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Advancing the Science of Climate Change

America’s Climate Choices: Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change

Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate

Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Washington, D.C.
www.nap.edu



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Advancing the Science of Climate Change America’s Climate Choices: Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Division on Earth and Life Studies

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T HE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS • 500 Fifth Street, N.W. • Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special compe- tences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under contract number DG133R08CQ0062. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsoring agency. International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-14588-6 (Book) International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-14588-0 (Book) International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-14589-3 (PDF) International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-14589-9 (PDF) Library of Congress Catalog Control Number: 2010940606 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu Cover images: Far left: courtesy of Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service. Photograph by Scott Bauer. Middle left: Borden, K., and S. Cutter. 2008. Spatial patterns of natural hazards mortality in the United States. International Journal of Health Geographics 7 (1):64. Middle right: Courtesy of DOE/NREL; Credit - Sandia National Laboratories. Far right: Courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce. Photograph by Commander John Bortniak, NOAA Corps, August 1991. Copyright 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distin- guished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to se- cure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and educa- tion. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of fur- thering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing ser- vices to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org

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AMERICA’S CLIMATE CHOICES: PANEL ON ADVANCING THE SCIENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE PAMELA A. MATSON (Chair), Stanford University, California THOMAS DIETZ ( Vice Chair), Michigan State University, East Lansing WALEED ABDALATI, University of Colorado at Boulder ANTONIO J. BUSALACCHI, JR., University of Maryland, College Park KEN CALDEIRA, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford, California ROBERT W. CORELL, H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment, Washington, D.C. RUTH S. DEFRIES, Columbia University, New York, New York INEZ Y. FUNG, University of California, Berkeley STEVEN GAINES, University of California, Santa Barbara GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee MARIA CARMEN LEMOS, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor SUSANNE C. MOSER, Susanne Moser Research & Consulting, Santa Cruz, California RICHARD H. MOSS, Joint Global Change Research Institute (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory/University of Maryland), College Park, Maryland EDWARD A. PARSON, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor A. R. RAVISHANKARA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado RAYMOND W. SCHMITT, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts B. L. TURNER, II, Arizona State University, Tempe WARREN M. WASHINGTON, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado JOHN P. WEYANT, Stanford University, California DAVID A. WHELAN, The Boeing Company, Seal Beach, California NRC Staff IAN KRAUCUNAS, Study Director PAUL STERN, Director, Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change ART CHARO, Senior Program Officer, Space Studies Board MAGGIE WALSER, Associate Program Officer KATHERINE WELLER, Research Associate GYAMI SHRESTHA, Christine Mirzayan Science and Policy Fellow ROB GREENWAY, Program Associate 

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Foreword: About America’s Climate Choices C onvened by the National Research Council in response to a request from Congress (P.L. 110-161), America’s Climate Choices is a suite of five coordinated activities designed to study the serious and sweeping issues associated with global climate change, including the science and technology challenges involved, and to provide advice on the most effective steps and most promising strategies that can be taken to respond. The Committee on America’s Climate Choices is responsible for providing overall direc- tion, coordination, and integration of the America’s Climate Choices suite of activities and ensuring that these activities provide well-supported, action-oriented, and useful advice to the nation. The committee convened a Summit on America’s Climate Choices on March 30–31, 2009, to help frame the study and provide an opportunity for high- level input on key issues. The committee is also charged with writing a final report that builds on four panel reports and other sources to answer the following four overarch- ing questions: • What short-term actions can be taken to respond effectively to climate change? • What promising long-term strategies, investments, and opportunities could be pursued to respond to climate change? • What are the major scientific and technological advances needed to better understand and respond to climate change? • What are the major impediments (e.g., practical, institutional, economic, ethi- cal, intergenerational, etc.) to responding effectively to climate change, and what can be done to overcome these impediments? The Panel on Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change was charged to de- scribe, analyze, and assess strategies for reducing the net future human influence on climate. This report focuses on actions to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions and other human drivers of climate change, such as changes in land use, but also con- siders the international dimensions of climate stabilization. The Panel on Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change was charged to describe, analyze, and assess actions and strategies to reduce vulnerability, increase adaptive ii

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FOREWORD capacity, improve resiliency, and promote successful adaptation to climate change in different regions, sectors, systems, and populations. The panel’s report draws on a wide range of sources and case studies to identify lessons learned from past experiences, promising current approaches, and potential new directions. The Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change was charged to provide a concise overview of past, present, and future climate change, including its causes and its impacts, and to recommend steps to advance our current understanding, including new observations, research programs, next-generation models, and the physical and human assets needed to support these and other activities. This report focuses on the scientific advances needed both to improve our understanding of the integrated human-climate system and to devise more effective responses to climate change. The Panel on Informing Effective Decisions and Actions Related to Climate Change was charged to describe and assess different activities, products, strategies, and tools for informing decision makers about climate change and helping them plan and ex- ecute effective, integrated responses. The panel’s report describes the different types of climate change-related decisions and actions being taken at various levels and in different sectors and regions; it develops a framework, tools, and practical advice for ensuring that the best available technical knowledge about climate change is used to inform these decisions and actions. America’s Climate Choices builds on an extensive foundation of previous and ongoing work, including National Research Council reports, assessments from other national and international organizations, the current scientific literature, climate action plans by various entities, and other sources. More than a dozen boards and standing com- mittees of the National Research Council were involved in developing the study, and many additional groups and individuals provided additional input during the study process. Outside viewpoints were also obtained via public events and workshops (including the Summit), invited presentations at committee and panel meetings, and comments received through the study website, http://americasclimatechoices.org. Collectively, the America’s Climate Choices suite of activities involves more than 90 volunteers from a range of communities including academia, various levels of govern- ment, business and industry, other nongovernmental organizations, and the interna- tional community. Responsibility for the final content of each report rests solely with the authoring panel and the National Research Council. However, the development of each report included input from and interactions with members of all five study groups; the membership of each group is listed in Appendix A. iii

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Preface T he Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change is one of four panels con- vened under the America’s Climate Choices suite of activities, which is collectively responsible for providing advice on the most effective steps and most promis- ing strategies that the nation can take to respond to climate change (see Foreword). Our charge was to provide a concise overview of past, present, and future climate change, including its causes and its impacts, and to recommend steps to advance our current understanding of climate change and the effectiveness of responses to it (see Appendix B). The panel’s first challenge was to decide how to summarize the large volume of excel- lent peer-reviewed research by the national and international community to produce a concise overview of what is known. We recognize that this report is not brief; we decided that comprehensiveness was essential to the report’s credibility. In addi- tion to drawing on the new scientific results being published nearly every week, we were aided in this task by the final U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) Synthesis and Assessment Product Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States (USGCRP, 2009a), the recent National Research Council (NRC) report Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change (NRC, 2009k), and the four volumes of the fourth assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007a-d). In keeping with the overarching goals of the America’s Climate Choices study, we focus on the scientific knowledge that we thought would be of greatest interest to decision makers facing crucial choices about how to respond to climate change. Likewise, in looking to the future, we emphasize the scientific advances that could help decision makers identify, evaluate, and implement effective actions to limit its magnitude and adapt to its impacts. The body of science reviewed by the Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change makes a compelling case that climate change is occurring and suggests that it threatens not just the environment and ecosystems of the world but the well-being of people today and in future generations. Climate change is thus a sustainability chal- lenge. We hope that, for those who are skeptical or uncertain about what the body of scientific evidence tells us, our report will be informative. The scientific process is never “closed”—new ideas are always part of scientific debate, and there is always more to be learned—but scientific understanding does advance over time as some ideas are supported by multiple lines of evidence while others prove inconsistent with the data ix

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P R E FA C E or basic principles. Our understanding of climate change and its causes and conse- quences have advanced in this way. The panel also examined the adequacy of the science base needed to improve the effectiveness of actions taken to limit the magnitude of future climate change and adapt to its inevitable impacts. Decision makers in the federal government, state governments, tribes, corporations, municipalities, and nongovernmental organizations, as well as citizen decision makers, are beginning to act. Climate research over the past three decades, however, has been driven largely by a need to better understand rather than to explicitly respond to climate change. Until recently, there has been relatively little research focused on the development and implementation of climate-friendly energy sources or land use practices, socioeconomic and behavioral processes that af- fect responses, adaptation strategies, analytical approaches to evaluate trade-offs and unintended consequences of actions, policy mechanisms, and other response issues. To address the need for new kinds of knowledge, we recommend some significant changes to the nation’s climate change research enterprise. Our report covers a great deal of scientific territory and has been accomplished over a relatively short time period. For this, we thank our tremendously dedicated panel members and remarkably talented NRC study director Ian Kraucunas. The report also benefitted from the insights and assistance of several members of our sister panels and the Committee on America’s Climate Choices; in particular, we thank Kris Ebi, George Eads, Bob Fri, Linda Mearns, and Susan Solomon. In addition, we thank Mike Behrenfeld, Bill Nordhaus, Michele Betsill, Peter Schultz, Chris Field, and others who contributed written materials or spoke at panel meetings. We also benefitted from many one-on-one discussions throughout the study process and from the comments and perspectives contributed through the America’s Climate Choices website.1 The report also would not have been possible without the dedication and contribu- tions of the NRC staff. In addition to study director Ian Kraucunas, we thank Paul Stern, who provided many good ideas and written contributions throughout the study; Art Charo, who staffed the workshop on geoengineering held in June 2009; Maggie Walser, who assisted with the panel’s response to external review comments; Madeline Woodruff and Joe Casola, who contributed to several chapters; Katie Weller, who com- piled the references for the report—a huge job; our science writers/editors Lisa Palmer and Yvonne Baskin; Rob Greenway, who provided logistical support; and Chris Elfring, who provided wise advice at several points in the process. 1 http://americasclimatechoices.org. x

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Preface There is still much to learn about the physical phenomenon of global climate change and its social, economic, and ecological drivers and consequences. There is also a great deal to learn about how to respond effectively without creating serious unintended consequences and, where possible, creating multiple co-benefits. If the scientific prog- ress of the past few decades is any indication, we can expect amazing progress, but only if there is adequate demand, support, and organization for the nation’s new era of climate change research. Pamela Matson, Chair, and Thomas Dietz, Vice Chair Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change xi

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Acknowledgments T his report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institu- tional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participa- tion in their review of this report: DOUG ARENT, National Renewable Energy Laboratory DONALD F. BOESCH, University of Maryland VIRGINIA BURKETT, U.S. Geological Survey ROBERT DICKINSON, The University of Texas at Austin DAVID GOLDSTON, Natural Resources Defense Council DENNIS HARTMANN, University of Washington JEANINE A. JONES, California Department of Water Resources THOMAS R. KARL, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ARTHUR LEE, ChevronTexaco Corporation, San Ramon GERALD A. MEEHL, National Center for Atmospheric Research JERRY M. MELILLO, Marine Biological Laboratory WILLIAM D. NORDHAUS, Yale University ARISTIDES A.N. PATRINOS, Synthetic Genomics, Inc. ORTWIN RENN, Institute of Management and Technology RICHARD RICHELS, Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. THOMAS C. SCHELLING, University of Maryland ROBERT H. SOCOLOW, Princeton University AMANDA STAUDT, National Wildlife Federation MICHAEL TOMAN, The World Bank JOHN M. WALLACE, University of Washington Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Andrew Solow (Marine Policy Center) and Robert Frosch (Harvard xiii

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS University). Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in ac- cordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution. Institutional oversight for this project was provided by: BOARD ON ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES AND CLIMATE ANTONIO J. BUSALACCHI, JR. (Chair), University of Maryland, College Park ROSINA M. BIERBAUM, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor RICHARD CARBONE, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado WALTER F. DABBERDT, Vaisala, Inc., Boulder, Colorado KIRSTIN DOW, University of South Carolina, Columbia GREG S. FORBES, The Weather Channel, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia ISAAC HELD, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Princeton, New Jersey ARTHUR LEE, Chevron Corporation, San Ramon, California RAYMOND T. PIERREHUMBERT, University of Chicago, Illinois KIMBERLY PRATHER, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California KIRK R. SMITH, University of California, Berkeley JOHN T. SNOW, University of Oklahoma, Norman THOMAS H. VONDER HAAR, Colorado State University/CIRA, Fort Collins XUBIN ZENG, University of Arizona, Tucson Ex Officio Members GERALD A. MEEHL, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado NRC Staff CHRIS ELFRING, Director LAURIE GELLER, Senior Program Officer IAN KRAUCUNAS, Senior Program Officer MARTHA MCCONNELL, Program Officer MAGGIE WALSER, Associate Program Officer TOBY WARDEN, Associate Program Officer JOSEPH CASOLA, Postdoctoral Fellow xi

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Acknowledgments RITA GASKINS, Administrative Coordinator KATIE WELLER, Research Associate LAUREN M. BROWN, Research Assistant ROB GREENWAY, Program Associate SHELLY FREELAND, Senior Program Assistant AMANDA PURCELL, Senior Program Assistant JANEISE STURDIVANT, Program Assistant RICARDO PAYNE, Program Assistant SHUBHA BANSKOTA, Financial Associate x

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Contents SUMMARY 1 What We Know about Climate Change, 3 A New Era of Climate Change Research, 5 Recommendations, 8 PART I 1 INTRODUCTION: SCIENCE FOR UNDERSTANDING AND RESPONDING TO CLIMATE CHANGE 19 Scientific Learning About Climate Change, 20 The New Era of Climate Change Science: Research for Understanding and Responding to Climate Change, 22 Report Overview, 24 2 WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS INTERACTIONS WITH PEOPLE AND ECOSYSTEMS 27 Changes in the Climate System, 29 Sea Level Rise and the Coastal Environment, 42 Freshwater Resources, 47 Ecosystems, Ecosystem Services, and Biodiversity, 51 Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food Production, 58 Public Health, 62 Cities and the Built Environment, 65 Transportation, 67 Energy Supply and Use, 70 Solar Radiation Management, 73 National and Human Security, 77 Designing, Implementing, and Evaluating Climate Policies, 80 3 A NEW ERA OF CLIMATE CHANGE RESEARCH 83 Complexities of Climate Change, 83 Responding to Climate Risks, 87 Implications for the Nation’s Climate Research Enterprise, 87 xii

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CONTENTS 4 INTEGRATIVE THEMES FOR CLIMATE CHANGE RESEARCH 91 Theme 1: Climate Forcings, Feedbacks, Responses, and Thresholds in the Earth System, 92 Theme 2: Climate-Related Human Behaviors and Institutions, 101 Theme 3: Vulnerability and Adaptation Analyses of Coupled Human-Environment Systems, 107 Theme 4: Research to Support Strategies for Limiting Climate Change, 113 Theme 5: Effective Information and Decision-Support Systems, 121 Theme 6: Integrated Climate Observing Systems, 126 Theme 7: Improved Projections, Analyses, and Assessments, 138 Chapter Conclusion, 149 5 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MEETING THE CHALLENGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE RESEARCH 151 An Integrative, Interdisciplinary, Decision-Relevant Research Program, 152 Setting Priorities, 155 Infrastructural Elements of the Research Program, 158 Organizing the Research, 162 Broader Partnerships, 171 Capacity Building, 177 A New Era of Climate Change Research, 180 PART II: TECHNICAL CHAPTERS 6 CHANGES IN THE CLIMATE SYSTEM 183 Factors Influencing Earth’s Climate, 184 Observed Climate Change, 201 Future Climate Change, 216 Research Needs, 228 7 SEA LEVEL RISE AND THE COASTAL ENVIRONMENT 235 Observed Sea Level Changes, 236 Causes of Sea Level Rise, 238 Projections of Future Sea Level Rise, 243 Impacts of Sea Level Rise and Other Climate Changes on Coastal Environments, 247 Responding to Sea Level Rise, 251 Research Needs, 252 xiii

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Contents 8 FRESHWATER RESOURCES 257 Sensitivity of Freshwater Resources to Climate Change, 258 Historical and Future Changes in Freshwater, 259 Managing Freshwater in a Changing Climate, 266 Research Needs, 267 9 ECOSYSTEMS, ECOSYSTEM SERVICES, AND BIODIVERSITY 271 Terrestrial Ecosystems, 273 Marine Ecosystems, 280 Research Needs, 288 10 AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, AND FOOD PRODUCTION 291 Crop Production, 292 Livestock Production, 296 Fisheries and Aquaculture Production, 297 Science to Support Limiting Climate Change by Modifying Agricultural and Fishery Systems, 300 Science to Support Adaptation in Agricultural Systems, 303 Food Security, 305 Research Needs, 306 11 PUBLIC HEALTH 309 Extreme Temperatures and Thermal Stress, 311 Severe Weather, 313 Infectious Diseases, 314 Air Quality, 314 Other Health Effects of Climate Change, 317 Protecting Vulnerable Populations, 318 Research Needs, 319 12 CITIES AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT 323 Role of Cities in Driving Climate Change, 324 Impacts of Climate Change on Cities, 326 Science to Support Limiting Future Climate Change, 328 Science to Support Adapting to Climate Change, 329 Research Needs, 330 xix

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CONTENTS 13 TRANSPORTATION 333 Role of Transportation in Driving Climate Change, 334 Reducing Transportation-Related Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 336 Impacts of Climate Change on Transportation, 342 Science to Support Adapting to Climate Change in the Transportation Sector, 342 Research Needs, 344 14 ENERGY SUPPLY AND USE 349 Energy Consumption, 350 Reductions in Energy Demand, 352 Energy Efficiency Improvements, 353 Energy Sources that Reduce Emissions of Greenhouse Gases, 354 Carbon Dioxide Removal Approaches, 366 Energy Carriers, Transmission, and Storage, 368 Science to Support Technology Deployment, 369 Likely Impacts of Climate Change on Energy System Operations, 369 Science to Support Adapting to Climate Change, 373 Research Needs, 374 15 SOLAR RADIATION MANAGEMENT 377 History of Solar Radiation Management Proposals, 378 Proposed Solar Radiation Management Approaches, 380 Possible Unintended Consequences, 382 Governance issues, 384 Ethical Issues, 384 Research Needs, 385 16 NATIONAL AND HUMAN SECURITY 389 The Relationship Between Climate and National Security, 392 Treaty Verification, 395 The Relationship Between Climate and Human Security, 396 Research Needs, 398 17 DESIGNING, IMPLEMENTING, AND EVALUATING CLIMATE POLICIES 401 Types of Climate Policies and Agreements, 402 Research Challenges Associated with Policy Design and Implementation, 406 Research Needs, 416 xx

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Contents REFERENCES 421 APPENDIXES A America’s Climate Choices: Membership Lists 475 B Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change: Statement of Task 479 C Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change: Biographical Sketches 481 D Uncertainty Terminology 491 E The United States Global Change Research Program 493 F Geoengineering Options to Respond to Climate Change: Steps to Establish a Research Agenda (A Workshop to Provide Input to the America’s Climate Choices Study) 497 G Acronyms and Initialisms 501 xxi

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