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Planning Climate and Global Change Research 3 Meeting the Nation’s Needs for Climate and Global Change Information Is the plan responsive to the nation’s needs for information on climate change and global change, their potential implications, and comparisons of the potential effects of different response options? The nation has diverse information needs on climate and associated global changes, their implications, and different response options. These needs arise from decision makers across the public and private sectors dealing with issues ranging from energy to public health and the environment and operating at the local, state, national, and international levels. A major weakness of the draft strategic plan is that it does not adequately identify these diverse needs or use them to target the scientific studies that it proposes. In general the description of the Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI) in the draft plan does a better job of addressing a relatively short list of the major policy decisions that are pending at a national level. Even at this level the plan specifies that one of the objectives of the CCRI will be to identify “national-level decisions and [use] that list to develop decision support activities as well as to help prioritize climate change research” (CCSP, 2002, p. 40). The draft strategic plan does identify at a general level four areas that will be important to meeting the needs of decision makers.1 Improve the global climate observation system. Both the CCRI (“optimize observations, monitoring, and data management systems of ‘climate quality data,’” CCSP, 2002, p. 15) and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP) (“monitor, understand, and predict global change,” CCSP, 2002, p. 55) call for improved global observing and information systems. Improve understanding of climate and associated global changes. The draft plan states that “science-based information is required to inform public debate on the wide range of climate and global change issues necessary for effective public policy and stewardship of natural resources” (CCSP, 2002, p. 4). The committee considers the wide range of climate change and associated global change issues to encompass Earth system processes (physical, biological, chemical, and societal), impacts on human societies and ecological systems, and the scientific underpinnings of potential response options. Reduce key uncertainties. The CCRI seeks to “reduce significant uncertainties in climate science” (CCSP, 2002, p. 2; p. 8). Likewise, the GCRP seeks to address “key uncertainties about changes in the Earth’s global environmental system, both natural and human-induced” (CCSP, 2002, p. 55). Develop decision support resources. Creating “resources to support policymaking and resource management” (CCSP, 2002, p. 2) is a major new undertaking included in the CCRI portion of the plan. This objective appears to be multifaceted, calling for developing “scenarios and comparisons; quantification of the sensitivity and uncertainty of the climate system to natural and anthropogenic forcings through the implementation and application of models; and structured information for national, regional, and local discussion about possible global change causes, impacts, benefits, and mitigation and adaptation strategies” (CCSP, 2002, p. 15). In addition to these information needs the committee notes a related need that can be inferred from the plan, though it is not explicitly stated. Build capacity to implement the strategic plan. The ambitious objectives of the draft strategic plan require substantial investments in training new researchers, building linkages across disciplines and between researchers and stakeholders, and in computing and data storage capabilities. 1 As discussed in Chapter 2, although these general themes are expressed repeatedly throughout the draft plan, they are not explicitly identified as overarching program goals, and therefore are not identified as such in this report.
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Planning Climate and Global Change Research This chapter assesses the extent to which the draft plan addresses these areas without commenting on whether this list comprises the full set of information needs that the final CCSP plan should address. Developing that fuller list should be part of the process by which the draft plan is revised. THE GLOBAL CLIMATE OBSERVATION SYSTEM The draft plan correctly identifies the need for a global observing system for climate and climate-related variables. Such a system would include observations of physical, chemical, and biological parameters of the ocean, atmosphere, and land systems, and it would incorporate relevant socio-economic data needed to understand the factors that influence the causes of climate change. Its goals would be to supply the scientific basis for detecting climate and associated global changes and for testing and calibrating the climate system models, and to develop data products of use to decision makers. To provide climate-quality data, the observation strategy would need to be long-term, subject to careful calibration and validation, and be flexible enough to accommodate new understanding and evolving needs (NRC, 1999a; 2000b). The draft strategic plan could be improved by providing a structured program for establishing such a global climate observing system and a strategy for coordinating observation needs that cross disciplinary and national boundaries. The existing climate observing system is a patchwork of observation networks, which are not well coordinated. Large investments are needed in maintaining and expanding an integrated observing system that will support monitoring, diagnosis, and modeling of climate and associated global changes. Many research needs in observations, monitoring, and data management systems are identified in Chapter 3, Chapters 5-11, and Chapter 12 of the draft plan. The observation goals are generally appropriate and reasonably complete, although they would benefit from some coarse prioritization or implementation schedule. A major weakness in the plan, however, is that it does not describe how existing observation systems will be integrated, nor does it offer a pathway to expansion of observation systems to include key climate-related ecological, biogeochemical, geophysical, and socio-economic measurements. A great need exists for systematic integrated measurements, where interagency and international cooperation could bring major advances. For example, significant changes in natural and managed ecosystems are already occurring in response to climate variability and changes, yet a clear strategy for obtaining the necessary observations is lacking. A more integrated approach to ecosystem observations would include ground-based monitoring of biogeochemical and other ecosystem processes (e.g., carbon dioxide flux at distributed reference sites and nutrients in stream, river, estuarine, and coastal systems and large-scale patterns of disturbance and fire) and monitoring of the distribution and abundance of key species in a range of regional terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The global climate observing system would provide datasets to explore the coupling of major cycles (e.g., carbon, water, nitrogen, energy). Better integrating relevant socio-economic observations—including changes in land use, location and intensity of economic activities that alter atmospheric chemistry, and social conditions that alter vulnerability to climate change—into this observation system could be of great use in understanding the importance of various drivers of climate change. Major issues associated with creating and implementing an integrated, global climate observing system need more attention in the draft plan to make it clear how the selection of observation systems and sites would be guided by an overarching observation strategy. It is important that the revised strategic plan address the following: The role that the CCSP will play in implementing and maintaining national- to global-scale observing systems that require interagency and international cooperation. How the program will develop an appropriate range of space-based and in situ observing systems with an adequate overlap to allow the calibration necessary to maintain data quality. Efforts to observe important local and regional variability (such as due to local orography, local coastline structure, or land-sea temperature differences not otherwise resolved) that are necessary to meet the CCSP’s goals of providing information to decision makers. Design of local or regional observation arrays will need to be responsive a variety of users’ needs while being consistent in accuracy and practice so that they feed data into the global array. How climate modeling and observation activities will be coordinated, including the use of models to aid in the design of improved climate observing systems and the deployment of observation networks appropriate for testing climate models. The challenges associated with the transition of research observations to operational platforms and to measurements involving in situ and space-based instruments (NRC, 2000a). Although the plan refers to making climate observations accessible, it would be more effective if it conveyed an overall vision for climate services as discussed in various recent reports (e.g., NRC, 2001b). The requirements to ensure that observations for weather have value for climate studies (NRC, 1999a; 2000b; 2000c). Chapter 3 of the plan identifies a number of observation activities that CCSP considers of higher
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Planning Climate and Global Change Research priority for decision making, therefore warranting their inclusion in the CCRI portion of the plan. Although the activities chosen are appropriate, the observation approach within the CCRI lacks a clear strategy for implementing the system. Chapter 3 of the plan largely sidesteps the fundamental overhaul and large national and international capacity-building required to establish the needed observation programs. It is clear that the observing system objectives listed in Chapter 3 of the plan are long-term programs with most benefits accruing well beyond two to four years. This does not necessarily mean that new initiatives to improve observations, monitoring, and data management are inappropriate for the CCRI. Rather, if they are to remain as part of the CCRI, the plan should more clearly describe what will be accomplished in two to four years, how these results will improve decision making, and how these short-term initiatives relate to longer-term progress on observations, monitoring, and data management that will be carried out under the GCRP. Recommendation: The revised strategic plan should better describe a strategic program for achieving an integrated observing system for detecting and understanding climate variability and change and associated global changes on scales from regional to global. IMPROVE UNDERSTANDING OF CLIMATE AND ASSOCIATED GLOBAL CHANGES The scientific research program presented by the draft plan is of mixed quality. In general, the better developed parts of the plan build upon the substantial and largely successful research programs of the last decade. Also, those elements of the research plan that were based on the advice and reports of specialized scientific steering groups (e.g., the carbon cycle, the water cycle, climate observations, and climate modeling) benefited from a sustained and close interaction with their scientific community and the relevant federal program managers. In contrast, several of the crosscutting program elements—such as regional studies, ecosystems, the human dimensions, and the role of oceans in climate—need the greatest improvement. This is largely because these content areas are not as well developed, too narrowly constrained in the existing GCRP structure, or fall across multiple program elements. Thus, the committee finds that, although existing GCRP activities provide a reasonably sound foundation for the CCSP strategic plan in areas of historical strength, this approach also has important shortcomings. It potentially perpetuates: the weak coordination that has existed among program elements; the adherence to agency-specific foci that, in the past, has hindered the development of comprehensive research programs in some areas; and the difficulty in supporting new crosscutting initiatives. The enhanced focus of the CCSP on decision support is likely to bring these shortcomings into sharp relief, as decision makers who need to understand impacts and develop response strategies call for new kinds of information that have historically received relatively little attention from the GCRP. In the following pages the committee discusses several weaknesses in the research activities presented by the plan. A more detailed analysis of each chapter of the draft plan is provided in Part II of this report. Regional Studies to Facilitate Decision Making A need now exists to use understanding of global-scale phenomena to develop predictive information on regional and smaller scales. Such information is essential for federal, regional, and local decision makers and resource managers addressing such issues as public health and economic development, water use planning, the condition of forests and fisheries, and endangered species. The CCSP highlights the need to investigate regional problems, devoting a section in Chapter 4 of the draft plan to “Decision Support Resources for Regional Resource Management” (CCSP, 2002, p. 41-43) and identifying some regional modeling products and payoffs designed to improve interactions between producers and users of climate variability and change information (CCSP, 2002, p. 77-78). Insufficient detail, however, is provided in the draft plan about how the program anticipates scaling down its current efforts to address regional issues. Scaling down from global to regional and local scales is an important research endeavor that the CCSP must address. Particularly important and challenging will be analyses and models of future regional climate and related effects on social, economic, and ecological issues of concern to regional decision makers. The committee believes that regional or place-based studies provide important opportunities to calibrate models with specific in situ measurements, evaluate global mechanisms, address the tangible impacts of climate change on societies and ecosystems, and develop models for providing climate information to stakeholders and thus better engage them in the decision-making process. Regional studies are also a critical element of the global climate observing system, providing key information for improving climate system models. Pursuing regional studies can also provide scientific understanding of scale interactions that translate local climate and associated global changes to global impacts. Most routine resource management decisions are made on a daily, seasonal, interannual time scale (e.g., agricultural planting and risk management, water management, energy resources for heating and cooling, etc.), yet these time scales are under-represented in the CCSP. To maximize the utility of decision support activities, the nature and time frame of the relevant
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Planning Climate and Global Change Research decisions need to be clearly identified, and appropriate tools need to be developed. This concept has been well articulated in the western water “decision calendar” developed by NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) in Boulder, Colorado. The calendar depicts the annual reservoir management decision timeframes so that climate information can be provided to managers when it is most useful to them. The preliminary success of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecasts, as discussed in the draft plan (CCSP, 2002, p. 6), and the achievements of pilot regional assessments in delivering useful climate information to stakeholders demonstrate the societal and economic benefits that can accrue from such efforts. The successful prediction of long-term climate change at regional scales, however, is a significant challenge facing the CCSP. On an international level the development of regional specific studies and networks of scientists is an opportunity to leverage the U.S. program with international contributions while building a broader community of scientists outside the United States. Regional and local networks of on-the-ground science efforts will enhance the reliability of the outputs from the program and provide key links with global satellite observations. Recommendation: The revised strategic plan should more fully describe how models and knowledge that support regional decision making and place-based science will be developed. Human, Economic, and Ecological Dimensions of Climate Change While the last decade of climate change research focused on how the climate is changing, the next decade must also support an increase in understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on human societies and ecosystems and related options for adaptation and mitigation. The need for research in these areas logically follows from the CCSP’s new emphasis on decision support, and is identified in the draft strategic plan.2 Strong and strategic research programs on human dimensions and ecosystems and better integration of economic concepts would enable CCSP to meet this need. However, the committee finds that the draft plan’s coverage of these topics (primarily in Chapters 10 and 11) is sufficiently weak that it raises serious questions about CCSP’s ability to meet current and future needs of decision-makers at local, state, regional, and national levels or to provide adequate input into the models and analyses needed to reduce or clarify uncertainties. These flaws create critical weaknesses that translate across the draft strategic plan, because so many connections should exist between the plan’s other research areas and research on human dimension and ecosystems, and because economic analysis is so integral to decision-making. The plan’s treatment of human dimensions has several important gaps. It does not include, for example, research on the role of institutions (e.g., property rights and markets) or of consumption (e.g., per capita water consumption) in driving future patterns of environmental change and resource supply and demand. Nor does it recognize the importance of deliberative interactions with stakeholders and the value of research on human preferences as input into policy decisions. Importantly, Chapter 11 fails to address the need for basic social science research into human-environment interactions or for more applied research into questions about mitigation and adaptation. A key gap in the draft plan is research that might lead to better understanding of the costs and benefits of climate change. Measuring and monetizing the costs and benefits of climate change is a fundamental intellectual problem. A wide range of potential costs and benefits needs to be considered, including the direct and indirect costs and benefits of mitigation, the costs and benefits of public and private adaptation, and the costs and benefits of adjustment from one climate to another. Generating estimates of the impacts from climate change, which involves both market and nonmarket effects, is a continuing research challenge. Improving the economic research in the draft plan could be of great value to policymakers whose choices will hinge on the broadly construed costs and benefits of alternative actions. The research plan for ecosystems needs a more cohesive and strategic organizing framework that places a clear priority on predicting ecosystem impacts and on providing the scientific foundation for possible actions and policies to minimize deleterious effects and optimize future outcomes. Overall, the draft plan devotes insufficient attention to understanding the interplay between climate change and the ecological patterns and processes that sustain the capacity of ecosystems to deliver goods and services desired by society (e.g., the diversity, distribution, and dynamics of species and ecological communities; large scale ecosystem processes like disturbance and hydrology; the spatial configuration and connections among ecosystems; and evolutionary processes) (NRC, 1999d). Targeted research in these areas will be essential for ensuring that managed and natural ecosystems continue to provide food, clean water, wildlife, germplasm resources, and other benefits. Insights from this research will be of use, for example, to farmers and public land agencies for designing and choosing among competing management approaches, to county agencies for developing land-use plans, and to policy makers for evaluating the full benefits and risks of adaptation and mitigation strategies. 2 For example, “How readily can adaptation take place in different natural and socio-economic systems?” (CCSP, 2002, p. 8), and “What are the projected costs and effects of different potential response strategies to manage the risks of long-term climate change?” (CCSP, 2002, p. 5).
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Planning Climate and Global Change Research Recommendation: The revised plan should strengthen its approach to the human, economic, and ecological dimensions of climate and associated global changes to ensure it supports the research necessary to project and monitor societal and ecosystem impacts, to design adaptation and mitigation strategies, and to understand the costs and benefits of climate change and related response options. Integration of Critical Crosscutting Issues and Associated Global Changes While the draft strategic plan does a better job of identifying links between chapters and crosscutting themes than did previous draft GCRP plans, overall, the coordination among many program components is poor. Chapter 8 of the draft plan on land use and land cover is a notable exception by presenting a problem-driven approach that integrates natural science and social science research on environmental change. This chapter frames its research strategy by identifying and analyzing the agents of change in the system in question, improving the ability to characterize and predict environmental changes and improving understanding of the links and feedbacks between the environmental systems. Chapter 6 of the plan provides an overarching discussion of climate variability and change with questions that would motivate efforts that span present elements of the GCRP, but it does not indicate how such crosscutting themes would be addressed. There are many examples where coordination is lacking in the plan. Ecosystems and human dimensions are weakly integrated across the draft plan. The carbon cycle strategy in Chapter 9 would be greatly strengthened if it included a more comprehensive plan for research on the human dimensions of the carbon cycle and if it addressed the full range of interactions with ecological systems. The plan’s treatment of water resource issues would be strengthened by greater linkages between the water cycle chapter and the addressing decision support, carbon, and land use and land cover. The apparent disconnect among the chapters on atmospheric composition, the water cycle, ecology, and land use and land cover is another manifestation of a problem with plan integration. Certain crosscutting topics that ought to come up in multiple parts of the plan are surprisingly absent. One already mentioned is the general lack of economic approaches across the plan. Another example is the oceans. The plan provides uneven coverage of ocean-related issues and impacts, despite the well-documented role of the ocean in climate change and variability. The oceans store and transport freshwater, nutrients, heat and carbon, and as such are a critical component of the climate system; they are also an important source of livelihood, recreation, and food and directly impact the majority of the world’s population. The CCSP needs to address another kind of linkage in addition to those among existing program elements, specifically the interactions and synergies between climate and associated global changes. The committee believes that it will be particularly important for the CCSP to consider those processes (1) that interact with climate change to produce significant impacts of societal relevance and therefore must be integrated into research to understand impacts and to develop adaptation and mitigation approaches, and (2) that have large feedbacks to climate change. The draft plan makes an important step in this direction through its inclusion of land use and land cover change as a new core program element. The committee believes that the CCSP should consider expanding its coverage of two other interacting processes of global change. First, major shifts are now occurring in global nutrient cycles, which can have important feedbacks with the climate system. Of particular concern is the widespread elevation in environmental nitrogen due to greatly increased use of nitrogen, especially in agriculture. Second, major translocations are now occurring in the world’s biota. Species invasions and alterations in the structure and functioning of many ecosystems, already on the rise due to other factors, are expected to increase in response to a changing climate. In turn, these ecological shifts (such as increases in fire frequency due to invasions of fire prone plants) are likely to alter the set of feasible options for adapting to climate change. Recommendation: The CCSP should strengthen the treatment and integration of crosscutting research areas in all substantive chapters. The revised strategic plan should address the interactions and synergies of climate change with other associated global changes. Global and Long-Term Context for Climate Science The global and long-time scale perspectives of climate researchers have provided a valuable context in observing, understanding, modeling, and responding to climate variability and change (e.g., NRC, 1999b). This context is not clearly conveyed in the draft plan. Further, the plan does not acknowledge how variability and change in North America is strongly affected by the global atmosphere, ocean, and cryosphere. It is the global, three-dimensional ocean circulation that introduces long-time scales (decades to centuries) into climate variability and change and it is the basin-scale patterns of coupled ocean and atmosphere variability that introduce interannual and decadal variability in North America. The plan should better reflect the role of large-scale and global variability: the global nature of the ocean and atmosphere circulation and their associated time scales; the large storage capacity and slow sequestration of heat, carbon and other constituents in important reservoirs; and the ability of remote regions to affect climate in North America.
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Planning Climate and Global Change Research The draft plan could be improved by establishing the setting of the Earth located in space, receiving solar radiation from the Sun, with large-scale processes in the atmosphere and ocean then governing the distribution of heat and freshwater about the globe. The influence of the large-scale setting on regional variability and change needs to be a recurring theme in all the chapters of the draft plan. To do so would motivate the need for an integrated global climate observing system and explain why climate science research in the United States must include studies of processes and variability at sites remote from North America. This would also help justify to stakeholders who seek improved local prediction why they should support long-term, global climate observations and research. A better presentation of the time scales associated with climate change would also point to the value of paleoclimate data as a descriptor of past natural variability, including past abrupt climate changes (NRC, 2002). While paleoclimate data is noted at times in the draft plan, its value becomes more clear when one is aware of the large-scale patterns of variability of the climate system. It should be made clear that paleoclimate data provides long records of the time scales and range of variability that have been dominant in the past and an essential context for present studies of forced climate change combined with natural variability. Recommendation: The global and long-term historical context of climate change and variability should receive greater emphasis in the revised strategic plan. ADDRESSING KEY UNCERTAINTIES The draft strategic plan identifies reducing uncertainty as a top priority for the CCSP, and the CCRI in particular (for example, see CCSP, 2002, p. 2). Addressing uncertainty is the subject of one of the three guiding principles for the CCSP. CCSP analyses should specifically evaluate and report uncertainty. All of science, and all decisionmaking, involves uncertainty. Uncertainty need not be a basis for inaction; however, scientific uncertainty should be carefully described in CCSP reports as an aid to the public and decisionmakers (CCSP, 2002, p. 11). Chapter 2 of the draft strategic plan titled “Research Focused on Key Climate Change Uncertainties,” describes research areas that address “key and emerging climate change science areas that offer the prospect of significant improvement in understanding of climate change phenomena, and where accelerated development of decision support information is possible” (CCSP, 2002, p. 15; p. 17). These statements indicate that the CCSP realizes three important points about uncertainty: (1) uncertainty is inherent in science and decision making and therefore not necessarily a basis for inaction; (2) decision makers need to be well informed about uncertainty to allow more knowledgeable decisions to be made; and (3) accelerated research on uncertainties should focus on those uncertainties that are important for informing policy and decision making. However, the draft plan does not present a systematic process to identify the key scientific uncertainties and to ascertain which are most important to decision makers. The draft plan would be more useful in sequencing a set of problem-driven research activities if such a process had been applied. Further, the committee believes that the draft plan understates the level of our current understanding and overstates the level of uncertainty in some places, possibly because parts of it so closely resemble preceding GCRP plans. Thus, the resources put into the GCRP over the last decade appear to be undervalued, despite the significant advances in understanding of climate and global change achieved by the program. The connections between what the plan promises to do for the coming years and what has been accomplished over the last decade should be strengthened in the revised plan. The CCRI goal of reducing significant uncertainties within two to four years may only be achievable incrementally for the topics identified in Chapter 2 of the draft plan (i.e., aerosols, North American carbon cycle, and cloud and polar feedback processes). Such incremental reductions in uncertainty in these areas could be realized within longer-term national and international research efforts. Thus, because addressing key uncertainties for decision makers is a high priority for the CCSP in the next two to four years, the program should set goals for near-term reporting of progress. Additionally, the CCRI could focus on better characterizing uncertainties and on uncertainties that are more amenable to a short-term solution. These include questions that can be addressed using “if, then” scenarios and improvements to climate models that can be accomplished with existing data and collaborations among current researchers. Characterizing and Reducing Uncertainty All important decisions are made under conditions of uncertainty. Indeed, uncertainty will never be resolved fully. This points to the importance of providing the most accurate representation of uncertainty and points of scientific disagreement. The CCSP recognizes this point in choosing a guiding principle that “CCSP analyses should specifically evaluate and report uncertainty” (CCSP, 2002, p. 11), but the draft strategic plan neither clearly describes the different types of uncertainties nor articulates the value of characterizing uncertainty to decision makers. For example, inherent uncertainty in the climate system (e.g., the chaotic motions of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans) is not clearly distinguished from uncertainty due to a lack of
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Planning Climate and Global Change Research understanding. Yet, it is important for decision makers to understand the source, magnitude, and nature of uncertainty, as well as areas of insufficient scientific understanding and of scientific disagreement. Is the uncertainty due to a lack of knowledge about causal processes? Are causal processes known, but the parameters cannot be accurately estimated because of lack of data, imprecision in the data, or inadequate computing power? Is uncertainty traced to broken links in the separate but interacting systems that drive climatic dynamics and other global processes? The precise characterization of the bases of uncertainty can target areas of further investigation. It can also help decision makers judge whether additional knowledge might improve decisions in the near future. Systematic Identification of Key Uncertainties for Decision Making Chapter 2 of the strategic plan accurately identifies three research questions related to significant remaining uncertainties in the physical, chemical, and biological understanding of the Earth system. The plan does not explain how these questions were selected or how the results of these research activities will lead to improved decision making in two to four years. It is not apparent that the CCSP systematically considered the value of these activities for decision making. Instead, the draft plan states that the research areas are selected from recommendations of the NRC report Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions (NRC, 2001a). Because the recommended research areas in this report were intended to answer, “What are the specific areas of science that need to be studied further, in order of priority, to advance our understanding of climate change?”, this list of research areas may be different from one optimized for providing useful information to decision makers. Relying on the recommendations for priority research from the Climate Change Science report is inadequate for meeting the nation’s broader needs for global change information to support a wide range of decisions. Key uncertainties should be identified more systematically, in consultation with decision makers to learn what decisions they need to make. A research agenda focused on making better decisions can then be generated by carefully considering what information is most critical for making those decisions, and then identifying the information that is most uncertain. In many ways this process is similar to the strategic planning process outlined in Chapter 2 of this report. Rigorous processes of this sort are routinely used in other areas of applied research associated with substantial uncertainty (e.g., the rate of spread of a communicable disease). As noted above, uncertainty is an unavoidable feature of climate and global environmental policy choices. Many techniques to estimate risk, the probability of an impact in the face of uncertainty, are available. There is a sizable and rapidly growing literature in the field of risk analysis that can inform climate and global change decisions, such as how to respond to the threat of drought, flooding, or crop failures. Risk analysis addresses not only the estimation and assessment of risks but also risk perception, risk communication, and risk management—knowledge useful to a wide variety of decisions. For example, the framing of risks and the means of communicating information about risk are highly influential in how risks are perceived by laypersons and experts (NRC, 1996). Recommendation: The revised strategic plan should identify what sources and magnitudes of reductions in key climate change uncertainties are especially needed and where an improved characterization of uncertainty would benefit decision making, and should use this information to guide the research program. DECISION SUPPORT RESOURCES The CCRI portion of the plan introduces an admirable emphasis on the need for science to provide decision support for those in the public and private sectors whose policy decisions are affected by climate change and variability. The CCRI’s call for building decision support resources is one of the most innovative and promising features of the draft plan. Building and using this capacity means commitments to capitalize on available information and existing decision support tools, to collect new information to address gaps in understanding, to develop new tools and capacity for decision making, and to engage stakeholders. The committee views the development of decision support resources as the most critical short-term goal of the CCSP. Strong incentives exist for decision makers to use the results of CCSP research when this information is developed and communicated in an accessible and timely manner. The overall objectives identified in the draft plan are certainly amenable to significant short-term progress. Although the draft strategic plan has incorporated the general language about decision support in many places, it is vague about what this will actually mean. In some cases the strategic plan does not reflect the current state of knowledge relative to decision support and recent science decision-making experiences. Of particular importance is that the plan needs to better identify decision makers and their individual needs, as discussed in Chapter 5 of this report. Decision Support Research and Operational Activities The discussion of decision support in the draft plan is weakly developed, in particular the section “Resources for Risk Analysis and Decision Making under Uncertainty” on pages 52-53 of the draft plan. The draft plan does not
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Planning Climate and Global Change Research adequately distinguish between research to develop new decision support tools or understanding, on the one hand, and operational decision support activities, on the other. It then does not identify state-of-the-art undertakings in both. Decision support research includes (1) natural and social science research to address gaps in information needed by decision makers (e.g., scenarios, applied modeling); (2) research on processes to improve decision making by effectively translating scientific information into policy options; and (3) research on developing public participation processes. The operational end of decision support focuses on building specific mechanisms or tools for connecting with the wide range of stakeholders, ranging from deliberative processes to identify user needs to application of decision support tools in an operational mode. Research on processes to improve decision making should comprise activities to tailor available tools for decision support and risk analysis, the transfer of tools across context, and the development of tools customized for climate and global change decision making. The draft plan identifies a number of existing approaches for evaluating longer-term risks in multivariable systems, including game theory, preferences elicitation, and decision sequencing (CCSP, 2002, p. 53); and scenarios, comparisons, applied climate modeling, and historical data analysis (CCSP, 2002, p. 43-52). On the other hand, as described previously, the plan could call for more efforts in the areas of risk assessment and estimation, risk perception, risk communication, and risk management. In identifying research activities in decision support the plan should emphasize products that can be used at appropriate scales and in the context of all the factors influencing environmentally relevant decisions, as well as the opportunities to produce these products in cooperation with stakeholders and the private sector. The plan does not adequately elaborate upon the processes it will employ for deliberation and adaptive learning. The effectiveness of decision-making tools and risk analyses is fully dependent upon the procedures adopted for their use, in particular how scientists, decision makers, and other stakeholders are engaged in the process. Deliberation should be devoted to determining user needs for decision-relevant scientific information, to the selection of appropriate tools, to the application of those tools in support of decisions, and to the inclusion of all stakeholders in the process. A clearly articulated program of deliberation processes, called analytic deliberation, is contained in the NRC report Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society (1996). Recommendation: The revised strategic plan should better describe how decision support capabilities will be developed and how these efforts will link with and inform the program’s research to improve understanding of climate and associated global changes. Applied Climate Modeling The “Applied Climate Modeling” section of the draft plan (CCSP, 2002, p. 47-52) articulates a much needed new direction for U.S. climate change science, reaching out beyond the business-as-usual approach of the GCRP to provide tangible decision support resources. This section is insightful, reasonably well focused, and well grounded with respect to the priorities for climate modeling research and applications over the next decade. It also shows considerable understanding of the research required to produce some of the key mandated improvements in climate modeling skill, particularly in quantifying climate sensitivity, as well as a keen awareness of the growing but embryonic multi-organization collaborative efforts in applied and theoretical climate change modeling. The applied climate modeling discussion could be improved by strengthening its treatment of several substantial challenges to meeting the ambitious goals it sets forward. The rigidly stated four-year deadline to produce a substantial reduction in climate sensitivity uncertainty is optimistic and likely unrealistic, mostly because of the daunting challenges remaining in understanding and modeling the physics of cloud-radiation feedbacks. This section sidesteps the challenge of making connections between the applied climate modeling results and climate impacts researchers, decision makers, resource managers, and other consumers of climate change information. Serious capacity building is necessary, particularly with respect to increasing the capability and number of researchers producing and receiving the model results. In addition, this section does not adequately address how the applied climate modeling activities will be coordinated with the more theoretical model improvements called for under the GCRP. The draft plan is unclear about how the National Center for Atmospheric Research-Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory partnership will be directed (e.g., will its focus be on conducting Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections; facilitating the transition of research results into operational code; refining projections so as to reduce uncertainties in climate sensitivity; preparing model projections for local, regional, and national decision makers; or some combination of these?). The current modeling community will not be able to make substantial near-term progress on all of these fronts, and prioritization will be necessary. The section does not adequately address the serious mismatch between existing supercomputer resources and those needed to implement the proposed applied modeling program. Neither the draft plan nor Our Changing Planet (GCRP, 2003) indicate that the CCSP intends to seek sufficient funding to address these limitations in the ability to produce and utilize climate projections.
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Planning Climate and Global Change Research The discussion of “Testing Against the Climate Record” understates the challenges in these endeavors. Operational satellites have had difficulty in producing reliable measurements of atmospheric temperature trends (NRC, 2000d). The CCSP should strive to ensure that future satellite systems improve upon the recognized climate monitoring deficiencies of the existing system (NRC, 2000b; 2000c). The proposal to test contemporary climate-change models against the paleoclimate record needs to be more specific to overcome ongoing data and interpretive challenges with this type of analysis. Recommendation: The discussion of applied climate modeling should be revised to better describe how models will be incorporated into the broader suite of decision support activities and to better address the key challenges to attaining the applied climate modeling goals set forward in the plan. Existing Decision Support Assets The draft strategic plan does not adequately utilize many prior assessments and consensus reports that have provided scientific information to decision makers. There are numerous examples of GCRP research supporting assessments and interactions with decision makers and industry on environmental issues. While the plan refers to some of these reports with regard to natural science issues relating to the climate, these reports are not used as examples of success or failure in applied climate studies, including efforts to assess regional impacts, or in interactions with a wide range of user communities. In this respect the plan might build on lessons learned from the U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (NAST, 2001), the IPCC process (e.g., IPCC, 2001a, b), and other environmental assessment undertakings. The draft plan deals with many issues that were addressed in the U.S. National Assessment, but the document is not referenced, nor is it used fully in the human dimensions and decision support sections of the draft plan (e.g., scenario development). No matter what the evaluation of the U.S. National Assessment, there were many valuable lessons learned from it in terms of regional impact studies and interactions with stakeholders. These lessons should not be ignored in the CCSP strategic plan. The plan does not use as a model what the United Nations Environment Programme/World Meteorological Organization (UNEP/WMO) or IPCC assessments have accomplished in terms of decision support, applied science, and stakeholder participation. The UNEP/WMO ozone assessments have had fifteen years of highly successful interaction with governments as Parties to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. While the IPCC assessments are referenced and used to justify the CCSP, the lessons learned, among others the outstanding success in communicating with governments around the world, are overlooked. For example, the IPCC aviation assessment (IPCC, 1999) was successful in involving scientists, industries, governments, and intergovernmental regulators (i.e., International Civil Aviation Organization) in evaluating options for future aviation. In many aspects climate science has already succeeded in communicating with stakeholders and in being used in policy decisions, but the CCSP does not take advantage of these successes. In identifying the relevant decision makers and their needs the CCSP also should build on decades of work in this area by various government agencies, such as the Energy Information Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Weather Service and Office of Global Programs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) various ozone assessments. Research needs regarding vulnerability, key risk areas, and interactions with stakeholders can be gleaned from the regional and sectoral findings of the U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (NAST, 2001), the IPCC report from Working Group II, Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (IPCC, 2001a), and the experiences of past GCRP programs that have supported research and delivery of information to stakeholders, such as NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA), NASA’s Regional Earth Science Application Center, and NSF’s Science and Technology Center programs. In particular, the RISA program has dealt with climate impacts and delivery of regional climate and environmental information on all time scales to stakeholders in various regions of the United States, while the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (the IRI), in cooperation with U.S. Agency for International Development has encouraged similar capacity building in developing countries. These programs could form the kernel of a future “research-to-operations” system that would be focused on understanding the decision context and informing decisions at regional scales. Recommendation: The revised strategic plan should build upon the lessons learned in applied climate studies and stakeholder interaction from prior environmental and climate assessment activities. CAPACITY BUILDING TO IMPLEMENT THE STRATEGIC PLAN The draft strategic plan calls for many research and decision support advances, including a greatly strengthened climate modeling infrastructure to address local, regional, national, and international needs; increased collaboration on key scientific challenges; a significantly upgraded global climate observing system, including climate-quality data
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Planning Climate and Global Change Research management; and a suite of sophisticated informational products for decision makers who in many cases are new to climate change science. The draft plan does not evaluate the size, scope, and training of appropriate research and stakeholder communities necessary to address these issues or approaches for taking advantage of resources that do exist. The infrastructure requirements to support the transition from research results to operational prediction are also not addressed. For example, support will be needed to bring together in one facility diverse researchers, including observers, process study scientists, modelers, computer programmers, social scientists, and those who represent end users. The committee believes that the CCSP faces a major challenge in systematically developing institutional infrastructure, growing new cross-disciplinary intellectual talent, nurturing networks of diverse perspectives and capabilities, and fostering successful transition from research to decision support applications. In general this capacity building is a long-term activity, but significant progress can be made in the short term with strategic investments. In both the social sciences and the natural sciences there is considerable knowledge that has the potential to make major contributions to the current and long-term goals of the CCSP, however that knowledge has not yet been fully applied to these goals, nor has the broad set of interfaces between these disciplines been addressed. The necessary personnel to execute an enhanced level of research cannot be assumed to exist, particularly for research problems that cross disciplinary boundaries. In a number of fields, particularly in the social sciences, there are relatively few researchers in the position to undertake climate research. Furthermore, it takes years to increase workforce capacity. The achievement of these capacity-building goals will require systematic investments over a long period of time. A second capacity-building challenge for the CCSP is to educate the stakeholder community so that it can effectively use the CCSP research products. This key aspect of the linkage between the scientific community and stakeholders is addressed further in Chapter 5 of this report. Recommendation: The revised strategic plan should explicitly address the major requirements in building capacity in human resources that are implied in the plan. Another type of capacity building is necessary to acquire and develop the computing, communication, and information management resources necessary both to conduct the extensive climate modeling called for in the draft strategic plan and to process and store the large amounts of data to be collected from a greatly expanded observation network. Applied climate modeling and especially the crucial regional-to-global scale climate change scenarios will require substantially enhanced supercomputer powers. Improvements in research models need to be tested before transition to operational models; this testing requires substantial computing resources. Further effort would be required to develop products responsive to decision makers and other users. The draft plan says nothing about what these computing requirements might be or how the CCSP might obtain them. This omission in the plan comes despite its reference to how two recent NRC reports (NRC, 1998 and 2001c) identified the hardware and software challenges facing the U.S. climate modeling capabilities (CCSP, 2002, p. 139). Recommendation: The revised strategic plan should provide details about how the CCSP will acquire the computing resources necessary to achieve its goals. FINANCIAL RESOURCES FOR IMPLEMENTING THE PLAN The committee was asked to consider whether the results and deliverables identified in the draft strategic plan are realistic given available resources. Because the draft strategic plan does not include details about present and projected levels of support for each program element and because the fiscal year 2004 budget request was not available to the committee during its deliberations, it had limited information to evaluate this question. Nonetheless, it is clear that the scope of activities described in the draft strategic plan is greatly enlarged over what has been supported in the past through the GCRP. It includes a greatly strengthened climate modeling infrastructure increased collaboration; a significantly upgraded global climate observing system; and a suite of sophisticated informational products for decision makers. As discussed in the previous section, implementing this expanded suite of activities will require significant investments in infrastructure and human resources and therefore will necessitate either greatly increased funding for the CCSP or a major reprioritization and cutback in existing programs. Shortly after this report entered National Academies’ review, the President’s fiscal year 2004 budget request was made publicly available. It includes $182 million for the CCRI (compared to the fiscal year 2003 budget request of $40 million) within a total CCSP budget request of $1749 million (compared to the fiscal year 2003 budget request of $1747 million). The committee has not had the opportunity to analyze the fiscal year 2004 budget request in detail. Even so, a cursory review of the proposed budget indicates that the CCSP has chosen to increase funding for CCRI at the expense of existing GCRP program elements (or simply relabeled some activities previously considered part of the GCRP as CCRI activities) and has shifted funds from one agency to another. Even if program funding increases, CCSP management will continue to be faced with many funding decisions, such as which new programs should be initiated (and when),
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Planning Climate and Global Change Research whether any existing programs should be scaled back or discontinued, how to balance short-term and longer-term commitments, and how to balance support for international and U.S. programs. As discussed in Chapter 2 of this report, these resource allocation decisions must be based on the goals and priorities of the program, which should be clearly described in the revised strategic plan. The independent advisory body recommended by the committee in Chapter 4 of this report also should be used to inform such decisions. The committee believes it is essential for the CCSP to move forward with the important new elements of CCRI while preserving crucial parts of existing GCRP programs. Recommendation: The CCSP should use the clear goals and program priorities of the revised strategic plan and advice from the independent advisory body recommended by the committee to guide future funding decisions.
Representative terms from entire chapter: