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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change
for responding to climate change, and this need will continue to evolve as tools are designed to be decision-specific. Our review suggests several important challenges in the use and development of decision tools and methods to inform decisions about climate change. These include a mismatch between the global, aggregate, or national scale of climate and energy models and the needs for decision making at more local or sectoral scales; controversies over how to handle economics, uncertainties, and subjective judgments; user misunderstandings about the assumptions and limits of methods; major information gaps; and the need to ensure that assessment activities are effective, are focused, and respond to user needs.
Observational systems and databases are critical to developing tools and the evaluation of methods for modeling, mapping, networking, and decision making. The Federal government has an important role in supporting such information systems as we discuss in subsequent chapters. We find that “value of information” techniques may be helpful in order to inform decision makers on the relative value of investments to improve understanding across key unknowns in the climate system. Where such expertise does not reside in particular agencies, experts should be engaged from outside these agencies (e.g., academia) to provide the requisite skills.
The discussion of assessments as a decision support tool is based on the NRC (2007a) report on lessons learned from assessments and we endorse the recommendations of this report and its suggestions for effective assessments. We judge that future assessments may need to be more focused on specific questions and decisions developed in consultation and collaboration with decision makers.
The panel, in preparing this chapter, also found it difficult to identify good reviews and clear unbiased discussions of the full range of decision support tools, their appropriate uses and limitation. We therefore conclude that there could be a stronger role for the Federal government to provide better guidance on decision support tools for climate decisions, perhaps through a climate tools database, network, and best practice examples. This could be considered part of a broader attempt to provide climate and carbon management services.
At the same time, the panel also recognizes that formal decision-analytic procedures may not constitute the tools of choice for many decision makers. Support for decisions comes from a wide range of sources that include mandates, standards, and regulations; informal norms that govern procedures and practices adopted by decision-making entities; priorities and practices that are diffused within interpersonal and interorganizational networks; and institutional pressures that produce alignments among entities pursuing similar goals. While solutions to climate-related problems should never rely on these kinds of sources alone, it is important to note their significance