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may not be present in other global change research areas. We recommend a careful review of the observational needs for human dimensions research, with careful attention to the ability to link to other observational systems, comparability across time and observational units, and confidentiality concerns. Conclusion: Key Research Issues for the USGCRP The USGCRP should address the human causes and consequences of global change and human responses to anticipated or experienced global change. Among the key research issues for the USGCRP should be the following: 1. Understanding the driving forces of environmentally significant consumption. The USGCRP should develop understanding of the ways in which various political, social, economic, and technological forces combine to result in major transformations of land, water, energy, and environmentally important materials. Such understanding will help to both anticipate future environmental changes and identify potentially useful interventions for mitigating environmental changes or easing adaptation to them. 2. Understanding sensitivity and vulnerability to environmental variations and changes. The human consequences of environmental change depend as much on the sensitivity and vulnerability of social systems and on their ability to adapt as on the environmental changes they experience. Thus, the USGCRP should develop understanding of both aspects of consequences. It should improve predictive models of specific environmental changes and variations that have human impacts and develop understanding of the causes and likely future trends of vulnerability and adaptive capacity. This research should include a focus on the characteristics of social systems that make them sensitive or vulnerable to particular environmental changes and on social changes that are likely to alter the sensitivities of particular human populations over time. 3. Understanding institutions and processes for informing environmental choices and managing environmental resources. People must respond to environmental change at all levels of social organization from the individual to the international. Decisions at all of these levels need to be informed by knowledge of biophysical and social processes and by understanding of human concerns. To enable more effective responses, the USGCRP should develop understanding of the characteristics of effective ways to integrate science and human concerns in informing decisions and of effective institutional forms by which human groups at all levels can monitor and manage the use of critical environmental resources. Experimental efforts should be undertaken to use dialogue among scientists, policy decision makers, and interested publics to guide scientists in developing information that will be considered useful and relevant by participants in environmental decisions.
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