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Introduction Scientists and policy makers increasingly recognize global warming and other aspects of climate change as significant threats to the future of Earthâs ecosystems and to human well-being. If left unchecked, climate change could lead to worsening consequences, including faster rising sea levels; more floods, storms, fires, and waterborne and vector-borne diseases; heat- related illness; crop failures; shifting ecosystems; and environmental deg- radation. Although scientists still disagree in their estimates of the timing and magnitude of particular consequences, there is widespread agreement that the risks are sufficiently serious to warrant action to reduce the net future human influence on climate (mitigation) and to promote successful adaptation to the consequences of climate change that cannot be avoided (National Research Council, 2010a, 2010b, 2010c; U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2009b). Responding to climate change requires an expansion of the range of scientific work on climate change. This is a ânew era of climate change researchâ (National Research Council, 2010b:4), one that requires a much stronger emphasis than previously on the understanding of human- environment systems and a much greater integration of the social and behavioral sciences with the other sciences concerned with climate change. Much of the expanded research agenda is directed to use-inspired funda- mental research (Stokes, 1997) that can support effective human responses to climate change, including efforts to limit its magnitude and to adapt to its consequences. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, understanding the need for these kinds of research and the need for policy makers at the national level 1
2 FACILITATING CLIMATE CHANGE RESPONSES to entrain the behavioral and social sciences in addressing the challenges of global climate change, called on the National Research Council (NRC) to organize two workshops in Washington, DC, to showcase some of the decision-relevant contributions that these sciences have already made and can advance with future efforts. The Panel on Addressing the Challenges of Climate Change Through the Behavioral and Social Sciences was formed to organize the workshops under the auspices of the NRCâs Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change. The workshops were held on December 3-4, 2009, and April 8-9, 2010. The panel was asked to organize workshops in two broad areas in which insufficient attention has been paid to the potential contributions of behavioral and social sciences: (1) mitigation (behavioral elements of a strategy to reduce the net future human influence on climate) and (2) adap- tation (behavioral and social determinants of societal capacity to minimize the damage from climate changes that are not avoided). The workshops were intended to demonstrate the contributions that the behavioral and social sciences can make for more effective responses to climate change. It was also intended that the workshops would lay the foundation for further inquiries. The panel developed and considered a number of topical areas for discussion before settling on the agendas, topics, and invited presenters for the two workshops. There are fairly large and well-developed social and behavioral science literatures on several aspects of climate change mitiga- tion, and not all of them could be covered in a two-day workshop. We decided to focus on a few issues we thought would be particularly relevant to current policy debates. One of the issues is public understanding of climate changeâa topic that is important both for mitigation and adapta- tion. We believed that a scientific examination of how nonscientists think about climate change could help explain shifts in public opinion and levels of public support for climate policies and could be useful for improving public understanding and for educating the next generation of citizens on the topic. We devoted a half-day session to this topic. We organized additional half-day sessions around three other topics: (1) the potential for mitigating climate change through household action, (2) public acceptance of energy technologies, and organizational change, and (3) the âgreeningâ of business. In each session, presenters reported on the knowledge base on the topic, and invited discussants and other partici- pants considered the implications of the findings for policy choices. The workshop on adaptation to climate change took a different form because of the different state of social and behavioral science knowledge. Multidisciplinary research on adaptation to natural climate variations has been conducted for decades at a relatively low level of intensity. However, the issue of adaptation to anthropogenic climate change has only relatively
INTRODUCTION recently become a major one on research and policy agendas. Thus, the re- search literature and agenda are less well defined and more dispersed across several disciplines and related fields than those on mitigation. To plan the adaptation workshop, we began by contacting a number of policy makers in federal agencies who have been working with decision makers at federal, state, and local levels who are confronted with the need to take climate change into account in their work. We asked them what they would like to learn from research on adaptation and, with that input, we developed a list of key questions about climate change adaptation to pose to social and behavioral scientists. We invited researchers who had studied topics that we believed could shed light on these questions and who had directly examined multiple cases of adaptation. We asked them to report on what they had learned, and panel members volunteered to listen to these presentations and report at the end of the workshop on what they had heard during the workshop that might answer the decision makersâ questions. The workshops brought together leading researchers from across the behavioral and social sciences whose expertise and research can help ad- dress timely questions about responding to climate change. The presenta- tions emphasized current research, some of it not yet published at the time it was presented. We found the discussions enlightening and stimulating, and we believe that, even in this written summary form, they will be useful to readers who are interested in the latest knowledge about human responses to climate change. The workshop material concretely illustrates some of the ways the behavioral and social sciences can contribute to the new era of climate research called for in the report Advancing the Science of Climate Change (National Research Council, 2010b). It also shows how these sci- ences can help in addressing the challenges of climate change. This report does not present any conclusions, lessons, or the like as consensus statements by the panel. Although individual members of the panel drew conclusions from the workshops, some of which are mentioned in the report, it was not the purpose of these workshops to draw overall conclusions. Readers will have to do that for themselves. It is important to be specific about the nature of this report, which documents the information presented in the workshop presentations and discussions. Its purpose is to lay out the key ideas that emerged from the workshops and should be viewed as an initial step in examining the re- search and applying it in specific policy circumstances. The report is con- fined to the material presented by the workshop speakers and participants. Neither of the workshops nor this summary is intended as a comprehensive review of what is known, although each generally reflects of the literature. The presentations and discussions were limited by the time available for the workshops.
4 FACILITATING CLIMATE CHANGE RESPONSES Although this report was prepared by the panel, it does not represent a consensus of the panel. Rather, the report summarizes views expressed by workshop participants, and the panel is responsible only for its overall quality and accuracy as a record of what transpired at the workshops. PLAN OF THE REPORT The structure of this report reflects the organization of the two work- shops. Part I summarizes the December 2009 workshop on public under- standing and mitigation of climate change. Part II summarizes the April 2010 workshop on adaptation to climate change. Appendix A presents the agenda and list of participants of the December 2009 workshop, and Ap- pendix B does the same for the April 2010 workshop. Appendix C presents biographical sketches of the panel members and staff.