After completing the table, the Panel is to enter a concise (one-page) summary describing how the proposed indicators are relevant to the subject of monitoring environmental sustainability in the Panel’s Topical area. This description should reflect that the proposed list of indicators represents a step beyond previous efforts to develop lists of measurements for monitoring changes in the physical climate system.

Using the information entered into this working document during the breakout sessions, the Topical Panel Leads will author a report on the subject of indicators of environmental sustainability. This document will take the form of a consensus NRC report and be produced via standard NRC procedures for report review and publication. The document will offer the proposed environmental sustainability indicators in the context of measurements that should be given priority in consideration of a coordinated climate observing strategy.


The following definitions are offered to facilitate the work of the Topical Panels during the breakout sessions. These definitions are neither comprehensive nor exhaustive. Many of these terms will be discussed in greater detail during the meeting plenary, which includes invited presentations by experts in the development and application of these terms.

Sustainability: The ability of a coupled human-environment system to function effectively without major disruption for a period of time. Source: Presentation by Pam Matson and Tom Parris

Environmental Sustainability (in the context of a changing climate): The ability of an environmental system to maintain processes, functions, biodiversity, and productivity in a changing climate and under additional influences resulting from the possible implementation of strategies to mitigate and/or adapt to climate change. Source: ongoing discussions with President of the NAS

Climate Change Indicator: Earth processes related to regimes requiring long-term monitoring to assess trends that are related to changes in the normal distribution of climate patterns. Source: Scitor report

Environmental Indicator:

A parameter, or a value derived from parameters, which points to, provides information about, describes the state of a phenomenon/environment/area, with a significance extending beyond that directly associated from a parameter value. Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

An environmental indicator is a numerical value that helps provide insight into the state of the environment or human health. Indicators are developed based on quantitative measurements or statistics of environmental conditions that are tracked over time.

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