This comprehensive, integrative program of science will need to continue current research but also engage in new research themes and directions, including research in the physical, social, ecological, environmental, health, and engineering sciences, as well as research that integrates these and other disciplines. Creating and implementing this more integrated and decision-relevant scientific enterprise will require fundamental changes in the way that research efforts are organized, the way research priorities are set, the way research is linked with decision making across a broad range of scales, the way the federal scientific program interfaces and partners with other entities, and the way that infrastructural assets and human capital are developed and maintained. This chapter examines some of the steps that will be needed to implement this new era of climate change research.
Climate change research efforts that address the seven crosscutting themes described in Chapter 4 have several important distinguishing characteristics.
Climate change affects a wide range of human, ecological, and physical properties and processes, and it interacts in complex ways with other global and regional environmental changes. The response of human and environmental systems to this spectrum of changes is likewise complex. Given this complexity, understanding climate change, its impacts, and potential responses inherently requires integration of knowledge bases from different areas of the physical, biological, social, health, and engineering sciences. Science that supports effective responses to climate change also will require integration of information across spatial and temporal scales. For example, global-or regional-scale information about changes in the climate system often needs to be analyzed in the context of local data on economic activity, vulnerable assets and resources, human well-being, and other place-specific information. Climate change science in the coming decades will need to be more multi- and interdisciplinary and integrative than in the past.
In some ways, the call for cross-disciplinary and cross-scale integration is a step, albeit a large one, in a progression that has been under way in national and international climate science for quite some time. As described later in the chapter, a number of domestic and international scientific programs have organized the research community to focus on climate and other regional and global environmental changes. These