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BOX 4.1

Crosscutting Themes for the New Era of Climate Change Research

Research to Improve Understanding of Human-Environment Systems

  1. Climate Forcings, Feedbacks, Responses, and Thresholds in the Earth System

  2. Climate-related Human Behaviors and Institutions

Research to Support Effective Responses to Climate Change

  1. Vulnerability and Adaptation Analyses of Coupled Human-Environment Systems

  2. Research to Support Strategies for Limiting Climate Change

  3. Effective Information and Decision-Support Systems

Research Tools and Approaches to Improve Both Understanding and Responses

  1. Integrated Climate Observing Systems

  2. Improved Projections, Analyses, and Assessments

increased dialogue with decision makers across a wide range of sectors and scales. As discussed in Chapter 5, these characteristics all point to the need for an expanded and enhanced climate change science enterprise—an enterprise that is comprehensive, integrative, interdisciplinary, and better supports decision making both in the United States and around the world.

In the following sections, the seven integrative, crosscutting research themes identified by the panel are discussed in detail. Our intent is to describe some of the more important scientific issues that could be addressed within each theme, to show how they collectively span the most critical areas of climate change research, and to demonstrate the vital importance of research progress in all of these areas to the health and well-being of citizens of the United States as well as people and natural systems around the world. Issues related to the implementation of these themes are explored in the next chapter.


Scientific understanding of climate change and its interactions with other environmental changes is underpinned by empirical and theoretical understanding of the Earth system, which includes the atmosphere, land surface, cryosphere, and oceans,

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