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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change Appendix C Process for Identifying Priority Areas Considerable thinking has been done on how to set science priorities in the federal government (see summary in NRC, 2006), going back before Alvin Weinberg’s two benchmark articles on criteria for scientific choice (Weinberg, 1963, 1964). This appendix describes the process the committee used to identify priorities for a future climate research program. The committee’s approach was informed by the decision science literature and modeled after the method used to identify risk reduction options for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, 1990). The steps the committee followed were: Specify the goals that the climate research and applications are intended to achieve Identify the major priority areas Develop criteria for ranking the priority areas Convene two stakeholder workshops—the first on applications and the second on science—to revise and rank the priority areas Choose a final list of priorities based on workshop and other input and connections with climate change issues of importance to society
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change The first four steps were done in an iterative consensus process in which a strawman list was vetted and modified by outside experts in several rounds of discussion at committee meetings and workshops. Although such methods have well-known shortcomings (e.g., validity, reliability, problems concerning the consensus among the experts), they have proven useful when it is not possible to obtain objective data (Finkel and Golding, 1994; Davies, 1996). The last step was carried out by the committee, which is responsible for the priorities presented in this report. IDENTIFYING SCIENCE AND APPLICATIONS PRIORITY AREAS The overarching goals of the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP; Appendix B) provided the context for identifying both science and applications priority areas (Step 1; Table C.1). Strawman priority areas (Step 2) were gleaned from workshops and more than 100 published reports and articles to give them a level of community review and acceptance. Among the most important sources were the gaps and weaknesses identified in Evaluating Progress of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program: Methods and Preliminary Results (NRC, 2007) and discussion papers prepared by the National Academies Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change (CHDGC) and Climate Research Committee (CRC; see Appendixes D and E). The CHDGC and CRC narrowed down dozens of candidate priorities using criteria similar to those developed by the committee for Step 3 and feedback from the committee.
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change TABLE C.1 Primary Sources of Input for Prioritization Process Topic Step 1 Goals Step 2 Priority Areas Step 3 Criteria Step 4 Workshop Applications CCSP overarching goals NRC (2007) and CHDGC and CRC discussion papers Workshop participants October 15–17, 2007; 104 experts: 37% academia 11% industry 44% government 8% NGO Science CCSP overarching goals CHDGC and CRC discussion papers 22 NRC reports on setting science priorities March 19–20, 2008; 78 experts: 69% academia 5% industry 17% government 9% NGO NOTE: CHDGC = Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change; CCSP = Climate Change Science Program; CRC = Climate Research Committee; NGO = nongovernmental organization; NRC = National Research Council.
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change Criteria for ranking science priority areas (Step 3) were compiled from 22 National Research Council reports and the most important ones were chosen and revised at the science workshop. The final criteria were: Scientific merit (e.g., generates new knowledge or fills critical gaps) Readiness (scientific, technical, programmatic, community capacity) Impacts (e.g., breadth of beneficiaries; potential for informing decisions, improving public understanding, or reducing risk) Cost The criteria for ranking applications priority areas were identified at the applications workshop. No attempt was made to develop a common set of criteria. Step 4 (refining and ranking the priority areas) was accomplished at the workshops. In each workshop, plenary discussions alternated with working group sessions, allowing multiple opportunities for input and iteration with diverse groups over the course of 2 or 3 days. Both workshops included a mix of experts from academia, industry, government, and nongovernmental organizations, but the applications workshop also included congressional staff and the media and had a much higher proportion of social scientists and managers from industry and federal, state, and local government (Table C.1). Natural and social scientists dominated the science workshop. Priority areas that emerged from the two workshops are listed, in random order, in Boxes C.1, C.2, and C.3. The workshops ranked priority areas within applications, natural science, and human dimensions. A final list of priorities from among these different areas (Step 5) and other sources was selected by the committee and appears in Chapter 3.
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change BOX C.1 Application Priority Areas From the October 2007 Workshop Climate prediction, rather than Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change-style scenarios Increased model resolution to improve predictive capabilities, especially at decadal (e.g., over the next 10 to 20 years) and regional/local scales Projection of additional variables required by specific user groups (e.g., temperature, humidity, wind for fire hazard; precipitation duration, intensity, and phase for water managers) Accounting for the tails of the probability distribution of future climate changes for risk analysis, adaptation, and cost estimates of climate changes (scientists tend to work with the means) Regional climate change impact analysis (i.e., the locations of various changes in different regions and the time frames over which the changes will occur) National integrated assessment of climate change, focused on impacts, adaptation (natural, land use, and social systems), and multiple stressors (e.g., climate in a socioeconomic context) Operational climate services to create climate assessments and predictions and to provide information tailored to different user communities Establishment of a data, tool, and scenario library or clearing-house for climate data and information users
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change BOX C.2 Natural Science Priority Areas From the March 2008 Workshop Integrated Earth system analysis (analysis, prediction, and evaluation testing of models against data) Land-use change, including carbon cycle and land management in the context of mitigation and adaptation Ocean parameterizations (e.g., mixing processes, biological feedbacks, air–sea exchange) Modeling and observations of the tropics (convection, tropical storms, regional change) Impacts of increasing CO2 levels on the oceans (including ocean acidification and marine ecosystems) Melting ice sheets, alpine glaciers, and sea level rise (including coastal impacts) Decadal prediction, with a focus on regional scales, including abrupt climate change Extreme events and hazards (especially hurricanes and drought) Land hydrological sensitivity to climate change (including drought and mountain glacier runoff/impact) End-to-end systems analysis/consequences of mitigation measures (including geoengineering and carbon sequestration) Modeling longer-timescale feedbacks Aerosols, clouds, precipitation, and atmospheric chemistry (connection to climate forcing and air quality) Operational attribution (not just global warming; connection to individual regional events)
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change BOX C.3 Human Dimensions Priority Areas From the March 2008 Workshop Human drivers of change (e.g., migration and population growth, land use, lifestyle, household consumption) and their role in emissions generation, impact vulnerability, and adaptation Characterize adaptation, including autonomous (private) and public adaptation. This includes the role of social networks and institutions as well as the cost and speed of adaptation. Human health consequences of changes in the weather, ecosystems, and air pollution, including short- vs. long-run (adaptive) responses, extreme events vs. average conditions, and how these responses might be affected by migration, land-use change, and lifestyle Systems interactions and net effects of human behavior (mitigation and adaptation) on water, land, and energy use, carbon fluxes, ecosystems, coastal resources, and the built environment (methodological systems approach) Institutional and social constraints and opportunities for technological innovation, diffusion, and adoption in the context of mitigation (including geoengineering) and adaptation Characterizing human perceptions and valuations of impacts and risks of climate change, including variability, speed of change, and abrupt change Human and systems differential vulnerabilities to climate change including scenarios, mapping, and development of metrics of adaptive capacity Methods and processes to support effective climate decision making (including communication and education) Ethics and equity of climate change and responses
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change REFERENCES Davies, J.C., ed., 1996, Comparing Environmental Risks: Tools for Setting Government Priorities, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C., 157 pp. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), 1990, Reducing Risk: Setting Priorities and Strategies for Environmental Protection, Report by the Science Advisory Board, SAC-EC-90-021, Washington, D.C., 26 pp. Finkel, A.M., and D. Golding, eds., 1994, Worst Things First? The Debate over Risk-Based National Environmental Priorities, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C., 348 pp. NRC (National Research Council), 2006, A Strategy for Assessing Science: Behavioral and Social Research on Aging, National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 176 pp. NRC, 2007, Evaluating Progress of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program: Methods and Preliminary Results, National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 170 pp. Weinberg, A., 1963, Criteria for scientific choice, Minerva, 1, 159–171. Weinberg, A., 1964, Criteria for scientific choice II: The two cultures, Minerva, 3, 3–14.