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Informing Decisions in a Changing Climate
tific understanding, in experience with response options, and in the needs identified as critical for decision making. In such an environment, effective decision support cannot be reduced to a stable bureaucratic formula or be optimally designed from the outset. Rather, climate decision support must be designed to recognize local contexts and surprises and to improve over time, as climate change unfolds, as more organizations across society come to address climate change on a regular basis, and as scientific understanding of climate changes. Several types of deliberate learning processes, including program evaluation and adaptive management, could prove effective. But an analytic-deliberative approach to decision making and learning, which integrates scientific information into a broadly participatory and iterative process of appraisal and reconsideration, is usually best suited to the kind of decision environment that is typical in responding to climate change: one characterized by changing physical conditions, changing information, and multiple participants with different and sometimes changing objectives.
THE FEDERAL ROLE IN DECISION SUPPORT
It is important to emphasize that in developing new structures and institutions for decision support, the federal government plays an important but not exclusive role. To change the energy system and learn to live with a climate system that is no longer stationary, millions of decision makers—state and local governments and their agencies, large and small businesses, nonprofit organizations, as well as individuals and households—will need information, and much of this information will be provided from sources other than the federal government. This multiplicity of information sources is desirable because there will be no one best source of information for the wide range and variety of decision makers with their varied needs.
A federal role and federal leadership are essential, however, for informing national responses to climate change. In Chapter 1 we identify four roles for federal agencies: (1) service to agencies’ constituencies and to other climate-affected constituencies that cannot otherwise get the information they need; (2) international collaboration; (3) provision of public goods (research, observations, communications links, etc.); and (4) facilitation of decision-making processes by nonfederal entities. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 include several recommendations regarding ways to perform these roles.
Decision support requires resources: money, new kinds of expertise, training of people in new skills, new interorganizational relationships, and supportive forums and organizations. The federal government is not the only source of these resources. Businesses will find opportunities to profit by supplying decision support in the form of new services and products, as already occurs, for example, with consulting firms and with companies that highlight the need for—and then offer to sell—carbon offsets for air travel-