OVERARCHING ISSUES

The social and behavioral sciences have a vital contribution to make to any program aimed at enhancing our understanding of global environmental change. The global changes of interest today differ from those of the past precisely because they are products of human activities that have been accelerating rapidly in recent times and because the changes themselves are occurring at a pace likely to call for clear-cut responses within a single human lifetime. It follows that we cannot hope to understand the causes of these global changes or devise appropriate responses to them in the absence of adequate knowledge about the human dimensions of global change. So far, however, only modest efforts have been made to integrate the social sciences into global change research programs in the United States or elsewhere. We have traced this situation to a number of interactive factors.

The search for enhanced understanding of global environmental change requires, to begin with, a greatly strengthened partnership between the natural sciences and the social sciences. Nowhere is the case for mutual respect and constructive collaboration between natural scientists and social scientists more persuasive than in efforts to come to terms with global change. While general circulation models are obviously important to the study of climate change, for example, the value of their results is sharply limited in the absence of information about rates of emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere resulting from human actions. Similarly, forecasts relating to the impact of the depletion of stratospheric ozone on human health are sensitive to information regarding the actions people are likely to take to block the flow of ultraviolet radiation reaching the surface of the earth or to protect themselves from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation.

Significant barriers currently obstruct effective collaboration between natural scientists and social scientists interested in global change . In addition to problems of terminology that impede communication and attitudinal problems that operate to lower mutual regard, existing incentive structures offer few rewards for members of either community to expend time and energy on efforts to work collaboratively with members of the other. More productive collaboration between natural scientists and social scientists on issues of global change will consequently require both the initiation of research activities that compel individual scientists to interact with each other on a sustained basis and a deliberate effort to structure incentives to reward those who seek



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