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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change 3 Future Priorities The committee was charged to identify priorities to guide the future evolution of the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), including changes of emphasis and identification of program elements not supported in the past. A long list of priorities was identified from reports, assessments, and workshop discussions, as described and summarized in Appendix C, and from the common themes and gaps that emerged from the research needs outlined in Chapter 2. From these, the committee identified a small set of priorities for the program as a whole. This chapter discusses these priorities in the context of the major roles of a federal climate change research program (Box 3.1). No attempt was made to lay out a comprehensive agenda in any of these areas. Rather, the focus is on what adjustments should be made to the future program to facilitate the integrated, end-to-end approach described in Chapter 2. A key assumption was that energy and geoengineering and other technologies for mitigating climate change research would continue to be primarily the mandate of partner programs such as the Climate Change Technology Program (CCTP).
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change BOX 3.1 Roles of a Federal Climate Change Research Program The roles of a federal climate change research program are to Coordinate federally-sponsored research on climate, human, and related environmental systems across multiple agencies to strengthen synergies and find efficiencies Develop a research program and a strategic planning process to identify critical gaps and emerging issues and to secure the necessary resources to address them Ensure the availability of climate-quality observations and computing capacity and the development of human resources and institutions needed to address key priorities Support coordinated U.S. participation in international climate science initiatives, including global observation networks and international assessments Facilitate and, where appropriate, leverage regional, state, and local research on climate change, including monitoring and understanding the effects of adaptation and mitigation Communicate reliable, unbiased research findings and information needed to improve public understanding of climate change and support informed decisions on adaptation and mitigation Much has been written about programs that are needed to implement the various roles listed in Box 3.1. Principles and recommendations on improving management and strategic planning (role 1) for the CCSP are discussed in NRC (2004c) and NRC (2005b). Below we discuss the management challenges that a coordinated multiagency program will face as it moves toward building the knowledge needed to inform decisions. The biggest research gap in the current program (role 2) concerns the human dimensions of global change (e.g., NRC, 1992, 2004c, 2007c), and the discussion below focuses on the importance of adaptation, mitigation, and vulnerability research to support the scientific-societal issues outlined in Chapter 2. Priorities for space-based observations (part of role 3) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are identified in the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Decadal Survey (NRC, 2007b). This chapter discusses observations that were not included in the Decadal Survey but are needed to understand the climate–human–environment system, as well as data
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change collection issues relevant to a multiagency program. The chapter also discusses other aspects of roles 3 (e.g., modeling and computation), 4 (international partnerships), and 5 (state and local government partnerships) needed to promote an end-to-end approach to climate change. Finally, communications and decision support (role 6) are discussed in NRC (2007c) and NRC (2009), respectively. Below, we focus on only one aspect of this latter issue—climate services—which is under active discussion in Congress and by the CCSP agencies. CLIMATE OBSERVATIONS AND DATA Observations are the foundation of climate change research programs. Climate observations and associated climate data records are used to improve our understanding of processes, to monitor the changing climate, to understand how the natural and social systems interact and how these interactions contribute and respond to climate change, and to evaluate the effectiveness of policies to mitigate, cope with, and adapt to climate change (e.g., NRC, 1999a, 2000). The observational components needed for climate research and applications, including ground-based and satellite measurements and socioeconomic surveys, are collectively referred to as a climate observing system. NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS), designed in 1988, is the closest thing the United States has had to the satellite component of a climate observing system. Originally conceived as three series of satellites to provide sustained, long-term measurements of physical climate and other global variables—complemented by ground-, aircraft-, balloon-, and ship-based measurements (ESSC, 1988)—the project was greatly scaled back. In the end, only the first series of satellites were flown and several planned variables (e.g., those related to geological processes) were never measured. Nevertheless, the data from the EOS satellites, as well as myriad remote-sensing and in situ observing programs operated by other agencies and countries, provided the foundation on which many CCSP successes were built (NRC, 2007c, 2008a). The need for a systematic and comprehensive approach to collecting climate observations has taken on new urgency with the
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change cancellation, delay, or degradation of existing and planned satellite and in situ observing systems and the decreasing budget for observations experienced over the past several years (e.g., NRC, 2007b, c). As stated in this committee’s first report, “the loss of existing and planned satellite sensors is perhaps the biggest threat to the Climate Change Science Program” (NRC, 2007c). A coordinated effort to collect long-term, climate-quality data on land and in the oceans and atmosphere is needed to support climate change science. In addition, the need to address climate change issues in the context of mitigation and adaptation has increased the importance of collecting socioeconomic and health data that can be used to understand human drivers and responses to climate change. Recommendation. At the earliest opportunity, the restructured climate change research program should set the requirements for a U.S.-operated climate observing system and work with participating agencies (federal, state, local, and international) to establish and maintain the system. Responsibility for observations is distributed across different federal agencies that participate in the CCSP. The program thus is a logical vehicle for developing a climate observing system. The participating agencies will have to design the system and determine their roles and responsibilities for making the observations and archiving and distributing data (NRC, 1999a). The program would have to (1) identify and prioritize the physical, biological, and social science observations needed to support climate change research and applications;1 (2) advocate for necessary funding; and (3) coordinate with complementary efforts of U.S. state government agencies (e.g., state mesonets participating in the National Integrated Drought Information System) and international programs (e.g., Global Climate Observing System [GCOS], Global Earth Observing System of Systems [GEOSS]) to leverage investments and work toward a comprehensive international global climate observing system (e.g., as called for in NOAA, 2001; GCOS, 2003, 2004; CEOS, 2006). An enormous amount of work 1 A CCSP interagency working group has begun this process, but had not completed it at the time of writing.
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change exists to draw on (e.g., see references throughout this section). For example, the GCOS program has developed a set of observation requirements and essential climate variables (GCOS, 2006). More recently, priority satellite observations have been identified for NASA and NOAA, as discussed in the next section. The priority missions for 2013 and beyond will need to be reassessed once a comprehensive set of satellite observation requirements have been identified by the restructured climate change research program. Decadal Survey The NRC Decadal Survey identified high-priority space missions to support research and monitoring of the Earth system from 2010 to 2020 (Table 3.1; NRC, 2007b). The chapter on climate variability and change identified a set of climate-mission priorities and pointed out the shortcomings of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), which is intended to form the basis for climate observations in the post-EOS era. It found that NPOESS would lack the capabilities of the EOS satellites and that delays and the cancellation of several key sensors would further weaken observing capabilities and introduce substantial gaps in key variables (NRC, 2007b). A subsequent NRC report evaluated which of the original NPOESS sensors were most important to be preserved and gave highest priority to continuity of microwave radiometry, radar altimetry, and Earth radiation budget measurements (NRC, 2008b). Neither report addressed the need for systematic moderate-resolution land surface observations beyond the Landsat Data Continuity Mission as a priority (see “Agriculture and Food Security” in Chapter 2 for a discussion of the need for improved temporal, global coverage at that resolution). The Decadal Survey focused on the physical Earth system, although some of the proposed missions identified in chapters on land-use change, earth science applications, human health, and water resources may have relevance to mitigation and adaptation. A decadal survey process focused on societal issues could be a useful way for the restructured climate change research program to identify climate observation priorities for (1) in situ land and ocean
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change measurement systems and (2) data on the human dimensions of climate change. TABLE 3.1 Satellite Measurements Recommended in the Decadal Survey Agency Mission Description Cost ($M)a 2010–2013 NASA Solar and Earth radiation; spectrally resolved forcing and response of the climate system 200 Soil moisture and freeze-thaw for weather and water-cycle processes 300 Ice sheet height changes for climate change diagnosis 300 Surface and ice sheet deformation for understanding natural hazards and climate; vegetation structure for ecosystem health 700 NOAA Solar and Earth radiation characteristics for understanding climate forcing 65 High-accuracy, all-weather temperature, water vapor, and electron density profiles for weather, climate, and space weather 150 2013–2016 NASA Land surface composition for agriculture and mineral characterization; vegetation types for ecosystem health 300 Day/night, all-latitude, all-season CO2 column integrals for climate emissions 400 Ocean, lake, and river water levels for ocean and inland water dynamics 450 Atmospheric gas columns for air quality forecasts; ocean color for coastal ecosystem health and climate emissions 550 Aerosol and cloud profiles for climate and water cycle; ocean color for open ocean biogeochemistry 800 NOAA Sea-surface wind vectors for weather and ocean ecosystems 350
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change Agency Mission Description Cost ($M)a 2016–2020 NASA Land surface topography for landslide hazards and water runoff 300 High-frequency, all-weather temperature and humidity soundings for weather forecasting and sea-surface temperature 450 High-temporal-resolution gravity fields for tracking large-scale water movement 450 Snow accumulation for freshwater availability 500 Ozone and related gases for intercontinental air quality and stratospheric ozone layer prediction 600 Tropospheric winds for weather forecasting and pollution transport 650 a Rough cost estimates, in FY 2006 dollars. SOURCE: NRC (2007b) Human Dimensions Observations The shortage of reliable and consistent data on the interactions between climate, humans, and environmental systems limits our ability to understand how humans affect climate and vice versa, and hence to design policy responses to climate change. This shortage is particularly critical in less developed regions of the world, where socioeconomic and health data may be absent, unavailable, and/or unreliable. Even in developed countries such as the United States, demographic (e.g., housing, census), transportation, economic, and other observations on humans, organizations, institutions, cultures, and societies are sparse and the associated location information may be unavailable to protect individual privacy. There is a particular need for: Time-series data related to human pressures on the environment, such as land cover and land use, resource extraction, energy consumption, pollutant emissions from different sources and sectors, and human attitudes, valuations, and responses
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change Data on human exposure, sensitivities, and responses to global environmental change, such as morbidity and mortality associated with air and water quality, and vulnerabilities to extreme weather and climate events Moreover, human-social variables tend to be measured and the data organized for purposes other than climate change research. For example, the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) data on energy consumers in households and businesses are not organized in a way that could support research on the causes and trends of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States (Appendix D). To be most useful for climate research, human dimensions data must be better organized and available at different scales of aggregation, including data from surveys and case-study libraries. Finally, data on human systems are rarely coordinated with other observational systems, making it difficult to carry out global analyses or integrated social-natural systems research. Some of the data to support integrated assessments of climate change and other studies of social and ecological systems are coming from research initiatives such as the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Biocomplexity Program and its successor Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems program (e.g., Box 3.2). Such programs show what might be possible for a restructured climate change research program. Major research directions for the human dimensions, which would provide a focus for collecting and organizing observations, are discussed in the section “Human Dimensions of Climate and Global Change Research,” below. ANALYSIS OF EARTH SYSTEM DATA The climate record is built from the analysis of many types of weather and climate-related observations. High-quality, long-term datasets are critical for making better predictions and hence for developing management scenarios to inform decision making and respond to climate change. However, the shortness and/or inhomogeneity of many climate datasets can limit their usefulness for studying climate variability and change and supporting decision making. The value of diverse atmospheric observations can be
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change BOX 3.2 Carbon Storage in Residential Neighborhoods Research on human-ecosystem interactions is yielding new insights on how homeowner preferences affect land use and hence carbon storage in exurban (beyond the suburbs) areas.a In one project, coupled human-ecological models were built that integrated social data (surveys of over 4,000 residents in southeastern Michigan) with land-use change spatial data (parcel records from municipalities and aerial photographs) and satellite data (Landsat and Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer). The models showed that exurban development increases vegetation productivity (Zhao et al., 2007) and that residential preferences for landscapes that look like those of their neighbors affect ecological function (Zellner et al., 2008). A follow-up study will examine how zoning and other policies might enhance carbon storage in exurban residential areas. For example, policies advocating increased carbon storage are likely to encourage more vegetation, whereas policies advocating water conservation are likely to encourage less. Because exurban development in the United States and other developed countries covers large areas, local policies and homeowner preferences may have regional- and global-scale implications. a Project SLUCE: Spatial Land-Use Change and Ecological Effects at the Rural-Urban Interface: Agent Based Modeling and Evaluation of Alternative Policies and Interventions. See http://www.cscs.umich.edu/sluce/. improved by assimilating them into a global atmospheric model to produce a best estimate of the state of the atmosphere at a given point in time. Such global analyses of atmospheric fields have supported many needs of the research and climate modeling communities. Since they are primarily produced by operational forecasting centers, which are less concerned with long-term data consistency, many changes are made to both the models and the assimilation systems over time. These changes produce spurious “climate changes” in the analysis fields, which obscure the signals of true short-term climate changes or interannual climate variability. A solution is to reanalyze the diverse atmospheric observations over time using a constant (or “frozen”) state-of-the-art assimilation model (e.g., Kalnay et al., 1996; Uppala et al., 2005). Today, the products of these global reanalyses provide the foundation for assessments of the state of current climate; diagnostic studies of weather systems, monsoons, El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and other natural climate variations; and studies of climate predictability (e.g., Trenberth et al., 2008). They also support regional
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change reanalysis projects and downscaling for studies of local climate and climate impacts. Moreover, the reanalysis process reveals deficiencies in assimilation and prediction systems that need to be improved. For the detection and attribution of long-term climate trends and variability, the quality of the observations and the data assimilation systems and changes in the number and types of atmospheric observations over time can limit the utility of the atmospheric reanalysis products. Reanalysis is being extended to support research on other aspects of the climate system. As assimilation techniques for observations of atmospheric trace constituents (e.g., aerosols, ozone, carbon dioxide) are refined, reanalysis should eventually provide the means to develop consistent climatologies for the chemical components of the atmosphere, including the carbon cycle, and thus help to quantify key uncertainties in the radiative forcing of climate (IPCC, 2007a). Reanalysis (or synthesis) of ocean data has led to novel techniques to increase the homogeneity of small historical ocean datasets. Other promising developments are occurring in sea ice and land surface reanalysis, and coupled data assimilation systems are beginning to be developed. Finally, adaptation and mitigation planning requires decadal forecasts of the natural climate variability and the response of the system to future changes in greenhouse-gas, aerosol and land-surface forcing. Coupled analysis and reanalysis products are necessary to provide the initial conditions for developing these decadal prediction systems. Improvements in reanalysis depend on continued support for the underpinning research, the development of comprehensive Earth system models to expand the scope of reanalysis, and the infrastructure for data handling and processing. As the scope of global reanalysis grows, so will the research effort and the need for international cooperation. Recommendation. A restructured climate change research program should sustain production of atmosphere and ocean reanalyses, further develop and support research on coupled data assimilation techniques (e.g., for the land surface), and improve coordination with similar efforts in other countries.
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change EARTH SYSTEM MODELING From Global Projections to Regional Predictions Despite impressive gains in knowledge of global climate change, our predictive capability of the Earth system remains insufficient for many societal needs, particularly for forming adaptation and mitigation strategies, which would benefit from more accurate and reliable predictions of regional climate change (NRC, 2007c). Improved predictions of climate change at regional and local scales should help a restructured climate change research program to bridge the gap between science and decision making. Improving attribution and regional prediction of weather and climate will require improved numerical models. In particular, a stepwise jump in accurately representing the continuum of temporal and spatial variability arising from a wide range of physical and dynamical phenomena and their associated feedbacks is a challenging but essential goal. Our limited understanding and capability to simulate the complex, multiscale interactions intrinsic to atmospheric, oceanic, and cryospheric fluid motions is a barrier to advancing weather and climate prediction on timescales from days to years. The leading-edge need is to develop a more unified modeling framework that provides for the hierarchical treatment of climate and forecast phenomena that span a wide range of space and timescales. To plan for the effects of climate change, the next generation of global climate models will have to provide numerical simulations on a spatial scale of a few kilometers, with enhanced vertical resolution and better representation of the upper atmosphere. For example, the poor representation of cloud processes is currently a major contributor to uncertainty in the response of the climate system to changes in radiative forcing. Such models are essential to improve our understanding of the multiscale interactions in the coupled system, to identify those of greatest importance, and to document their effects on climate. Ultimately, such basic research will help determine how to better represent small-scale processes in climate models; for instance the manner in which moist convection and its associated mesoscale organization drives larger circulations or the complex regional climate processes that occur
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change BOX 3.5 Lessons Learned from the 2001 National Assessment Strengths of the 2001 National Assessment The assessment process was intended to be transparent and inclusionary The assessment engaged a large number of scientists, advanced our understanding of assessment methods, and initiated extensive stakeholder interactions Although the questions were mostly framed by policy makers, the results were independent and the conclusions were not subjected to administrative or policy review Weaknesses of the 2001 National Assessment The process was cumbersome Funding for the assessment was not included in the normal budgeting process, limiting the participation of some agencies Private-sector involvement was minimal Guidelines for a useful assessment A clear mandate and well-defined criteria for defining structure and scope Strong leadership Efficient use of scientific and stakeholder capital (data, people, previous efforts) A specific goal of building a community of people and institutions with the knowledge required to work at the interface between basic science and stakeholders A strategy for continued two-way communication between scientists and other stakeholders throughout the assessment process A commitment to funding SOURCES: Morgan et al., (2005); NRC (2004c, 2007a); October 2007 workshop. INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIPS Climate change is a global phenomenon, and a number of countries are investing in climate research, observations, and mitigation and participating in international climate programs. The participation of U.S. scientists and program managers in setting and helping to implement the research agendas of these interna-
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change tional programs strengthens the linkages to the U.S. program and will leverage international investments. Working with the international research community on common problems also increases the pool of scientific expertise and takes advantage of complementary strengths and approaches. For example, the benefits of international cooperation in providing climate services have already been demonstrated by the various Climate Outlook fora, held regularly around the world.7 International partnerships can also be used to stretch observing system dollars. With the decrease in U.S. funding for Earth observations and the increased investment by nations such as China, Brazil, and India, U.S. scientists will increasingly have to turn to other countries for data. Finally, if the United States is to take an international leadership role on climate change policy, it will need to help the U.S. research community work effectively within international science coordination structures. Strengthening the appropriate program linkages at the international level will help enable the science to inform policy. The CCSP supports the U.S. contribution to the IPCC, which has played a critical role in developing the international scientific consensus on climate change. U.S. leadership and participation in the IPCC has been substantial. However, the CCSP has not actively coordinated U.S. participation in other international programs that address climate-related research (e.g., WCRP, IGBP, IHDP, IAI, START), assessments (e.g., WHO), or observations (e.g., GEOSS, GCOS, GTOS, GOOS, CEOS),8 missing opportunities to influence the direction of these programs and find synergies with U.S. programs. Instead, individual agencies have supported the participation of individual scientists in a largely ad hoc fashion. Developing an overall strategy for participating in international programs and sup- 7 http://www.wmo.ch/pages/prog/wcp/wcasp/clips/outlooks/climate_ fore-casts.html. 8 Note: CEOS = Committee on Earth Observation Satellites; GOOS = Global Ocean Observing System; GTOS = Global Terrestrial Observing System; IAI = Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research; IGBP = International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme; IHDP = International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change; START = Global Change System for Analysis, Research, and Training; WCRP = World Climate Research Programme; WHO = World Health Organization.
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change porting international program offices would help a restructured climate change research program understand the extent of U.S. participation, identify crucial gaps, and set priorities for federal participation in international programs that can help meet its program objectives. A number of international coordination programs are aligning themselves in ways that will facilitate interaction with a restructured U.S. climate change research program. For example, IGBP has added fast-track initiatives to foster integrated research across its core programs (e.g., ocean acidification over time),9 and GEOSS is organized along many of the themes outlined in Chapter 2 (e.g., health, water, agriculture). The involvement of the U.S. Agency for International Development in the CCSP has been rather small (about 1 percent of the research budget in 2007; see CCSP, 2008). However, the most vulnerable populations and the largest areas of biodiversity are in developing countries, where climate change will compound other stressors on food and water supply, human health and livelihoods, and biodiversity conservation. As these nations start to respond to climate change impacts and develop adaptation strategies, climate change will have to figure more centrally in the U.S. development agenda (e.g., through participation in the Kyoto Protocol’s Adaptation Fund). Nongovernmental organizations with international programs are already developing climate change initiatives in these areas.10 CCSP research on impacts and adaptation approaches could help guide U.S. investments in developing countries. U.S. Earth observing systems could help target interventions and monitor the effectiveness of these approaches and policies. It is interesting to note that the 2008 drought in Iraq caught the attention of the Department of Defense (DOD), which is concerned with the implications of water scarcity, crop failure, and resulting food shortages on security in the region.11 Such issues may give DOD a strategic interest in expanding its participation in a climate change research program. The improved regional prediction of floods, droughts, and other extreme events and assessment of their 9 See http://www.igbp.net/page.php?pid=130. 10 See, for example, the World Wildlife Fund’s climate program, http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/what_we_do/climate_change/index.cfm. 11 http://www.mnf-raq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22856&Itemid=128.
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change impacts on society may well influence which U.S. agencies are involved in the restructured climate change research program. Recommendation. The restructured climate change research program should play a lead role in coordinating and increasing U.S. participation in climate-related efforts of international programs, and in developing and implementing a shared agenda of climate observations, research, and applications. TOP PRIORITIES AND BUDGET IMPLICATIONS The committee’s top priorities, cast as actions for a restructured climate change research program to better meet national needs, are as follows: Reorganize the program around integrated scientific-societal issues to facilitate crosscutting research focused on understanding the interactions among the climate, human, and environmental systems and on supporting societal responses to climate change. The traditional approach of organizing research along scientific disciplines or themes (e.g., atmospheric composition) cannot fully address issues of concern to society, such as the impacts of severe weather and climate. Establish a U.S. climate observing system, defined as including physical, biological, and social observations, to ensure that data needed to address climate change are collected or continued. The role of a restructured climate change research program is to develop a prioritized list of satellite and in situ observations and to work with local, state, and federal government agencies and international programs to ensure their collection. Develop the science base and infrastructure to support a new generation of coupled Earth system models to improve attribution and prediction of high-impact regional weather and climate, to initialize seasonal-to-decadal climate forecasting, and to provide predictions of impacts affecting adaptive capacities and vulnerabilities of environmental and human systems. Achieving this objective requires a considerable expansion of local- and regional-scale
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change modeling activities, supported by advanced computational facilities, and improved and sustained communication with stakeholders. Strengthen research on adaptation, mitigation, and vulnerability. Integrated research, combining natural, social, and health science from a variety of disciplines, will be required to boost capabilities and enable the results to be applied to a broad spectrum of climate problems. The program will have to find mechanisms for attracting new research talent to build the capacity needed to support sound adaptation and mitigation strategies. Initiate a national assessment process with broad stakeholder participation to determine the risks and costs of climate change impacts on the United States and to evaluate options for responding. Early planning steps include (1) identifying stakeholders as well as agencies that should be involved so funding can be raised or reprogrammed to ensure their participation, and (2) determining the scope of the assessment so development of the necessary datasets and models can begin. Coordinate federal efforts to provide climate services (scientific information, tools, and forecasts) routinely to decision makers. Although the design of a national climate service is still under discussion, a restructured climate change research program could begin laying the foundation by identifying the roles of the various federal agencies and increasing emphasis on user-driven research. All six of these actions are necessary for building a program that supports both research and action. They are listed as a logical sequence of actions, but work can begin on all simultaneously. First is organizing the research around scientific-societal issues to help the program address not only how and why the climate is changing, but also to develop options for adapting to or mitigating the changes. Next is the collection of natural and social science observations to document and understand how the climate is evolving in response to rapid increases in CO2 and other human drivers. To use these observations to predict future changes, we need new regional- and local- scale models. The observations and new fine-scale models should pave the way for strengthening research on adaptation, mitigation, and societal vulnerability and for undertaking a national assessment on the impacts of climate change.
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change The data, models, and research results provide the foundation for informing climate change-related decisions, but a new institutional arrangement will be required to work effectively with stakeholders and provide the climate services (specialized products, tools, and forecasts) they need. Budget Implications Each of these initiatives would expand the scope of a restructured climate change research program, with varying budget implications. Organizational and planning activities are typically carried out using CCSP Office funding (currently nearly $2 million annually) and the in-kind support of program managers serving on interagency committees. Assuming that such funds continue to be made available, restructuring the research part of the program, setting observations priorities, and planning major initiatives should be cost neutral. Similarly, funding for a national assessment may not require new resources. According to the CCSP Office, the cost of the last national assessment was a few tens of millions of dollars, about the same as the combined cost of the 21 synthesis and assessment reports.12 The CCSP budget for FY 2008 was about $1.8 billion (CCSP, 2008). Adjustments on the order of a few tens of millions of dollars should be possible without substantially undermining major parts of the program. Two of the committee’s priorities fit into this category. First, increasing research on adaptation, mitigation, and vulnerability would require a substantial increase in funding, but since current funding levels in these areas are low, the total amount would be relatively small. Directing some of the increased funding to support Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows in the areas of human dimensions and integrated climate–society systems should encourage growth of this research community. Funding may be available from new partners with expertise in this area (e.g., Bureau of Land Management) or from CCSP agencies that have programs in the human dimensions (e.g., NSF’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate, DOE’s Integrated Assessment 12 Personal communication from Peter Schultz, director of the CCSP Office, on November 20, 2008.
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change Program, EPA, USDA, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; NOAA’s RISA program and Sectoral Applications Research Program). Second, more room must be made within the program to expand existing research activities aimed at developing methods and information to support decision making. Programs that are successfully providing prototype climate services (e.g., the NOAA RISAs) are funded at a relatively low level (i.e., less than $10 million per year), and significant increases would not adversely affect the natural science program. CCSP program activities and associated budgets are reported annually to Congress in Our Changing Planet (e.g., CCSP, 2008). Because they are highly aggregated (NRC, 2007c), it was not possible to identify the successful programs that are nearing completion that could be replaced by new research initiatives. Substantial new investment is required to implement the other major initiatives proposed in this report, including regional modeling, a climate observing system, and climate services. A small fraction of the required funding may be found through budget trades (e.g., redirect some funding from global modeling to regional modeling) or partnerships with relevant international, state, regional, and local efforts and/or with federal agencies that have had little or no participation in the CCSP. New partnerships with the intelligence community, for example, may result in new funding for research on climate impacts, which are relevant to a wide variety of issues including national security. However, significant funds for implementing the major initiatives cannot be diverted from the current program, which provides the underpinning research and must be sustained. Management Challenges Implementing the priorities identified by the committee will not be easy. The program faces a number of management challenges, including an interagency structure, insufficient attention from key White House offices, a natural science culture, inadequate community capacity in critical areas, and a broad mandate that requires coordination with other interagency programs. Although the committee offers a few suggestions about how to overcome these management challenges, it had neither the charge
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change nor expertise to evaluate different program structures (e.g., a single climate agency versus interagency coordination) or to prescribe how an interagency program should operate. The interagency structure is both a strength and a weakness of the program. The CCSP coordinates the climate change programs of 13 agencies, each of which designates a piece of its program portfolio as part of the CCSP. The major strength of this approach is its potential to harness the expertise and funding needed to carry out program goals and objectives. Weaknesses include the following: CCSP priorities usually do not align directly with agency and department priorities, making it difficult to match agency and CCSP programs and thus to obtain funding for CCSP priorities. The need for multiple agencies to coordinate activities poses a high administrative burden in the form of additional meetings and reporting. This burden is increased by the need for the same agencies to coordinate activities with related programs, such as a national climate service (if developed outside the program), the CCTP, the Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology, and international research and observing programs. These problems would be exacerbated in the climate change research program envisioned in this report because more federal agencies as well as state and local government agencies and emerging potential partners (e.g., nongovernmental organizations, foundations, businesses) would be involved. However, the problems are not insurmountable, even in an interagency structure. The most important factor is good leaders with the authority to direct resources and/or research to achieve program goals (NRC, 2005b). A charismatic leader with strong scientific credentials is also needed to communicate the importance of taking an end-to-end approach to the climate problem and convincing agency heads and appropriators to make the necessary investments. Although the CCSP has a director (an acting director for several years), he has authority to direct only that part of the program funded through his agency. The managers responsible for implementation have even less authority over budgets and programs. The absence of centralized budget authority limits the ability of the
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change CCSP to influence the climate priorities of participating agencies or implement new research directions that fall outside or across agency missions (NRC, 2007c). An increased discretionary budget for the CCSP director, sufficient to carry out interagency efforts such as workshops and tactical studies, would provide flexibility and seed money for objectives that are of higher priority to the program than to any participating agency. Another principle for successful organizations is that what gets attention gets done.13 In the early years of the predecessor USGCRP, a close working relationship between the Office of Management and Budget and agency leaders was instrumental in securing funding for key program priorities (NRC, 1999b). A similar relationship is even more important now, given the large number of congressional committees responsible for appropriating climate research funding. However, even a management structure intended to provide cabinet-level oversight of the CCSP (and the CCTP) has not resulted in strong linkages between the CCSP, CCTP, and the White House. The creation of a climate czar position and the appointments of respected scientists with interests in climate and energy to lead OSTP, DOE, and NOAA in the new administration should provide the level of attention needed to make the program succeed. It should also strengthen coordination of climate change science and technologies across the federal government. Such high-level attention is especially important for observations, which underpin the entire research program, but are chosen primarily by NASA (satellite observations take up nearly half of the CCSP budget) and other individual agencies. Reconciling the different priorities and planning horizons is essential for developing the knowledge foundation needed to address climate-related problems. Another leadership issue concerns the human dimensions of climate change. The relevant programs are small compared to natural science programs and scattered around different agencies. This makes it difficult for human dimensions program managers to take a strong leadership role in the CCSP, which in turn makes it difficult to move the CCSP in new directions. The result is that 13 Presentation to the committee by Robert Waterman, management consultant, The Waterman Group, Inc., on March 21, 2008.
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change even with 13 agencies participating in the program, CCSP agency leaders have relatively little expertise in the human dimensions of climate change or in adaptation and mitigation research. It seems unlikely that the future climate change research program will be able to take a more comprehensive view of the climate–human–environmental system unless an agency devoted to basic and applied social science research (such as NSF) steps up to help organize and build the research community and bring a stronger human dimensions perspective to the program leadership. For example, a strong human dimensions program leader would be able to work with natural science counterparts to develop integrated research teams to work together on the scientific-societal issues outlined in Chapter 2. Building the human dimensions research community will be important not only for the research component of the future climate change research program, but also for climate services and a national assessment of climate impacts and adaptation options. The latter has the potential to overburden a small community that is already participating in the IPCC assessments. Indeed, the much larger natural science community is struggling to contribute to these assessments while continuing to generate new research results. Because national and international assessments are valuable for monitoring climate change and impacts and for summarizing what is known for policy makers, the future climate change research program will have to take steps to minimize the burden on the scientific community. Approaches that might be taken include limiting the scope of ongoing assessments to significant new developments and timing new assessments to optimize the ability to build on previous assessments (NRC, 2007a). Finally, the increased demand for climate information has amplified the importance of providing information that users can trust. Examples of political considerations dictating what climate research results are communicated have been widely reported (e.g., Donaghy et al., 2007; House of Representatives, 2007). Even the possibility that research results have been withheld, delayed, or selectively interpreted can weaken trust in the program and discourage decision makers from using science-based information. The most effective way to guard against political interference is to institute transparent processes for key stages of research, from se-
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Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change lecting priorities and approaches to peer reviewing scientific results, and to give a restructured climate change science program the authority to communicate results to the public in a timely fashion. Climate change is critically important to our nation and the world. Addressing the challenges posed by climate change will require a strengthened research program aimed at understanding climate variability and change as well as supporting robust approaches for mitigating the causes and anticipating and adapting to the expected changes. Although this end-to-end approach was called for in the CCSP strategic plan (CCSP, 2003), for it to be realized, the emphasis will have to be shifted toward understanding the complex interactions between climate, humans, and the environment. This, in turn, will require a more integrated approach to research—one without the false dichotomies between natural and social science, between scientific disciplines, and between basic and applied science. To ensure that this shift also succeeds in producing information that decision makers need, stronger connections will have to be forged with major groups of stakeholders (e.g., water resource and land managers, policy makers), who can contribute data to support research objectives, guide the development of a national assessment and a national climate service, and benefit from the results. Fortunately, the successes of the CCSP and its predecessor USGCRP provide a strong foundation for making this transition to meet today’s challenges.