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Implementing Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Final U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan 2 Science Focus and Scope The Strategic Plan for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP, 2003) is farsighted in calling attention to several areas that had previously been underemphasized in the U.S. Global Change Research Program, specifically, human dimensions, ecosystems, the water cycle, impacts, adaptation, and mitigation. The plan’s attention to research and decision support related to the regional and international aspects of climate and associated global changes is particularly welcome. The plan’s explicit linkage of climate change science and climate change technology is an important, heretofore under addressed component. This chapter highlights those parts of the plan where additional attention is needed to refine the objectives and ensure effective implementation. ENSURING A BALANCED PROGRAM In defining Goals 4 and 5, the CCSP proposes a dramatic enhancement of research and understanding of the sensitivity and adaptability of human systems and natural and managed ecosystems, and proposes the development of greater knowledge in management of the resulting risks and opportunities. Accomplishing these goals will require effective and well-resourced research programs addressing impacts, adaptation, and mitigation strategies. These issues are covered in the plan’s chapters on ecosystems, human contributions and responses to environmental change, and the water cycle (Chapters 8, 9, and 5, respectively), three aspects of the plan which have improved over the draft (see Box 2-1). Predictions and assessments at the regional scale, as yet imperfectly addressed, are particularly important for these topics. Although at least one product addresses mitigation strategies (CCSP, 2003, p. 82), the plan’s overarching goals emphasize adaptation rather than mitigation. The science programs presented in Chapters 8, 9, and 5 are at a lesser state of readiness than those found in other chapters of the plan. All three call for significant new research in areas that are not presently well supported by the CCSP (NRC, 2003b). As in the draft plan, chapters on ecosystems and human dimensions, although improved, continue to lack sufficient focus and scientific depth, perhaps reflecting insufficient input from relevant scientists and stakeholders before or early in the planning process. Targeted workshops or working groups should be put in place to rapidly and significantly strengthen these science plans. In terms of the CCSP, each of the three topic areas (ecosystems, human dimensions, and the water cycle) has functions embedded in several agencies, and lacks clear leadership, coordination across agencies, and effective advocates in annual CCSP budget processes. The committee is concerned that implementation of previously underemphasized research programs, such as those on ecosystems, human dimensions, and the water cycle, will lag behind the rest of the plan because they entail a scientific scope much broader than the one presently supported by CCSP agency staff and budgets. Such an outcome would greatly undermine the CCSP’s ability to make progress against Goals 4 and 5 and therefore limit its overall success. These program elements should be rapidly strengthened with adequate institutional support, improved science plans, targets, and timelines. The balanced scientific approach that will result is essential to CCSP’s overall success. Recommendation: The CCSP should accelerate efforts in previously underemphasized program elements including ecosystems, the water cycle, human dimensions, economics, impacts, adaptation, and mitigation, by rapidly strengthening the science plans and institutional support for these areas. SYNTHESIS AND ASSESSMENT PRODUCTS An essential component of any research program is the periodic synthesis of cumulative knowledge and the evaluation of the implications of that knowledge for scientific research and policy formation. In the context of the CCSP, such syntheses and assessments can serve at least five functions.
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Implementing Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Final U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan They can define current scientific understanding and uncertainties, informing future research directions. The primary audiences for these state-of-science reports are the CCSP leadership team and the scientific community. They can inform policy decisions related to climate and associated global changes. They can inform operational management decisions at spatial and societal scales influenced by climate and associated global changes, for example the integrated management of a watershed or the operation of societal response mechanisms, such as health alerts and water restrictions. They can be used to evaluate progress toward program goals and other management objectives. The primary audiences for these progress evaluations are the CCSP leadership team and the Interagency Working Group on Climate Change Science and Technology. They can be used to inform international assessments, such as the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. An additional benefit of conducting assessments is that they can serve to build and sustain constituencies, educate stakeholders, and build capacity in affected communities, while ensuring that communication channels between the scientific and decision-making communities remain effective avenues for decision support. The strategic plan explicitly describes considerable synthesis and assessment activity. The revised plan calls for 21 synthesis and assessment products to be produced in either a 0-2 year or a 2-4 year timeframe. The CCSP classified the products as follows (CCSP, 2003, p. 115): nine of these synthesis and assessment products are intended to serve as state-of-the-science reports, five are intended to inform policy decisions, and seven are intended to inform operational management decisions. There are no obvious products devoted to evaluating progress toward program goals, which thereby handicaps the long-term management of the CCSP. The strategic plan (CCSP, 2003, p. 11) also states that its synthesis and assessment products are intended to fulfill the requirements for synthesis and assessment contained in Section 106 of the 1990 Global Change Research Act (see Appendix D), which specifies that: On a periodic basis (not less frequently than every 4 years) the Council through the Committee, shall prepare and submit to the President and the Congress an assessment which: Integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the Program and discusses the scientific uncertainties associated with such findings; Analyzes the effects of global change on the environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity; Analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years. All 21 of the synthesis and assessment products in the strategic plan represent efforts to “integrate, evaluate, and interpret” the findings of the program, and therefore appear to fall under the first assessment component of the Global Change Research Act. The committee could not determine that the proposed products also meet the second and third requirements of the Act because the descriptions in the plan are vague in the context of the Global Change Research Act. Even so, it appears that only seven of the synthesis and assessment products are related to the effects of global change. And, some areas specified in the Act, such as BOX 2-1 Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation The revised plan should strengthen its approach to the human, economic, and ecological dimensions of climate and associated global changes to ensure it supports the research necessary to project and monitor societal and ecosystem impacts, to design adaptation and mitigation strategies, and to understand the costs and benefits of climate change and related response options. Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan The revised plan identifies “the sensitivity and adaptability of different natural and managed ecosystems and human systems to climate and related global changes” as its fourth overarching goal, appropriately calling attention to these research areas. The plan’s chapters on human contributions and responses to environmental change (Chapter 9) and ecosystems (Chapter 8) are improved over the draft. Integrated assessment analyses discussed in Chapter 11 (Decision Support Resources Development) include impacts modeling of the environment as well as socio-economic systems. Other research activities relevant to economics are only weakly addressed in the plan. Although at least one product addresses mitigation strategies (CCSP, 2003, p. 82), the plan’s overarching goals emphasize adaptation rather than mitigation.
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Implementing Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Final U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan analyzing the effects on energy production and use, human health and welfare, and human social systems, are only peripherally addressed by this portfolio of products. Not a single synthesis or assessment product explicitly addresses the nation’s water supply. Some of the very broadly worded products, such as “scenario-based analysis of the climatological, environmental, resource, technological, and economic implications of different atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases,” “risks of abrupt changes in global climate,” and “uses and limitations of observations, data, forecasts, and other projections in decision support for selected sectors and regions” could cover these areas. The synthesis and assessment products should be more clearly defined, including statements of intended uses and audience for each product. The plan also does not make clear how the key questions and research activities identified in each research component of the plan relate to the topics chosen for synthesis and assessment products. In addition, because the list of synthesis and assessment products were generated during the brief revision process, the scientific and stakeholder communities did not have much input in deciding which of these products would be included in the plan. As a result, the list of products appears somewhat ad hoc rather than a coherent portfolio of priority synthesis and assessment products. Recommendation: The synthesis and assessment products should be chosen to explicitly address the range of needs for decision makers and program management, as well as the broad scope specified in the Global Change Research Act. CCSP synthesis and assessment products must be credible in order to be useful. The program is developing detailed guidelines for the preparation of the synthesis and assessment products, but the committee was unable to review these guidelines because they were not finalized when this report was completed. The strategic plan (CCSP, 2003, pp. 111-112) indicates that all of the decision support activities in the plan will adhere to the following guidelines: Analyses structured around specific questions; Early and continuing involvement of stakeholders; Explicit treatment of uncertainties; Transparent public review of analysis questions, methods, and draft results; and Evaluation of ongoing CCSP analyses and building on the lessons learned. The committee believes that these approaches could contribute to the credibility of the synthesis and assessment products and also help address the gaps identified above. It is especially important that CCSP synthesis and assessment products be independently prepared, or evaluated, by the science community. This will provide a level of credibility that reports produced exclusively within the government sometimes fail to achieve. The only previous centralized assessment effort by the CCSP agencies, the U.S. National Assessment on the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (NAST, 2001), followed these credibility assurance guidelines. The National Assessment’s Overview and Foundation reports are important contributions to understanding the possible consequences of climate variability and change. The processes of stakeholder engagement and transparent review of the National Assessment reports were exemplary (see Box 2-2). Recommendation: The CCSP should ensure the credibility of synthesis and assessment products by producing them with independent oversight and review from the wider scientific and stakeholder communities throughout the process. BOX 2-2 Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation The revised strategic plan should build upon the lessons learned in applied climate studies and stakeholder interaction from prior environmental and climate assessment activities. Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan This recommendation has been embodied in the principal guidelines for the CCSP decision support approach: “Evaluate ongoing CCSP analyses and build on the lessons learned” (CCSP, 2003, p. 112). The decision support management strategy also states that the CCSP Office will be responsible for “evaluating, reporting, and communicating results from the decision support activities” (CCSP, 2003, p. 122). The revised plan still generally overlooks the insights into the assessment process and the networks of researchers and stakeholders that were developed during the U.S. National Assessment.
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Implementing Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Final U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan Another concern regarding the synthesis and assessment products is the magnitude of human resources, both within the scientific community and for CCSP staff, needed to coordinate and prepare them. The CCSP has not yet evaluated the feasibility of producing 21 of these products in the next 2-4 years without unduly impairing the progress of its research. Many of these products are significant scientific assessments and will require input and review by numerous scientists, as was learned during the U.S. National Assessment process of the late 1990s. In addition, the synthesis and assessment products will be generated over the same timeframe as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). The AR4 lead authors (including U.S. scientists) will be writing and revising AR4 chapters during 2005 and 2006, with final government review in early 2007. There is considerable overlap of the CCSP synthesis and assessment products and the AR4 chapters in terms of content. It is therefore important for the CCSP to actively coordinate the timeframe and content of the synthesis and assessment products with the IPCC AR4. For example, a set of peer-reviewed, authoritative CCSP products that appear by mid-2005 would likely contribute substantially to AR4. On the other hand, if the CCSP products are simply progress reports produced without involvement of the scientific community and with no independent review they will add little value to the IPCC process. Effective coordination with the IPCC could avoid possible conflicts with the international climate assessment, improve efficient use of resources, and could raise the image and impact of U.S. climate change science. Recommendation: The CCSP should ensure that the synthesis and assessment products are produced without unduly affecting the ability to conduct research and in coordination with the IPCC assessment. DECISION SUPPORT The CCSP has appropriately made decision support an integral component of the strategic plan. Chapter 11, “Decision Support Resources Development,” emphasizes development of methods, tools, and processes for effective decision support. Effective implementation of the proposed decision support activities is vital to fulfilling the CCSP’s vision of providing the regional, national, and global communities with capabilities for managing the risks and opportunities of changes in climate and related environmental systems. This chapter has much more depth and specificity than did the comparable chapter in the draft strategic plan (see Box 2-3). Managing risks and opportunities requires stakeholder support on a range of scales and across multiple sectors, which in turn implies an understanding of the decision context for stakeholders. The revised plan identifies three categories of decision makers by decision type (see Box 2-3). As the decision support elements of the program are implemented, the CCSP will need to do a better job of identifying stakeholders and the types of decisions they need to make. This will improve the matching of decision types with the tools and methods most appropriate to that type of decision. The strategic plan stresses the value of open communication between scientific and stakeholder communities, mentioning “frequent use of ‘draft for comment’ methods” (CCSP, 2003, p. 7) and “advisory mechanisms . . . including workshops, committees, or NRC activities” (CCSP, 2003, p. 122). The committee lauds this aspect of the plan. However, the program needs to specify more clearly where stakeholder input will enter the process. The current plan should more effectively build upon a growing capability within the U.S. climate and global change research community to interact with potential users of climate and global change science, as was demonstrated in the U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (NAST, 2001). The revised plan generally overlooks the insights and relationships that were developed by the National Assessment. For example, the experience developed in assembling and maintaining networks of university researchers and stakeholders in different regions of the country is extraordinarily valuable, as are the networks themselves. These relationships should be supported if the CCSP is going to maintain strong stakeholder involvement. The plan also does not include areas of research relevant to regional-scale assessments identified as a result of the National Assessment. The committee reiterates the recommendation from its first report that the CCSP should “build upon the lessons learned in applied climate studies and stakeholder interaction from prior environmental and climate assessment activities.” This deficiency needs to be remedied quickly so that the program’s decision support activities reflect what the scientific community now knows, what it can accomplish, and what users would like to know. Effective implementation of the plan’s goals requires focused research to develop decision support resources and methods, as noted in this committee’s review of the draft strategic plan.4 The revised plan provides several good illustrations of information and resources that will assist in decision support, but it does not present a strong research plan to bolster the development of assessments, adaptive 4 “The draft plan fails to adequately distinguish between research to develop new decision support tools and understanding on the one hand, and operational decision support activities, on the other. It then does not successfully identify state-of-the-art undertakings in both” (NRC, 2003b, p. 5).
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Implementing Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Final U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan BOX 2-3 Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation The revised strategic plan should better describe how decision support capabilities will be developed and how these efforts will link with and inform the program’s research to improve understanding of climate and associated global changes. Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan The revised plan includes a much improved treatment of decision support in Chapter 11 (Decision Support Resources Development), which lays out a framework for the types of decision support activities to be undertaken by the program and how these will help identify decision information needs to guide the evolution of the CCSP science agenda. The decision support activities proposed are threefold: (1) prepare scientific syntheses and assessments; (2) develop resources to support adaptive management and planning; and (3) “develop and evaluate methods (scenario evaluations, integrated analyses, alternative analytical approaches) to support climate change policymaking and demonstrate these methods with case studies” (CCSP, 2003, p. 111). CCSP’s decision support research should also draw on other well-developed research methods, best practices, and basic insights from the social and behavioral sciences. Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation The revised strategic plan should identify which categories of decision makers the CCSP serves and describe how the program will improve two-way communication with them. Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan Three categories of decision making have been identified by decision type in Chapter 11 of the revised plan: (1) public discussion and planning; (2) “operational adaptive management decisions by managers of natural resources and build infrastructure;” and (3) support for policy formulation (CCSP, 2003, p. 113). Stakeholder interaction is one of the principal guidelines for the decision support approach. This interaction has been identified for problem identification and framing; review of analysis questions, methods, and draft results; codevelopment of decision support tools with interdisciplinary teams; and feedback from experiences with CCSP decision support projects and analyses (CCSP, 2003, p. 122). The chapter on communications (Chapter 14) in the revised plan better recognizes the importance of interactive communications, though few details are provided on how the program will improve this type of communication (CCSP, 2003, pp. 152-153). Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation The CCSP should encourage participation of those agencies whose research or operational responsibilities would strengthen the ability of the program to deliver products that serve national needs. Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan In Chapter 11 of the revised plan, Objective 2.2, focuses on the need to “promote the transition of resources from research to operations for sustained use” (CCSP, 2003, pp. 116-117). The revised plan’s chapter on program management mentions the need to ensure that mission agencies have access to “observations, methods, and information developed through CCSP” (CCSP, 2003, p. 172). No clear mechanism for engaging mission-oriented agencies is described in either chapter. Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation The revised strategic plan should identify what sources and magnitudes of reductions in key climate change uncertainties are especially needed and where an improved characterization of uncertainty would benefit decision making, and should use this information to guide the research program. Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan The revised strategic plan does not clearly identify key climate change uncertainties of relevance to decision making, though some information can be inferred from the overarching program goals and the selection of synthesis and assessment products. The document does not explicitly link program priorities for research to specific policymaker needs.
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Implementing Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Final U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan management, and interactions with stakeholders. The decision support research activities in the plan emphasize integrated assessment modeling and scenario development. CCSP’s decision support research should also draw on other well-developed research methods, best practices, and basic insights from the social and behavioral sciences. Employing these approaches will improve the synthesis and validation of information, the communication of uncertainty, understanding stakeholder needs and constraints, and the economics of decision making. These efforts would include learning how to better explain uncertainty by defining and communicating its source, its current magnitude, and the potential for that magnitude to increase in some areas, as well as the potential for it to be reduced. The plan retains a pervasive weakness with regard to economic analyses and economic modeling, although such approaches could yield powerful results for evaluating impacts and weighing possible response options. In addition, regional products and communication systems are important aspects of climate and associated global change that are not yet completely addressed in the strategic plan. The effective use of the “decision support toolbox” to be developed and tested within the plan is fully dependent upon the transfer of these tools from the research and developmental domain to the decision-making domain. The plan recognizes the need to “promote the transition of research to operations” (CCSP, 2003, p. 116). In the implementation phase the CCSP should specify the agencies or programs responsible for this transition, and describe the involvement of additional mission-oriented agencies that are not currently participants in the program. As discussed in this committee’s first report, mission-oriented agencies—such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, water resources and land management agencies within the Department of the Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers, and the extension and farm program agencies within U.S. Department of Agriculture—could be instrumental in making CCSP research results operational (see Box 2-3). The CCSP should work to support public-private-academic partnerships that could facilitate the transfer of research results to operational applications, borrowing where appropriate from the successful model used in the provision of weather services (NRC, 2003a). The CCSP should move forward aggressively in creating an effective decision support component of the program. To address the inherent challenges in this endeavor, the CCSP should adopt the approach and procedures outlined in Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society (NRC, 1996). It should organize a variety of deliberation activities (e.g., workshops, focus groups, working panels, citizen advisory groups) and involve a broad range of stakeholders, including those from government, industry, academia, users of decision support tools, and representatives of the public. The goals of these deliberation activities would be (1) to expand the range of decision support options being developed by the program; (2) to match decision support approaches to the decisions, decision makers, and user needs; and (3) to capitalize on the practical knowledge of practitioners, managers, and laypersons. Recommendation: The CCSP should further develop its decision support activities, making sure to meet the needs of local, regional, national, and international decision makers. OBSERVATIONS AND MODELS Two priority components of the CCSP are enhanced observations and modeling that are relevant to climate and associated global changes. The plan calls for significant advances in the capability of climate models to simulate future climate conditions and their associated regional impacts, and for major upgrades in the global Earth observing system. Both of these challenges have a degree of difficulty that will require systematic, sustained investments for a minimum of a decade if their full contributions to climate research and applications are to be realized. As discussed below, the CCSP needs to develop more comprehensive strategies for prioritizing and sequencing these investments to meet the stated goals. Observations The strategic plan recognizes the benefits of a robust and comprehensive observing system to monitor changes in climate, to support modeling efforts, and to expand understanding of the climate system (CCSP, 2003, p. 237). For example, the revised plan has an increased emphasis on the role of paleoclimate observations in providing information about the long-term context of climate change. Unfortunately, a comprehensive climate observing system is not yet in place and the CCSP will have to make a substantial commitment to support, coordinate, and better manage its observational activities if it is to attain such a system (see Box 2-4). The program will have to address the facts that no one agency now has the lead in climate observations, some parts of the existing observing system are in decline, and observational capabilities are only just being developed in some areas. For example, the quality and coverage of surface-based atmospheric monitoring systems have actually declined over the past decade (IPCC, 2001a), and the establishment of the climate observing system in the ocean has just begun and needs significantly greater support to be implemented and sustained. Chapter 12, “Observing and Monitoring,” identifies many goals for climate observing that have been previously articulated by
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Implementing Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Final U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan the community and a preliminary strategy for developing such a system. The chapter falls short, however, in providing a comprehensive strategy for implementing and sustaining such a system. Improving observational capabilities is a major challenge that requires the science community to rethink how to evolve a focused Earth observing system. Additional short-term investments called for in the plan (CCSP, 2003, p. 141) can serve as an initial increment toward achieving the system that will be required in the next several decades. Establishing and sustaining a truly robust and comprehensive observation system, however, will require a significant expansion in activities, and therefore a longer-term increase in funding above current levels. For example, many components of the existing observing system rely on expendable platforms, such as atmospheric radiosondes and profiling floats deployed in the ocean, and replacement costs will be ongoing; the cost of these expendables, as well as associated labor costs, has played a role in recent decisions to reduce surface-based observing capabilities. Attaining climate quality observations will require infrastructure, such as calibration facilities, to support and document instrumental accuracy, as well as investments to replace or update obsolete hardware. Other investments will be needed to establish new observing capabilities in regions critical for climate change analysis, such as the Southern Ocean and polar regions, and to meet the needs for improved assessments and predictions. A number of other aspects of the program’s climate observations strategy need improvement as well. First, the plan should explicitly build upon the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), which will become the primary space-based climate observing system for the United States in a few years. The CCSP should make sure that NPOESS is an important part of its observations and monitoring strategy. Second, the program should emphasize the periodic reanalysis of satellite observations to improve not only the current climate data records but also past climate data records. Third, the program should pay more attention to the use of surface-based and in situ observations of aerosols, clouds, and surface fluxes in validating satellite observations and in providing a robust baseline. Lastly, the program needs to better integrate itself with the international context for climate observations, as for example, coordinated by the international Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) and now receiving new attention as a result of the Earth Observing Summit hosted by the United States in the summer of 2003. In addition to improving climate observations, the CCSP faces challenges in strengthening monitoring of societal and ecosystem impacts. For example, the plan’s chapter on “Human Contributions and Responses to Environmental Change” does not discuss observational needs and only a few examples are listed as part of the chapter on “Observing and Monitoring the Climate System” in Appendix 12.2 of the revised plan. Indeed, the integration of biogeochemical, ecosystem, demographic, land-use, and water-use observations will be critical for decision support and human impacts data, and is already integrated into IPCC assessments (e.g., IPCC, 2001b). The CCSP should carefully consider the detailed nature of its commitment to establish and sustain a global Earth BOX 2-4 Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation The revised strategic plan should better describe a strategic program for achieving an integrated observing system for detecting and understanding climate variability and change and associated global changes on scales from regional to global. Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan The revised plan’s treatment of climate system observing and monitoring is much improved over the draft plan in that it devotes all of Chapter 12 to describing the CCSP’s goals for climate system observing and monitoring. The plan still falls short in providing a comprehensive strategy for implementing and sustaining a global climate observing system. This is a major challenge and will require the program to develop an approach to sequencing investments over many years. Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation The global and long-term historical context of climate change and variability should receive greater emphasis in the revised strategic plan. Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan The revised plan has increased the emphasis on the global and long-term context of climate variability and change in the chapter on this topic. In particular, the plan includes more attention to global modes of variability other than the El Niño Southern Oscillation (CCSP, 2003, pp. 44-47) and to analyses of the paleoclimate record (CCSP, 2003, pp. 47-48).
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Implementing Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Final U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan observing system. Indeed, the program should take the lead in identifying, securing, and coordinating the investments necessary to establish, maintain, and evolve the observing system that will be required to answer the crucial questions pertaining to climate and associated global change that will be asked of it over this century. Recommendation: The CCSP should develop a more comprehensive strategy for implementing and sustaining a global climate observing system. Modeling Improving climate models is widely recognized as a major national and international priority. The strategic plan appropriately calls for greatly improved climate models both for “synthesizing observations, theory, and experimental results to investigate how the Earth system works and how it is affected by human activities” (CCSP, 2003, p. 101) and for “sustained and timely delivery of predictive model products that are required for assessments BOX 2-5 Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation The revised strategic plan should more fully describe how models and knowledge that support regional decision making and place-based science will be developed. Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan The revised plan more fully describes regional climate modeling activities as well as some other activities to support regional decision making. In Chapter 10 (Modeling Strategy), Objective 1.6 focuses on CCSP efforts to “accelerate the development of science-based predictive models to provide regional and fine-scale climate and climate impacts information relevant to scientific research and decision support applications” (CCSP, 2003, pp. 105-106). Further efforts are needed to ensure that these models are developed with stakeholder involvement and that they integrate simulations of societal and ecosystem impacts. The discussion in Chapter 11 (Decisions Support Resource Development) of adaptively managing natural and human systems affected by climate change (CCSP, 2003, pp. 114-117) also identifies many regional-scale decisions and the activities CCSP will pursue to help inform these decisions. Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation The discussion of applied climate modeling should be revised to better describe how model projections will be incorporated into the broader suite of decision support activities and to better address the key challenges to attaining the applied climate modeling goals set forward in the plan. Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan The revised plan includes a new chapter articulating the program’s modeling strategy. Applied climate modeling activities are described in Goal 3 of this chapter, “Coordinate and accelerate climate modeling activities and provide relevant decision support information on a timely basis” (CCSP, 2003, pp. 108-110). Integrated assessment modeling is also discussed as one of the tools the program will develop for decision support (CCSP, 2003, pp. 117-120). Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation The revised strategic plan should provide details about how the CCSP will acquire the computing resources necessary to achieve its goals Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan The revised plan’s Chapter 10 (Modeling Strategy) states that the CCSP will “provide the computing, data storage and retrieval, and software engineering resources required to support a world-class U.S. climate modeling activity” (CCSP, 2003, p. 106). Priorities under this objective include: “support researchers in developing more comprehensive coupled models,” “provide researchers at the major modeling centers with access to steadily growing computational resources that increase by a factor of four each year,” coordinate with the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s High-End Computing Revitalization Task Force, support development of software, and develop and maintain tailored information technology infrastructure. Based on available budgets for acquiring new computers and the expected rate of improvement in computing technology over the next five years, the increase in computing capabilities is unlikely.
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Implementing Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Final U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan and other decision support needs” (CCSP, 2003, p. 101). The revised plan includes a new chapter (Chapter 10) in which climate models are discussed, a substantial improvement over the scattered treatment of models in the draft plan. However, to achieve the climate modeling goals, the CCSP should develop a strategy for sequencing investments to address long-term research challenges. The CCSP should revisit its promise to increase computational resources by a factor of four each year for five years (see Box 2-5). Based on available budgets for acquiring new computers and the expected rate of improvement in computing technology over the next five years, this increase in computing capabilities is unlikely. For the most part, Chapter 10 presents a strategy for producing climate change projections through two modeling centers, but fails to present a national strategy for the seasonal-to-interannual climate predictions so important to many stakeholders. The operational demands, requirements, and mandate for the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) are relegated to a middle-level status and little attention is given to obtaining and providing the computational resources needed for multiscale climate prediction. Without a fundamental change in approach to fully support seasonal-to-interannual climate prediction, the United States will be unsuccessful in the delivery of climate services. The continued development and application of regional climate models will also be essential to the delivery of climate services. An improved understanding of climate change and its impacts at the regional scale will require an enhanced regional climate modeling capability. The last few years have brought significant improvements in these capabilities, improvements that are not fully recognized in the strategic plan. Even so, there are many unresolved issues about regional climate models. In implementation, the CCSP should support the development and application of regional climate models to a greater extent than described in the revised plan (see Box 2-5). The CCSP should also support development of a research and applications infrastructure that enables stakeholder involvement to ensure valuable societal use of information produced by these models. This research and stakeholder community, along with the necessary infrastructure, is still in the formative stage. In the future, CCSP should launch new efforts to develop modeling approaches for projecting societal and ecosystem impacts and for designing and evaluating response options. Recommendation: The CCSP should develop a more comprehensive strategy for meeting climate modeling goals. LINKAGES BETWEEN CCSP AND CCTP The committee’s review of the draft strategic plan recommended that the CCSP “assess the scientific implications of technologies under consideration by the CCTP and develop realistic emissions scenarios for climate and associated global changes with these technologies in mind” (see Box 2-6). The CCSP, in cooperation with the CCTP, has made commendable efforts to address this recommendation. In particular, joint activities of the CCSP and the CCTP to develop improved scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions are described in the revised plan. Comments by CCSP and CCTP representatives at the committee’s August 2003 meeting indicated that efforts are already yielding benefits in coordinating the two programs. The committee is concerned, however, that efforts to coordinate CCSP and CCTP activities are not identified beyond these scenario development activities. One area that has been overlooked is the evaluation of social and environmental impacts of potential new technologies, such as land-use requirements for developing bioenergy or the necessity to divert massive economic resources to develop the infrastructure to support a hydrogen economy. Another area for coordination involves research on the extent to which mitigation or adaptation strategies developed under the CCTP might produce climate or other environmental BOX 2-6 Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation The CCSP should assess the scientific implications of technologies under consideration by the CCTP and develop realistic scenarios for climate change with these technologies in mind. The program management chapter of the revised CCSP strategic plan should clearly describe mechanisms for coordinating and linking its activities with the technology development activities of the CCTP. Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan The cabinet-based management structure described in the revised plan’s chapter on program management provides executive direction under which CCSP and CCTP activities will be coordinated. Planning and implementation for activities relevant to both programs will be coordinated through interagency working groups (CCSP, 2003, pp. 172-174). The plan identifies only a few specific areas where the CCSP and CCTP will coordinate, focusing primarily on the development of scenarios (CCSP, 2003, pp. 119-120).
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Implementing Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Final U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan impacts, such as those that may be associated with large-scale sequestration of carbon dioxide in geological or oceanic reservoirs. The CCSP strategic plan does include research to evaluate “environmental effects of mitigation options that involve reduction or prevention of greenhouse gas emissions” (CCSP, 2003, p. 82), which should in turn be coordinated with CCTP activities. Of particular concern is the poorly defined role of economic analyses in the coordination between CCSP and CCTP. Although the need for economic analyses is identified in Chapter 9, “Human Contributions and Responses to Environmental Change,” the plan does not explain how these efforts would be coordinated with CCTP technology development or with economic analyses that might be conducted under the CCTP. The milestones, products, and payoffs relevant to research in economics are limited in scope, indicating that the program is not positioned to address these research needs. Though these coordination issues may be resolved as the CCTP completes its strategic planning and as both programs mature, there remains a risk that critical research areas may be overlooked at the interface of the two programs, particularly as the science and general understanding develop in parallel. The CCSP and CCTP should establish a systematic mechanism for identifying research areas that require coordination between their two programs, and develop administrative and financial approaches, as well as external review, for supporting research activities that fall at their interface.
Representative terms from entire chapter: