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2 Global Change and the Changing Atmosphere WILLIAM C. CLARK Harvard University A considerable set of long-term developments has put us in the somewhat awkward position today of having multiple programs and multiple problems that are partially overlapping but that lack well- understood linkages. One hundred and twenty years ago, the Italian geologist Antonio Stoppani wrote eloquently about the importance of understanding the connections, on a global scale, among human interventions, how the earth's surface was being transformed, and how that affected local climate and the atmosphere. Sixty years later, this theme was picked up by the "patron saint" of this gath- ering, Vladimir Vernadsky, in his lectures at the Sorbonne. He put forward almost as a matter of religious faith, considering the lack of observations at the time the notion that a fuller understanding of many of the atmospheric and related problems of the day would be served not by greater specialization in narrow subdisciplines but rather by trying to fashion a concept of the biosphere as a whole. Lit- tIe research developed along these lines over the next 20 to 30 years because there were neither data nor instruments nor testable theories that would let anyone go beyond the assertion that the integrated, interdisciplinary perspective might be a useful approach. Thirty years ago marked the occurrence of the International Geo- physical Year (IGY), which for the first time gave us, on a systematic international basis, a worldwide perspective on environmental change 4
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GLOBAL CHANGE s in and of itself. It marked the start of the now infamous carbon diox- ide monitoring series and of other such data records. It provided a window on the possible gIobal-scale perturbations of many of the more important components of the geosphere-biosphere system by human activities. In the years since the IGY, there have been broad advances in the basic sciences of the earth: biogeochemical processes and climate-biotic interactions, and how these both interact with human processes. The fundamental nature and importance of these advances are not diminished by the fact that many of them came about in response to specific problems of environmental change thought to offer threats to society. Examples of advances in atmospheric sciences include acid deposition programs, the stratospheric ozone programs to be discussed in this symposium, and climate change programs. Each of these programs, although building on and adding to a base of fundamental research, has pushed our understanding far deeper into areas of science linked to specific problems than into other areas that are every bit as interesting and every bit as fundamental to an integrated understanding of biosphere dynamics. What is really new in the last 10 years is the pervasive conviction that the connections among the relatively well researched problem areas are not side effects but are central to our basic understand- ing of environmental change. In a sense, we are now saying that Vernacisky was right, that understanding particular changes in the geosphere-biosphere system, be they in climate, stratospheric chem- istry, or atmosphere-soi! interactions, requires a certain commitment to studying the interactions among those changes as well as the individual problems themselves. Recognition of these interconnections is occurring in the scien- tific, administrative, and policy communities. Scientifically, we see it in the recognition that deforestation affects climate change, that climate change influences stratospheric chemistry involved in ozone depletion, and that the chIorofluorocarbons involved in ozone de- pletion feed back again on climate change. The neat separations between these areas that were almost complete 10 or even 5 years ago are simply not holding up today. Administratively, we are seeing a scramble by the executive agen- cies to rearrange their budgeting criteria and evaluation mechanisms to support the kinds of research that deal with the connections. Sometimes it appears that administrative perspectives have forced scientists to look at the interactions among elements of global change.
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6 WILLIAM C. CLARK More often, at least from the point of view of the science community, administrative structures have lagged behind scientific recognition of where the challenges for research lie. But nobody who is aware of what has been going on in the National Aeronautics and Space Ad- ministration (NASA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and the other executive agencies, even in the Office of Management and Bud- get, over the last several years, can help but realize that a determined, if imperfect, effort is under way to try to rearrange our funding pri- orities and our abilities to support long-term research efforts that address this notion of important connections among environmental changes. Finally, a point that should not be overlooked is that this notion of connections is achieving more and more significance for manage- ment and policy. There is a growing recognition that, for example, we cannot set our policy toward fossil fuel use by looking at the greenhouse implications alone. One has to recognize that any policy change affecting fossil fuel use will also affect acid deposition, green- house warming, corrosivity of the atmosphere, and so on. This line of reasoning also applies to land-use management strategies, industrial policy, and similar policy issues. We have an opportunity to fashion arguments that people in the executive agencies and Congress can really use to try to advance policies in these very complex areas, by helping them to see these linkages and to explain them to their con- stituencies. The scientific community is beginning to recognize the opportunity but has done little so far to provide useful conceptual tools and means of communicating these linkages that can be used to build the social and political consensus necessary for action. So, where is all this taking us? Many places, but most obviously to the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP). IGBP has been brewing for many years out of a recognition of the exis- tence of connections among disciplines. A couple of years ago in Berne, Switzerland, the International Council of Scientific Unions General Assembly anointed IGBP with the avowed goal of describing and understanding interactive physical and biological processes that regulate the total earth system and the unique environment that it provides for life, the changes that are occurring within this system, and the manner in which they are influenced by human activities. Now, that ~ a goal of basic research in the earth sciences that is dif- ficult to disagree with. The problem that has preoccupied scientists and administrators over the last several years is how such a goal can be approached in practicable, doable steps that, at a minimum, do
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GLOBAL CHANGE no harm to scientific research already under way. Steps that, in a more optimistic vein, promote some of the new long-term research, observations, and synthesis that are necessary to turn the notion of connections into a real revolution in our understanding of, and ability to cope with, global change in the geosphere-biosphere system. The challenge of implementing the goals of IGBP hinges on two issues, which unfortunately have not always been distinguished. One is substantive, the other organizational. Substantively, the problem is to identify the few really anew start" programs of experimentation and observation that could make the most difference in our overall understanding of the interlinked earth science system. In doing that, the first requirement is one that is analogous to a principle accepted by the medical community: Do no harm to existing programs that are under way. We have to recognize that the opportunity for doing 7 such harm is monumental if the exercise is not conducted with very close attention to what works already and therefore does not need fixing or extra coordinating. Organizationally, there are equally strong imperatives and chal- lenges. Again, a first requirement is to do no harm to organizational frameworks that, through years of evolution, are finally at the stage where they are supporting programs that are actually helping us to get on with the business of increasing understanding. Second, having ensured that we do as little harm as possible, we must make sure that the interdisciplinary linkages mentioned earlier do not fall between organizational stools. Third, we must take steps to ensure that the organizations we do have in place do not impede research that is crossing over their historical boundaries of self-definition. Finally, the ultimate challenge is to identify which, if any, new organizational frameworks would make a positive contribution to our ability to get on with the substantive work of understanding global change. This brings us back to the purpose of this symposium. Obvi- ously, a great many endeavors are under way to address both the substantive and organizational issues of global change. One of these is the recent report Earth System Science, A Closer View (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C., January 1988) of the Earth Systems Science Committee. In addition to being the community's bid for the coffee table book of the year, this report represents an heroic effort to take an overview of the earth system, to identify some of the most important substantive problems, and to address the organizational difficulties of going after them effectively. It is a step in the right direction, but only if we build on it rather
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8 WILLIAM O. CLARK than simply setting it on the shelf. A second endeavor is the Na- tional Research Council's continuing review of geosphere-biosphere issues. Its most recent incarnation, the Committee on Global Change (CGC), is developing a preliminary plan for U.S. participation in the IGBP. The CGC ~ a noteworthy group in that it consists of not only atmospheric scientists and oceanographers but also biologists and geophysicists and even camouflaged sociologists. The challenge to the CGC is not to come out with simply another endorsement stating that linkages are important and that the geosphere-biosphere is out there and needs further study, but rather to really come to terms with the notion of significant, definable new problem areas for which solid research can be productive in the near term. ~ remain puzzled as to just what role this symposium is going to play in moving on with the implementation of a research program on global change. But even that ambiguity is something that should be fostered. The symposium has clearly brought together a number of the best researchers in several closely related areas, in which just the type of connections that ~ referred to earlier are beginning to be unraveled and explored. Two National Research Council groups, the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate and the Comrn~ttee on Global Change, have joined forces to explore this issue. Finally, the symposium audience consists of most of the Important Washington tribes: the Congress, the executive agencies, the nongovernmental organizations, and the press, all of whom are going to be necessary if a global change program is really to move forward and advance us some steps on the way to an understanding of the geosphere-biosphere system. ~ look forward to seeing what interactions scientific, ad- ministrative, and political this particular mix will provoke. (in answer to a question): If the planned global change programs are as successful as they promise to be, they are going to create many more problems for the policy and management community than they solve, at least in the short run. They are going to turn up things that we did not know were going on and that we will be very uncertain and a little worried about. The global change program should not be viewed as a short-term response to existing, already known and understood problems. If a global change program is to have any long-term eEect, the funding and support efforts also have to take a long-term perspective. We have to say over and over again to ourselves, to the agencies, to Congress, and to the public at large that the only way we will ever get out of playing "crisis
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GLOBAL CHANGE 9 response" to the degree that we have been doing of late (be it in ozone depletion, acid deposition, or some other "problem of the month") is to get the necessary broad-based basic research going. We need to take more initiative in showing how the halting progress we are making across the broad front of understanding really is improving our ability to deal with specific problems. The speed and efficiency with which efforts were mounted to take a look at the antarctic ozone phenomenon, once it was noticed, are an excellent illustration of how 10 to 15 years of basic preparatory research can prepare us to cope with surprises. We need to get that message across at least as much as we need to be concerned with getting the FY 1989 budget secured or getting a congressional hearing on immediate solutions to immediate problems. (In answer to another question): Events will doubtless open up windows of opportunity for stepwise advances in support and understanding and will also close them on occasion. As a member of CGC, ~ fee} that such opportunities will be wasted if we do not have on the table plans consistently and broadly supported by the entire community. These plans should be about very specific programs of measurement, experimentation, and documentation. They should not be broad statements saying where we hope to be, but instead plans specifying what we want to do next and exactly how we are going to do it. Then we can keep coming back and saying, "That is the sort of thing that should have been funded two years ago. That is the thing that should be supported now." We are not in that position now. AD of the good works to date associated with global change through NASA, NSF initiatives, and the National Research Council have produced a good foundation but have not moved to a level allowing one to give congressional testimony and to talk to colleagues on the Hill and elsewhere and say, "Here is the research we are planning to do." Until we do that, the opportunities may come and go without our having a compelling rationale for pushing commitment and action.
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