Discussion: Organizational Needs and Issues

ORGANIZATION OF THE RESEARCH COMMUNITY

Several workshop participants commented that researchers working on vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation—as well as those working more broadly on the human dimensions of global change—have no centrally organizing focus and seem to be fragmented. Research on vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation is funded by multiple and dispersed entities, which are often not dedicated to climate-related work and therefore do not establish formal networks and relationships to identify and set priorities for research (or decision support) needs.

Much of the existing work is focused at fine scales, which is often necessary for rigorous methodologies, but it does not facilitate comparative or integrative collaborations. By contrast, climate work in the physical sciences is organized around specific models and identified needs, often with public funding, such as through the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). Achieving similar gains in research and deliverables in the field of vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation will require financial investments, coordination, and cross-scalar linkages that are needed but do not presently exist.

Participants offered several ideas for actions to help lay the groundwork for such an effort:

  • Create a world climate impacts and responses program, to complement the work of the WCRP.

  • Identify the human and funding resources needed to strengthen



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 17
Discussion: Organizational Needs and Issues ORGANIZATION OF THE RESEARCH COMMuNITy Several workshop participants commented that researchers working on vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation—as well as those working more broadly on the human dimensions of global change—have no centrally organizing focus and seem to be fragmented. Research on vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation is funded by multiple and dispersed entities, which are often not dedicated to climate-related work and therefore do not establish formal networks and relationships to identify and set priori- ties for research (or decision support) needs. Much of the existing work is focused at fine scales, which is often necessary for rigorous methodologies, but it does not facilitate compara- tive or integrative collaborations. By contrast, climate work in the physi- cal sciences is organized around specific models and identified needs, often with public funding, such as through the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). Achieving similar gains in research and deliverables in the field of vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation will require financial investments, coordination, and cross-scalar linkages that are needed but do not presently exist. Participants offered several ideas for actions to help lay the ground- work for such an effort: • Create a world climate impacts and responses program, to comple- ment the work of the WCRP. • Identify the human and funding resources needed to strengthen 

OCR for page 17
 NEW DIRECTIONS IN CLIMATE CHANGE the vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation research base, fill gaps, and build research capacity, while meeting increasingly urgent and unfulfilled public needs for expertise and decision support. • Strengthen coordination of research efforts with the vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation research community, and across working group research areas and communities, including organized involvement in scenario development exercises already under way in anticipation of the next assessment report process of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). • Identify gaps in existing knowledge about climate impacts on indi- vidual sectors and policy areas. • Emphasize the broader context of adaptation to draw on prior research on sustainability, development, and multiple stressors. IPCC STRuCTuRE AND ACTIVITIES The IPCC has accomplished a great deal, including building linked scientific and political consensus, communicating scientific findings to decision makers and the public, stimulating the development of an inter- national climate change research community, facilitating science-based policy development, and protecting science from political distortion. Other assessment processes have followed its format as precedent. Despite these important successes, some IPCC contributors wish to offer constructive criticisms. Some of the criticisms concern the IPCC pro- cess, which is seen as increasingly ponderous, expensive, and bureaucratic. Other criticisms are that the IPCC moves by virtue of inertia, without suf- ficient strategic planning or capacity for change, so that time and energy invested in the process may begin to show diminishing returns. Process evaluation mechanisms are sorely needed to channel such criticisms and foster organizational learning, so that the process can be strengthened from within and in full communication with its leadership. Workshop participants identified quite a few options for improving the IPCC pro- cess, including the following: • Formalize a regular self-evaluation process, perhaps including stakeholders. • Increase attention to what is not known as well as what is known. • Address structural obstacles to an integrated assessment of mitiga- tion and adaptation, including: — Incorporate a synthesis effort in the beginning process stages of future assessments.

OCR for page 17
 ORGANIZATIONAL NEEDS AND ISSUES — Increase interactions across working groups. — Create a structural level above working group chairs to link across them, such as an IPCC vice chair. • Strengthen relationships among climate modelers, impacts model- ers, and analysts working on vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation. • Provide socioeconomic scenarios as context for impact and response assessments. • Develop special reports on integrated scenarios and adaptation. • Synthesize mitigation and adaptation in regional IPCC chapters, building on the existing volumes. • Pick a few high-priority gaps in the research base and accelerate targeted gap-filling efforts, such as potential impact costs, adaptation prospects and approaches, multicausal driving forces for impacts and responses, possible impact thresholds, and tipping points. • Catalyze research through special reports, expert meetings, and workshops, through which smaller groups can answer urgent and cross-cutting questions (perhaps permitting longer times between full assessments). • Develop more effective approaches to plenary session approvals, to reduce exhaustion and adversarial interactions. • Increase outreach and access, especially through the Internet, since closed deliberations are vulnerable to leaks; forethought and caution are warranted, however, if stakeholders are to be directly involved. • Seek a balance between the identification of synthesis questions early in the process and the need for fluidity in later stages of writing and plenary negotiation. • Recognize that the purpose of the IPCC may be shifting. • Identify uncertainties and research needs. • Provide robust damage narratives for different mitigation timelines. • Develop indicators and updates for annual or periodic release, sidestepping the repeated scrutiny of confidence levels. • Include conclusions that may have lower confidence levels but high public risks. u.S. FEDERAL AGENCIES Workshop participants clearly articulated the reality that major cli- mate impacts are global; they will cross sectors, agency responsibilities, and international borders. In addition to the growing needs for mitigation and adaptation research, geosecurity issues will arise with new geoengi- neering proposals and experiments. These realities challenge the existing

OCR for page 17
0 NEW DIRECTIONS IN CLIMATE CHANGE research and funding networks and require new modes of organization, bridge-building, and facilitation. There are extensive and relevant datasets in agencies and reports that are presently invisible and inaccessible to the public and to science and need to be made available. Physical datasets, such as those collected by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellites and by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on emissions, are difficult to integrate with datasets on human phenomena (such as cen- sus data on income, demographics, and migration). Interoperability will require innovation, planning, resources, management, and administration. Though sufficient funding is not yet available for implementation, plan- ning could begin now. A separate public entity could be created to man- age climate-related data, or the role could fall within the climate services function proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra- tion. Data-handling precedents in risk and vulnerability research might help. However, congressional definitions of federal agencies’ missions sometimes restrict their research programs from playing needed data management roles. Participants briefly discussed a few agencies with relevant mandates and datasets. u.S. Environmental Protection Agency Workshop participants pointed out that major changes have taken place at EPA over the last year or more, due to the IPCC’s impact on the agency’s ability to discuss climate-related issues and to the Supreme Court’s decision requiring EPA to reconsider risks to public health and welfare when considering regulation of motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. New incentives have arisen to connect science and policy, costs of impacts and adaptation policies, and EPA’s mandates to protect public health and the environment. Almost every EPA office is rethinking the work it does. This rethinking includes using risk management frameworks in addition to more conventional cost-ben- efit tools. It may include organizing around sectors, though this strategy may run counter to the usual self-organization of constituencies. It may also include planning and regulation that encompass both mitigation and adaptation, especially since climate change will affect EPA’s ability to meet its legal mandates. u.S. Department of Energy Participants noted that U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has an integrated assessment program that funds basic research. Questions about impacts and adaptation have recently come to the fore and will take on

OCR for page 17
 ORGANIZATIONAL NEEDS AND ISSUES greater importance in the years ahead, with concomitant funding. Plan- ning now can help maximize effective use of future resources. Especially from the DOE perspective, integrated assessment models may be the most promising modeling frameworks for exploring the full range of human-natural systems dynamics in climate change. Current models are considerably more capable in their treatment of mitigation (cli- mate drivers) than in their treatment of impacts and adaptation (climate consequences). The integrated assessment modeling community is begin- ning to address this imbalance, including collaborations with research- ers and analysts working on vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation, but exploration of different tools, techniques, and collaborations is required if integrated assessment models are to be truly useful for the analysis of climate change consequences. Initial priorities reflect a need for better modeling of the connected land-water-energy impacts of climate change, as well as general methodological approaches. Fundamentally, the research questions are becoming more dynamic: What does climate change mean for researchers and analysts? What are the tradeoffs? Do researchers and analysts need to develop different scenarios that inform a broader range of possible issues? Are single-point estimates and scenarios a substitute or complement to probabilistic frameworks? How should the nonlinearities, such as tipping points, be handled? These and many more questions will require intense research focus if balanced models reflecting vulnerability to, impacts of, and adaptation to climate change are to be developed. u.S. National Aeronautic and Space Administration The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) studies the earth system from space, traditionally from a global perspective. The agency has played a key role in understanding physical climate change and is now looking at new questions, such as regional modeling and scal- ing. NASA wishes to expand the utility of its satellite observations and other assets for decision support, as well as basic science. Easier access to observations archived in longer time series is needed, to inform impacts and vulnerability assessments and for other purposes. u.S. Geological Survey The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the research arm of the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), has long-term time-series datasets. DOI manages one of every five acres of U.S. land and uses both staff and vol- unteers to collect data on wildlife, ecosystems, and climate change. This includes basic research, decision support, and information transfer.

OCR for page 17
 NEW DIRECTIONS IN CLIMATE CHANGE u.S. National Science Foundation The National Science Foundation supports climate-related research, not through any central priority setting, but through its usual researcher- driven peer review process. Numerous research funding opportunities exist in disparate programs. SCIENCE AND POLICy TIMELINES The public and decision makers have become aware that responses to climate change are of utmost urgency. They want to know what they can do now. Even without this new pressure, policy makers operate on shorter decision horizons than researchers do. Few think farther ahead than 8 years at most. Nonetheless, the research community is now laying out longer-term agendas and needs. Pragmatically, researchers can accommodate this discrepancy by offering short-term messages. That doesn’t mean abandoning longer- term analysis and planning; rather, it means interacting with the public on practical and effective terms. Yet climate is an unprecedented policy challenge and will require public institutions to change the way they do business.