Collecting good data is also expensive, especially if the country does not have the financial and institutional resources, Jina added.
In some cases, historical gaps in climate data and the infrastructure in which they are collected can be offset by technological advances and international scientific projects. For example, satellites can produce high-resolution images and produce temperature and precipitation records for most locations on the planet.
But just because these data exist, climate researchers do not automatically have access to it. Take the situation in the world-famous, ecologically diverse and climatically important Himalayan mountains.
In 2012, Kamal Bawa, a conservation biologist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, used satellite images to track changes in temperature, precipitation, and vegetation patterns in the Himalayas. The study was one of the first large-scale climate analyzes for the region, stating that the Himalayas have averaged at least 1.5 degrees Celsius over the past 25 years.
Bawa told me that researchers may find it difficult to navigate the mountain policies that surround Pakistan, India, Nepal, and China. There is also a lack of financial resources, institutional resources and international attention for a region that is both environmentally and socially vulnerable to climate change.
In some cases, the best data comes from inquiries only. In a 2011 study, Bawa and his colleagues studied how local villagers understood the changes in weather patterns and landscape vegetation.
"When you go to the villages, people talk about the weather all the time," he said. "Your daily activity is defined by what's going to happen in the next two hours – when will the rain end so we can do our chores? – That's a constant discussion."
In other cases, they only had to appreciate. Jina and a team of researchers at the University of Chicago have recently published a paper that models heat-related deaths in future climate scenarios. First, the team created one of the most comprehensive mortality records so far: it covers 56 percent of the world's population.
But that left the other 44 percent to be filled with a supercomputer model. "If we had data in excess of 1 percent of the world, we could extrapolate and say we had information about 100 percent of the world," Jina said. "But the accuracy of that is open to questions."
"There is this quote that I really like about Galileo, which really sums up science: Measure what you can measure and measure what you can not," he told me. "There are things that are very easy to measure for social, historical, and other reasons, but as researchers, we're not so good at measuring new things and new places – that's an embedded problem in science and history – but they're usually it's the most vulnerable people written out of all the knowledge we generate, and I think that's a huge problem. "
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