Discussion: Emerging Needs in Decision Support

Workshop participants commented that some adaptation policy decisions are politically difficult and suggested that open and informed discussion between scientists and policy makers could help. Agencies and researchers are receiving increasing numbers of questions from various sectors and government offices. With scientific expertise stretched so thin, it can be hard to meet all the expressed needs. In the simultaneous rush for action on so many climate-related fronts, some necessary science policy priority-setting discussions may be bypassed. For instance, some policy initiatives may set certain mitigation or adaptation targets so high that compliance would require shortcuts that might be inadvisable. Similarly, some international development funders are so intent on funding immediate adaptation actions that basic research, needs assessment, capacity building, and strategic planning may be overlooked. Researchers are being asked to provide policy advice and decision support while the research base for this advice is underdeveloped and underfunded.

U.S. federal agencies are generally not tracking or budgeting climate-related research as such, so that some of this research is not counted in climate research budgets. At the same time, projects that only have a small climate component are sometimes identified as climate research. Existing work sponsored by the agencies is not necessarily coordinated or directed by needs and priorities. Efforts to share information about models, datasets, programs, and personnel would be helpful.

New and unanticipated uses of scientific information are emerging rapidly. For example, because of the Supreme Court decision that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must decide whether to regulate



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Discussion: Emerging Needs in Decision Support Workshop participants commented that some adaptation policy deci- sions are politically difficult and suggested that open and informed dis- cussion between scientists and policy makers could help. Agencies and researchers are receiving increasing numbers of questions from various sectors and government offices. With scientific expertise stretched so thin, it can be hard to meet all the expressed needs. In the simultaneous rush for action on so many climate-related fronts, some necessary sci- ence policy priority-setting discussions may be bypassed. For instance, some policy initiatives may set certain mitigation or adaptation targets so high that compliance would require shortcuts that might be inadvisable. Similarly, some international development funders are so intent on fund- ing immediate adaptation actions that basic research, needs assessment, capacity building, and strategic planning may be overlooked. Researchers are being asked to provide policy advice and decision support while the research base for this advice is underdeveloped and underfunded. U.S. federal agencies are generally not tracking or budgeting climate- related research as such, so that some of this research is not counted in climate research budgets. At the same time, projects that only have a small climate component are sometimes identified as climate research. Existing work sponsored by the agencies is not necessarily coordinated or directed by needs and priorities. Efforts to share information about models, data- sets, programs, and personnel would be helpful. New and unanticipated uses of scientific information are emerging rapidly. For example, because of the Supreme Court decision that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must decide whether to regulate 

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 EMERGING NEEDS IN DECISION SUPPORT motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions on the basis of the risks to public health and welfare, the agency is facing huge analytic tasks, including the challenge of cost–benefit analyses of phenomena that are difficult to quantify. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) may be required to include climate impact statements in energy efficiency rulemakings, cre- ating pressures to establish regulatory precedents using numbers gen- erated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for unanticipated purposes, perhaps without the appropriate methodologi- cal deliberations. Municipalities are asking consultants to tell them what the climate impacts will be on their infrastructure, utilities, and other services, but without sufficient funds and research to produce the nec- essary information. Authors of the IPCC Working Group II chapter on North America identified major gaps in the literature, including climate impacts on energy use, transportation, and biomass productivity. Time constraints prevented inclusion of that discussion in the working group’s report, however. Congress and others are not aware that the money going to climate research may not be directed toward meeting the needs of local constituents. Even the IPCC is limited in the guidance and leadership it provides. Some of the questions asked of IPCC report contributors are dated and make it difficult to include important scientific findings. The demands on Working Group II will increase in the next assessment report; meeting those demands will require additional organizational efforts. Chapter out- lines and templates might help when writing the next report, even though some authors object to top-down formatting of content, but the bigger challenge is to structure the research community at large. International research organizations, including the U.N. Environmental Program, the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), and START (the Global Change System for Analysis, Research, and Train- ing), have not produced sufficient administrative or funding resources in the past. Funding has emphasized projects, not networking or capacity development. In writing the fourth IPCC assessment report, it became clear that there are policy tradeoffs between mitigation and adaptation. Feedbacks are becoming more visible, and many report authors now want to link the two in concept and organization. For example, the rapid development of biofuels has immediate effects on food security. The siting of nuclear power plants in coastal areas becomes problematic when sea levels rise. As air temperatures rise, people use more electricity for air conditioning. Population growth and migrations can overwhelm water supplies already burdened by more direct impacts of climate change on hydrologic cycles, as well as by agricultural and hydropower needs. Policy and research

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 NEW DIRECTIONS IN CLIMATE CHANGE paradigms need to reflect such shifting realities. Analysis requires model- ing and scenario building. Several workshop participants posited that the next IPCC report must include robust damage narratives for different mitigation timelines. It will also likely discuss the costs of failing to mitigate and adapt. Since three of the four new IPCC scenarios for trajectories of radiative forcing project mean global warming higher than 3°C by the end of this century, public concern about impacts and adaptation will increase.