1
Introduction

The issues addressed by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) are among the most crucial of those facing humankind in the twenty-first century. Given increasing evidence of how humans have modified the Earth’s climate over the last century, it is imperative for the nation to continue directing resources toward better understanding of what form future changes in climate and climate variability may take, the potential positive and negative impacts of these changes on humans and ecosystems, and how society can best mitigate or adapt to these changes.

Over the twentieth century the global mean surface temperature increased by 0.6±0.2 ºC (1.1±0.4 ºF) (IPCC, 2001c). Indeed, the 1990s was very likely the warmest decade for the planet since the mid-1800s. An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of other climate changes including the widespread retreat of non-polar glaciers and the rise of global mean sea level by 10 to 20 cm during the twentieth century. The hydrology and ecosystems in many regions of the world also have been affected by changes in the climate. For example, the growing season in the Northern Hemisphere has lengthened, particularly at high latitudes, and plant and animal ranges have shifted poleward and toward higher elevations.

The role that human activities have played in causing these climate changes has been a subject of debate and research for more than a decade. There is no doubt that humans have modified the abundances of key greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, in particular carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and tropospheric ozone (IPCC, 2001c). These gases are at their highest recorded levels. In fact, the ice-core records of carbon dioxide and methane show their twentieth century atmospheric abundances to be significantly larger than at any period over the past 400,000 years. The increase in these greenhouse gases is primarily due to fossil fuel combustion, agriculture, and land-use changes. Recent research advances have led to widespread acceptance that the human-induced increase in greenhouse gas abundances is responsible for a significant portion of the observed climate changes, though it is difficult to quantify against the backdrop of natural variability and climate forcing uncertainties.

Because the Earth system responds so slowly to changes in greenhouse gas levels, and because altering established energy-use practices is difficult, changes and impacts attributable to these factors will continue during the twenty-first century and beyond. Current models indicate a large potential range for future climates, with global mean surface temperature warming by 1.4 to 5.8ºC (2.5 to 10.4 ºF) by 2100 (IPCC, 2001c). This range, which many consider to be too wide to guide policy making, is due to gaps in understanding of climate science and the socio-economic drivers of climate change. Research under the CCSP is critical to improve this basic understanding so as to make it possible to produce more reliable projections (or “forecasts”) of future climate and associated global changes. Such tested and trusted “forecasts” of future climate would be of great use to a broad spectrum of stakeholders, ranging from national policy makers deciding whether to ratify international agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to regional water managers deciding how much river flow to allocate to irrigation, to individuals choosing which car or appliance to purchase.

Given the above, setting new strategic directions for the CCSP is particularly important. This new program must complement the research of the last decade, which focused on building an understanding of the Earth system, with research to explicitly support decision making. To do so, it will be necessary to continue research into the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of climate and associated global changes, and to add research that will enable decision makers to understand the potential impacts ahead and make choices among possible response strategies. Further, new collaborations among scientists, policy makers, and other stakeholders will be essential to developing a research agenda that is responsive to the nation’s needs.



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Planning Climate and Global Change Research 1 Introduction The issues addressed by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) are among the most crucial of those facing humankind in the twenty-first century. Given increasing evidence of how humans have modified the Earth’s climate over the last century, it is imperative for the nation to continue directing resources toward better understanding of what form future changes in climate and climate variability may take, the potential positive and negative impacts of these changes on humans and ecosystems, and how society can best mitigate or adapt to these changes. Over the twentieth century the global mean surface temperature increased by 0.6±0.2 ºC (1.1±0.4 ºF) (IPCC, 2001c). Indeed, the 1990s was very likely the warmest decade for the planet since the mid-1800s. An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of other climate changes including the widespread retreat of non-polar glaciers and the rise of global mean sea level by 10 to 20 cm during the twentieth century. The hydrology and ecosystems in many regions of the world also have been affected by changes in the climate. For example, the growing season in the Northern Hemisphere has lengthened, particularly at high latitudes, and plant and animal ranges have shifted poleward and toward higher elevations. The role that human activities have played in causing these climate changes has been a subject of debate and research for more than a decade. There is no doubt that humans have modified the abundances of key greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, in particular carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and tropospheric ozone (IPCC, 2001c). These gases are at their highest recorded levels. In fact, the ice-core records of carbon dioxide and methane show their twentieth century atmospheric abundances to be significantly larger than at any period over the past 400,000 years. The increase in these greenhouse gases is primarily due to fossil fuel combustion, agriculture, and land-use changes. Recent research advances have led to widespread acceptance that the human-induced increase in greenhouse gas abundances is responsible for a significant portion of the observed climate changes, though it is difficult to quantify against the backdrop of natural variability and climate forcing uncertainties. Because the Earth system responds so slowly to changes in greenhouse gas levels, and because altering established energy-use practices is difficult, changes and impacts attributable to these factors will continue during the twenty-first century and beyond. Current models indicate a large potential range for future climates, with global mean surface temperature warming by 1.4 to 5.8ºC (2.5 to 10.4 ºF) by 2100 (IPCC, 2001c). This range, which many consider to be too wide to guide policy making, is due to gaps in understanding of climate science and the socio-economic drivers of climate change. Research under the CCSP is critical to improve this basic understanding so as to make it possible to produce more reliable projections (or “forecasts”) of future climate and associated global changes. Such tested and trusted “forecasts” of future climate would be of great use to a broad spectrum of stakeholders, ranging from national policy makers deciding whether to ratify international agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to regional water managers deciding how much river flow to allocate to irrigation, to individuals choosing which car or appliance to purchase. Given the above, setting new strategic directions for the CCSP is particularly important. This new program must complement the research of the last decade, which focused on building an understanding of the Earth system, with research to explicitly support decision making. To do so, it will be necessary to continue research into the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of climate and associated global changes, and to add research that will enable decision makers to understand the potential impacts ahead and make choices among possible response strategies. Further, new collaborations among scientists, policy makers, and other stakeholders will be essential to developing a research agenda that is responsive to the nation’s needs.

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Planning Climate and Global Change Research HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF THE U.S. CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENCE PROGRAM A multidisciplinary approach to researching Earth’s biogeochemical system was first considered in the mid-1970s, when scientists became aware that humans might be perturbing the climate, as well as the biology, physics, and chemistry of the global environment. A number of reports published during the 1980s (e.g., by the U.S. Department of Energy [DOE, 1977, 1980], the National Research Council [e.g., NRC, 1983, 1986], the National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA] Earth System Sciences Committee [ESSC 1986, 1988]), suggested that a coordinated national research effort was needed to effectively observe and study the Earth system. The first efforts at a coordinated government research strategy came in late 1986, when NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) began developing parallel global change programs. In 1987 eight agencies formed the federal interagency Committee on Earth Sciences (now known as the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources [CENR]). When the U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP) was created by a presidential initiative in 1989, CENR formed a Subcommittee on Global Change Research (SGCR)1 to provide leadership and coordinate the activities of this new program. The U.S. Global Climate Research Act of 1990 codified the existing interagency relationships. According to the act the GCRP was to be “aimed at understanding and responding to global change, including the cumulative effects of human activities and natural processes on the environment, to promote discussions toward international protocols in global change research, and for other purposes” (see Appendix C). The act specifically called for a 10-year research plan to be submitted to Congress at least every three years specifying “the goals and priorities for Federal global change research which most effectively advance scientific understanding of global change and provide usable information on which to base policy decisions relating to global change.” Other requirements of the 10-year research plan include descriptions of activities necessary to meet the plan’s goals, identification of existing federal programs that contribute to the GCRP, description of the role of each federal agency and department in implementing the plan, recommendations for international coordination of research activities, and estimates, to the extent practical, of federal funding for the activities in the plan. In addition to the responsibility for planning and coordinating national global change research, the Global Change Research Act mandated that the GCRP produce periodic scientific assessments of the research results, prepare an annual report to Congress summarizing the program’s activities, and coordinate with other nations. In 2001 the GCRP published its first assessment of results from the research program and implications for the United States (NAST, 2001). The Act also states that the GCRP should retain the NRC to “evaluate the scientific content of the plan” and to provide information and advice, in particular about “priorities for future global change research” (see Appendix C). The NRC has provided ongoing advice to the GCRP through many reports and has convened numerous public meetings of the several NRC boards and committees that focus on global change. Since its creation in 1990, the GCRP has made substantial investments in the following general areas of climate change and global change research: measurements of the physical, chemical, and biological processes responsible for changes in the Earth system; documentation of global change; studies of past changes in the Earth system; prediction and simulation of global environmental processes; and research initiatives to understand the nature of and interactions among global change processes. The GCRP reports numerous scientific insights and accomplishments of the program in the annual publication of its report to Congress titled Our Changing Planet (e.g., GCRP, 2002, 2003). The program did not release publicly any ten-year plans for global change research before the draft plan this committee is reviewing. The annual publication of Our Changing Planet provides some indication of the GCRP’s future plans and vision. For the most part, however, the GCRP has comprised atmospheric, oceanic, and land-surface research activities conducted by the individual agencies, which coordinate with each other in differing degrees. During the late 1990s the GCRP began to develop a comprehensive ten-year research plan. It held three planning meetings with agency representatives and the science community between 1998 and 2001. The NRC was asked to provide guidance in the form of a report describing the scientific issues of global change, the key scientific questions that should be addressed by the GCRP, and research approaches to address these questions. In response to this request the NRC Committee on Global Change Research (CGCR) produced Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade (NRC, 1999b). The CGCR also discussed a draft GCRP draft ten-year plan at a public meeting on January 23, 2001. 1   The membership of the Subcommittee on Global Change Research has since grown to 13 agencies and departments: NASA, NOAA, NSF, Environmental Protection Agency, DOE, Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of the Interior/U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, Health and Human Services, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Smithsonian Institution. The Office of Science and Technology Policy and the OMB provide oversight on behalf of the Executive Office of the President.

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Planning Climate and Global Change Research FIGURE 1-1 Climate Science and Technology Management Structure. Source: Available online at <http://www.climatescience.gov>. In 2001 the new presidential administration reviewed U.S. climate change policy. Its review included another request to the National Academies to help identify “the areas in the science of climate change where there are the greatest certainties and uncertainties” and to provide “views on whether there are any substantive differences between the IPCC reports and the IPCC summaries.” In response the NRC published Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions (NRC, 2001a). Days after receiving the report President George W. Bush announced the creation of the new Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI). In his announcement the President directed that priorities be established for climate change research, including a focus on identifying the scientific information that can be developed within two to five years to assist the nation in the development of strategies to address global change risks. The President also called for improved coordination among federal agencies to assure that research results are made available to all stakeholders, from national policy leaders to local resource managers. In February 2002 President Bush announced the formation of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), a new management structure that would incorporate the work of the GCRP and the newly launched CCRI. The CCSP is intended to be a single interagency committee responsible for the entire range of science projects sponsored by the two programs.2 The Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere was named director of the CCSP. The interagency CCSP retains the responsibility for compliance with the requirements of the Global Change Research Act of 1990, including its provisions for annual reporting of findings and short-term plans, scientific reviews by the National Academies, and periodic publication of a 10-year strategic plan for the program. At the same time a Climate Change Technology Program (CCTP) was created to coordinate and develop interagency research efforts focused on developing new technologies related to climate change and its mitigation. The Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy was named the director of the CCTP. As illustrated in Figure 1-1, oversight for both the CCSP and the CCTP is provided by the Interagency Working Group on Climate Change Science and Technology, which in turn reports to a high-level Committee on Climate Change Science and Technology Integration. The initial activities of the CCSP included an inventory of global change research activities at the 13 participating agencies. The fiscal year 2002 budget included $1670 million officially part of the GCRP plus an additional $1210 million in related and supporting research activities 2   The SGCR retains responsibility for overseeing the GCRP in name, however the membership and leadership of the SGCR and the CCSP are identical.

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Planning Climate and Global Change Research at the agencies. The fiscal year 2003 request for the CCSP was $1747 million and that for the newly established CCRI was $40 million. The fiscal year 2004 requests for CCSP and CCRI are $1749 million and $182 million, respectively. Soon after the inventory was completed the CCSP began drafting a 10-year strategic plan for global change research. The discussion draft of the plan, Strategic Plan for the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP, 2002), was released on the CCSP website (<http://www.climatescience.gov>) on November 11, 2002. According to the draft plan’s foreword, the plan was “prepared by the thirteen federal agencies participating in the CCSP, with input from a large number of scientific steering groups and coordination by the CCSP staff under the leadership of Dr. Richard H. Moss,” Executive Director of the GCRP. This plan was the subject of extensive discussion by over 1,000 scientists, agency representatives, and other stakeholders at a major planning workshop in Washington, D.C., on December 3-5, 2002. The CCSP also requested that the National Academies undertake a fast-track review of the discussion draft of the strategic plan (see Appendix E for statement of task). This report represents the results of the committee’s review of the November 11, 2002, draft strategic plan. This committee will issue a second report reviewing the final strategic plan and the CCSP’s planning process.

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