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Implementing Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Final U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan
ENSURING A BALANCED AND SOCIETALLY RELEVANT PROGRAM
The revised strategic plan addresses much of the critical science relevant to climate and associated global change in a strategic framework that places the research it proposes in the context of national needs. It includes five overarching goals (see Box ES-1) that are consistent with the vision, roughly balanced among the areas of emphasis for the program, and of appropriate scope needed to address climate and associated global change. The fourth and fifth goals, in particular, will be crucial in ensuring the societal relevance of the program, as they focus on understanding impacts on ecosystems and human systems as well as supporting decisions related to prevention and response options. The committee applauds this emphasis, but finds it will require significant new efforts in areas that are not presently well supported by the CCSP. 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.
The plan’s attention to research and decision support related to the regional and international aspects of climate and associated global change is particularly welcome. As these elements are implemented, the program will need to do a better job of identifying stakeholders and the types of decisions they need to make. The CCSP should provide the scientific knowledge and analyses needed to support national and international policy decisions, including those aimed at mitigating climate change, as well as local, state, and regional decisions. Correcting the plan’s continuing systematic weakness with regard to economic analyses will be critical, because such analysis is crucial for evaluating impacts and weighing possible response options. The purpose of the plan’s proposed synthesis and assessment products also must be clarified, because it is unclear whether they either will meet the 1990 Global Change Research Act requirement for impact assessments or will satisfy the program’s need to evaluate progress toward program goals or other management objectives. The CCSP should further develop its decision support activities, making sure to meet the needs of local, regional, national, and international decision makers. 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.
OBSERVATIONS AND MODELING
The plan appropriately calls for major upgrades in global observing capabilities and for significant advances in climate modeling. It falls short, however, in providing a strategy for implementing, sustaining, and evolving an observing system necessary to answer the crucial questions pertaining to climate and associated global changes that will be asked of it over this century. Such a strategy for observations should be well coordinated with related international efforts for maximum effectiveness. A strategy is also needed for meeting the stated modeling goals, particularly for delivering a wide range of products, including long-term climate projections, seasonal to interannual climate predictions, regional climate models, and projections of societal and ecosystem impacts. The CCSP should develop more comprehensive strategies for implementing and sustaining a global Earth observing system and for meeting climate modeling goals.
BOX ES-1 Overarching CCSP Goals in the Revised Strategic Plan
CCSP Goal 1: Improve knowledge of the Earth’s past and present climate and environment, including its natural variability, and improve understanding of the causes of observed variability and change.
CCSP Goal 2: Improve quantification of the forces bringing about changes in the Earth’s climate and related systems.
CCSP Goal 3: Reduce uncertainty in projections of how the Earth’s climate and related systems may change in the future.
CCSP Goal 4: Understand the sensitivity and adaptability of different natural and managed ecosystems and human systems to climate and related global changes.
CCSP Goal 5: Explore the uses and identify the limits of evolving knowledge to manage risks and opportunity related to climate variability and change