glacier has lost a huge amount of ice to the ocean since the 1990s and it continues to shrink.

Since many of the world’s metropolises are built at sea level or slightly above it, rising seas will reshape the coastlines of cities as we know them today. “When glaciers melt in Greenland and Antarctica, they raise sea level and that information spreads around the globe in about a week,” Holland noted. “There is no correct place to study this issue. It’s a global problem with global connections."

To make predictions about future climate, scientists at the Center for Prototype Climate Modeling (CPCM) help develop sophisticated computer models that must account for many variables, including changes in the ocean and atmosphere. These models will be used to predict climate years into the future.

Olivier Pauluis is a co-principal investigator of CPCM and focuses on clouds and precipitation, some of the most difficult natural phenomena to predict. Scientists can help improve climate models, and bring more certainty to what Earth’s weather will look like in the future, Pauluis said. “But the basic problem is understood well enough,” he noted. “Though we don’t have all the answers, and we don’t know exactly what Earth’s climate will be like in the future, we know we should do something about it. For our own sake and for the sake of our children."

Several other researchers at NYUAD are working in the fields of climate, energy, and environment. Giuliano Garavini, a senior research fellow at the NYUAD Institute, is writing a history of OPEC from the perspective of oil-producing countries. John Burt, a marine biologist, uses the Arabian Gulf as a natural laboratory to study the effects of extreme heat on corals. And Kourosh Salehi-Ashtiani is working to develop algae that could be used as a source of biofuel.