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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change CHAPTER FIVE Climate Services: Informing America About Climate Variability and Change, Impacts, and Response Options Asked to consider the roles of federal, state, and local governments and other groups in providing effective “climate services,”1 the panel approached this task by considering the information needs of different stakeholders that might be met by climate services and the functions of a national information system that best integrate our knowledge to better inform decisions. Our task was complicated by a rapidly changing institutional landscape for climate services including steps by several agencies to improve provision of climate information. For example, the Department of the Interior announced the creation of Climate Change Response Councils and regional response centers to facilitate information sharing and response strategies. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced an international agreement to establish a global framework for climate services (WMO, 2009). The National Oceanic and Atmopsheric Administration (NOAA) announced intentions to create a “NOAA Climate Service” within its agency with a redesigned prototype web interface.2 These initiatives involve substantial reorganization and investments before the services are fully functional and at the time of writing were not coordinated with each other or other federal climate services (e.g., climate information in NASA or the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA]) into a “National Climate Service.” Regardless of timeline, implementing a national climate service will require careful deliberation including all major federal and non-federal partners. The task of redesigning detailed climate services, especially given ongoing initiatives, is outside the scope of this study but we have provided explicit suggestions on the functions of climate services and the criteria for evaluating effectiveness. The panel draws from previous studies that have focused on the various models for climate services (Miles et al., 2006; NOAA SAB, 2009; 1 A previously defined vision of a National Climate Service is to “provide information to the nation and the world to assist in understanding, anticipating, and responding to climate, climate change, and climate variability and their impacts and implications” with a mission to “inform the public through the sustained production and delivery of authoritative, timely, and useful information to enable management or climate related risks, opportunities and local, state, regional, tribal, national, and global impacts” (NOAA SAB, 2009). 2 See http://www.noaa.gov/climate.html.
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change NRC, 2001; Overpeck et al., 2009). The panel has relied on invited presentations and expert judgment of the panel to identify a series of functional components, institutional considerations, and principles of operation for successful climate services. To date, the ongoing national conversation about the establishment of a new entity called a “National Climate Service” has focused on the provision of information about the impacts of climate change and variability and has not addressed how best to provide broader information such as services related to greenhouse gas emissions and reduction strategies. The nation needs climate services that include both kinds of information. Although a case can be made for an overarching climate change information service, especially from the perspective of local decision makers who manage both greenhouse gas emissions reduction and adaptation decisions, the panel chose to discuss the two major components of climate information (information related to climate change, impacts, and adaptation; and information related to greenhouse gas emissions and reduction strategies) separately because of the complex sets of agencies, actors, and scales involved, and in order to clearly identify the functions associated with each. This chapter focuses on the role of the federal government and others in providing information about current and future climate change and variability, impacts and vulnerability, and response options for reducing risk. The following chapter focuses specifically on the information needed to support emission reductions. Each chapter discusses the potential functions of these institutions to provide these information services. As noted, the panel recognizes that many decision makers either manage or are seeking options that can both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Therefore, it is necessary to coordinate, and over time integrate, these information systems across the federal government, other scales of government, and with other public and private actors for an informed national response to climate change. The America’s Climate Choices (ACC) panel report Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change (NRC, 2010a) makes important points about decision makers and their information needs for adaptation to climate change. We have worked closely with that panel in considering the functions of climate services. The primary goal in this chapter is to identify the functions that must be part of effective climate services, building on previous reports, and institutional considerations based on currently available services from different agencies (see “Potential Functions of Climate Services” in this chapter). Among the key functions of climate services highlighted are the following: A user-centered focus which responds to the decision making needs of government and other actors at national, regional, and local scales;
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change Research on user needs and skills, effective information delivery mechanisms, and response options; Development and timely delivery of credible, authoritative information and products to decision makers at multiple scales (e.g., local, state, regional, national, and global) about how climate is changing (e.g., observations), how it may change in the future under different socioeconomic scenarios and policy decisions (e.g., climate model projections at multiple time scales), and information on current and projected impacts of climate change; Collection and integration of information to support national, sectoral, and regional impact and vulnerability assessments and adaptation planning, including socioeconomic and environmental trends and projections; A system for sharing strategies and options for adaptation and providing useful decision support tools across a range of regional and time scales; A comprehensive web interface to facilitate access to information and products; and An international information component. Successful climate services require an institutional design involving multiple agencies that includes strong research components (e.g., in climate science, vulnerability analysis, decision support, and communication), operational activities (e.g., communication and delivery of decision relevant information and assessments), and ongoing evaluation to ensure response to user needs and new science at national and regional scales. As discussed in this chapter, successful and effective climate services need Leadership and coordination at a high level to ensure focused engagement of relevant federal agencies; Responsiveness to user needs, including the ability to make scientific information understandable and useful; Reliable observations and modeling that provide decision-relevant information at the space and time scales of decision making; The ability to support and incorporate research that delivers improved information, assessments, and decision tools; Provision of information on an equitable basis to all decision makers, including citizens, communities, states, sectors, and tribes; Adequate capacity for the development and delivery of climate information; and The provision and support of relevant international information in support of decision making by U.S. stakeholders and the international community.
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change THE NEED FOR CLIMATE SERVICES The need for climate information as well as the utility of climate information throughout societal decisions is expanding worldwide. The basis for U.S. national climate services is well established and dates back to the National Climate Service Act of 1978, when Congress recognized that the nation’s “ability to anticipate natural and man-induced changes in climate would contribute to the soundness of policy decisions in the public and private sectors” and that “information regarding climate is not being fully disseminated or used, and Federal efforts have given insufficient attention to assessing and applying this information.”3 Table 5.1 provides an overview of the types of decisions made by different stakeholders that might be informed by climate services with a focus on the provision of information about climate, impacts and adaptation in the Unites States. Further examples of climate information needs can be found in the boxes scattered throughout this report and in the companion ACC reports (NRC, 2010a; b). Recently, the World Climate Conference 3 (WCC-3) in September 2009 agreed to a Global Framework of Climate Services (GFCS) as a concept to be undertaken by the world’s nations. This concept called for major strengthening of the essential elements of a global framework for climate services, including the Global Climate Observing System and all its components and associated activities with provision of free and unrestricted exchange and access to climate data; the World Climate Research Programme, underpinned by adequate computing resources and increased interaction with other global climate-relevant research initiatives; climate services information systems taking advantage of enhanced existing national and international climate service arrangements in the delivery of products, including sector-oriented information to support adaptation activities; and mechanisms for climate users and producers to interact, building linkages and integrating information, at all levels, between the providers and users of climate services; and efficient and enduring capacity building programs, including education, training, and strengthened outreach and communication. The sharing of data and expert knowledge on the global and regional climate through the GFCS would be a benefit for U.S. climate service activities for both adaptation and 3 P.L. 95-367.
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change TABLE 5.1 Information Needs Provided by Climate Services Decisions to Respond to Climate Change Example Information and Analysis Federal Government Setting targets for emission reductions to avoid dangerous climate change Baseline emission trends and carbon cycle analysis; modeling the climate impacts of alternative targets and timetables Prioritizing federal investments in adaptation (wide range of agencies, especially those managing or supporting water, agriculture, ecosystems, health, transport, and emergency management) Regional vulnerabilities and scenarios for climate change; observations of how climate is changing, sea level rise, storm surges, coastal inundation Targeting international development and disaster relief (e.g., State, Defense, U.S. Agency for International Development) and responding to human rights and migration concerns International vulnerabilities, climate trends and scenarios, existing adaptations, seasonal forecasts, satellite remote sensing, and field reports of population movements and humanitarian crises Forest management: What resources will be needed for fire response? Seasonal outlooks, longer-term climate change scenarios, fire-climate-drought-pest modeling Public health: Are patterns of disease likely to change as a result of climate? Seasonal and longer-term climate projections and impacts on major disease vectors and vulnerabilities State and Local Governments Planning: Are changes needed in environmental and land use regulation to reduce the risks of climate change and facilitate adaptation? Should infrastructure or people be relocated? Regional analysis of vulnerability and possible climate changes including temperature, precipitation and sea level, water and energy utilization Private Sector Agricultural producers: What to produce and how much to invest in insurance, water and other inputs Seasonal forecasts for drought and other climate conditions (in both the United States and for international competitors); information on likely pest and disease outbreaks, commodity futures; advice and assistance with longer-term adaptation strategies
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change Decisions to Respond to Climate Change Example Information and Analysis Tourist industry: How will climate variability and change affect revenues and longer-term investments in facilities? Seasonal and longer-term forecasts of temperature, precipitation, snow, storms, and sea level rise Energy and utilities: How will climate variability affect supply and demand for energy? What weather or climate derivatives will help manage risks? Will climate change influence longer-term investments and siting decisions? Seasonal forecasts of heating and cooling degree days, severe weather; longer-term scenarios of climate impacts on water availability, wind, solar energy, and hydropower Urban planning: Should building codes and land use controls be changed or implemented to reduce the risks of climate change? Changing risks of storms and sea level rise in relation to both climate and vulnerability resulting from socioeconomic changes; changing public perceptions of risks Finance sector: How does climate change alter insurance exposure and the long-term viability of firms? Changing climate risks to firms and sectors Retail sector: How will climate affect supply of products and demand from consumers? Should we change sourcing and marketing in response? Seasonal forecasts, changes in regional climate Conservation organizations: Does climate change require rethinking conservation plans and the location of protected areas? Observations and scenarios of marine and terrestrial ecosystem change in response to climate emission reduction strategies. Equitable access to these data and expert analysis are critical for the success of such an entity. An informed and effective response to climate change requires comprehensive, authoritative, and useful climate information on current and future climate change, climate impacts, the nature of extremes and vulnerabilities, and response options, including how adaptation and emissions reductions interact to reduce risks. This information needs to be made available to the widest possible range of people and organizations. Climate services have the potential to sustain the application of current and future climate information for government, industry, and individuals. To address decision makers’ needs, scientific data must be presented at the appropriate geographic
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change BOX 5.1 Information Needs for the U.S. Navy’s Arctic Roadmap The U.S. Navy recognizes the importance of a positive and active presence in the Arctic maritime environment, for Arctic security and stability, especially in a climate change regime where these regions are experiencing significant and rapid changes (see TFCC/Oceanographer of the Navy, 2009). The capacity to anticipate and manage future changes in this environment and the associated impacts is crucial for shaping future naval missions, maintaining appropriate infrastructure, and advancing strategic opportunities (Commander Gallaudet, personal communication, 2009). In November 2009, the Navy developed a suite of objectives and action items in the Arctic region known as the Navy Arctic Roadmap. It emphasizes the need for accurate, timely, and useful information on the changing Arctic environment. The Roadmap calls for a number of desired effects, including increased partnerships with interagency and international stakeholders, an active contribution to Arctic safety and stability, the capability to meet combatant commander requirements, and an understanding of and ability to anticipate access for Arctic shipping and other maritime activity. The ability to ensure that these effects are achieved is dependent upon reliable data and information. Among the many scientific and technological needs of the Navy, model resolution, uncertainty management, and model physics have been identified as three priority information needs required to adequately address climate change in this region. Model resolution must be increased to include a higher regional scale spatial resolution and decadal scale temporal resolution. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) model scenario resolution is insufficient for the decisions that need to be made. Improving information on processes that are not yet well understood, such ice melt and sea level rise, is also essential. It is equally important to address variability across a range of spatial and temporal scales (Commander Gallaudet, personal communication, 2009). In order to facilitate the success of the identified objectives, the Roadmap lists a number of action items related to the advancement of environmental assessment and prediction. It includes methods for increasing the amount and quality of data collected and calls for additional scientific operations, such as the deployment of unmanned systems for monitoring and research. The Roadmap also supports additional observations, mapping, and modeling to improve capabilities in the Arctic. Through increased partnerships and frequent assessments and evaluations, the Roadmap provides a comprehensive strategic plan to address Arctic-specific needs. scale and time scale to aid effective decisions and actions (see, for example, Boxes 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3). Decision makers are now expecting and demanding up-to-date reliable climate information for them to integrate into management decisions. Today, we have the weather forecasts provided by the National Weather Service (NWS), and climate projections
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change BOX 5.2 Information Needs of a Transportation Official Rising sea levels, storms surges, and land subsidence will likely lead to the greatest impacts on transportation systems (NRC, 2008a). The coastal transportation official is faced with a variety of decisions driven by the threat of these impacts on roadways and infrastructure and must seek information to carry out effective responses. Transportation officials in coastal states must be able to identify vulnerable areas and understand the linkages between sea level rise and other problems, including erosion, flooding, and damage to infrastructure. Planning is typically on 10 to 30year time scales, so model projections of how much sea level will rise will need to be modified accordingly to be useful to the transportation official. In addition, transportation planners and managers in some regions will have to prepare for more intense precipitation events associated with warmer climates and increased water vapor in the atmosphere. Today, many of these information needs are not currently being met. There is a lack of access to the types of information needed, in a format that can be readily understood and interpreted by coastal and transportation managers, and this hinders effective decision making. Transportation officials can coordinate with agency officials, climate scientists, and other transportation officials to facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, as well as the development of methods to maintain adequate infrastructure. This information can be used to implement coastal protection measures and adaptation strategies that are physically and economically feasible. on 100-year time scales. Neither addresses climate information at seasonal to decadal timescales in an authoritative and fully operational manner necessary for many societal decisions. Decision makers need information tailored to their particular needs, communicated clearly, and accompanied by decision support tools that allow the exploration of alternative risks and pathways, local priorities, and flexible responses to new information. Dissemination of climate information, however, can often be inadequate to serve user needs because it is either delayed or not at the right spatial scale. This is due in part to the many participants involved, as well as unclarified institutional roles inhibiting the timely dissemination of climate information. Through stakeholder engagement, climate services can foster the integration of climate information into planning efforts at the local, state, and federal agency levels and help develop management strategies to deal with socioeconomic consequences of climate change and variability. Furthermore, it should be noted that climate information goes beyond pure climate science. It includes social and economic sciences, as well. For example, in the realm of vulnerability assessment, there is a great need for better coordination of datasets that go beyond census data to better reflect the structure of local economies,
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change measures of resilience at the community level, and the type of ecosystem services that may be impacted. Climate services are already provided in various forms by the NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program (see Box 5.7), NOAA’s regional climate centers, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and National Climatic Data Center, private consultants, state climatologists, and the NWS. Other USGCRP agencies are also providing climate-related services such as USDA’s Soil Conservation Service, USGS’s river and soil moisture monitoring, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Ready Estuaries Program (CREP), NASA’s satellites and application programs, and others. Many states have state climatologists who also provide services. Climate services (provided though regional groups) have been meeting user needs by providing climate information to improve planning, risk management, resource allocation, impacts assessment, and adaptation and emission reduction strategies. However, in the United States there is no coordinated authoritative, credible, and useful source of information and products on the complete range of climate change, impacts, vulnerabilities, and response options. For effective decision making, it is necessary not only to continue to make the best and most comprehensive scientific observations, but also to improve significantly the integration of the information into the decision making process. A wide range of public and private entities in sectors such as transportation, insurance, energy, water, fisheries, and agriculture are increasingly demanding and incorporating climate information into their planning. The range of decision makers responding to climate change are motivated to promote sustainability, protect property, and make long-term investments to promote the economy (see Chapter 2 for further discussion). These demands and activities demonstrate the need for a permanent and clearly identifiable national climate service that can coordinate and integrate climate information to develop products and tools; provide access to comprehensive, up-to-date reliable information on current and future climate change, variability, and risks; and provide response options to inform decisions ranging from adaption and emission polices to education and communication initiatives. National and regional assessments are a key component in guiding national decisions about responding to climate change, including assessments of the climate implications of alternative emission reduction policies and adaptation needs. The report, Restructuring Federal Climate Change Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change (NRC, 2009d), recommends the USGCRP to “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.” Climate services, involving regional partnerships, have the potential to provide the valuable informa-
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change BOX 5.3 Information Needs of a Fisheries Manager A fisheries manager must consider a range of impacts due to a changing climate. These include rising seawater temperatures, sea level rise, increased storm activity, ocean acidification, and increased saltwater intrusion on traditionally freshwater areas (GAO, 2007). An example of useable scientific information for fisheries managers is given in the figure below, which illustrates the effects of sea surface temperatures on fish egg distributions in El Niño versus La Niña years. Many aquatic species are adapted to specific conditions and even modest changes or shifts in those conditions could have a negative effect on fisheries resources and productivity. Fisheries managers must have access to information on the effects of climate change in conjunction with other environmental stressors to ensure the sustainability of their fisheries. Thus, integrated information is critical for decision making. Information on annual to interannual timescales is crucial for this type of decision making, especially when needing to make a decision on annual fishing quotas in certain regions. However, fisheries managers are unable to use climate models or scientific information on the scales that are necessary. For example, active monitoring of water levels, salinity, fauna, and vegetation is needed to reduce model uncertainties (GAO, 2007). These resource managers must work with federal agencies to address the various long-term planning challenges associated with the protection and maintenance of fisheries and ecosystems. This includes an evaluation of new technologies and regulations that may affect fisheries management. Furthermore, it is important to analyze how climate change impacts and subsequent adaptations might reverberate across borders and catchment areas. This might be facilitated by bolstering international and regional management regimes and agreements that help regulate fishery rights and synthesize information (World Bank, 2010). tion needed in the national assessment process. The contribution of a national climate service in this case would be providing the leadership to work collaboratively with state and local governments to collect and store that kind of information. Climate services can also identify gaps in observation systems and contribute to providing adequate coverage of the United States and other regions of strategic interest, including early warnings of abrupt changes as well as an effective on-demand climate modeling system that can provide timely answers about the impacts of alternative emission paths on global and regional climates. Advances in observations, data integration, and thoughtfully tailored dissemination of climate information provide a foundation for development of an effective national climate service. The development of systems and standards to deliver near real time products to meet national, regional,
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change An example of the type of climate information that could be valuable to a fisheries manager. This figure illustrates fish egg distributions from state-federal California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations cruises in 1998 (an El Niño year) and 1999 (a La Niña year) layered over sea surface temperature satellite imagery. SOURCE: Rich Charter, NMFS/SWFS. and state needs are essential. For example, the National Integrated Drought Information System has provided a wealth of information to aid decision makers and this information is derived through a coordinated effort of federal agencies, led by NOAA, state and local governments, and non-governmental interests. The effort has even been extended across the borders to produce a North American Drought Monitoring capability. Climate services nationwide could fulfill the rising demand for information to inform adaptation to the impacts of climate change. The timeliness of delivery of credible information is a key issue and the development of new technologies will provide opportunities for rapid and cost-effective dissemination of climate information.
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change reduce greenhouse gases, proposals to limit emissions within the United States). Climate services can link research to national and regional decisions about emissions reductions by providing comprehensive information on how the climate system would change as a result of emission reduction decisions at the national and international scale (see Limiting the Magnitude of Climate Change, NRC, 2010d). Understanding the interaction of overall trends with national and international policies to limit climate change is essential to informing decisions about responding to climate change. An important consideration is whether climate services should provide services and information only about climate change, its impacts, and implications for adaptation, or if they should also provide information on emission reduction strategies. The panel believes that both kinds of information and services are needed. Even though many decisions already seek to manage emissions reductions and adaptation together, there should be a division of labor that provides focused services and information. We believe that climate services should provide services and information about current and future climate change and its impacts, vulnerability, and response options. Response options would be focused on adaptation responses but recognizing that some adaptation options also reduce emissions. The research provided through climate services is relevant to decisions about emission reduction strategies because it can clarify the effects of emission reduction policies and thus help decision makers set goals. However, decisions about how to limit greenhouse gas emissions will need other kinds of information, such as how to achieve those goals and about the effectiveness and costs of various technological options. These kinds of information should be developed and provided from other sources (see Chapter 6). The implementation of a climate service should be explicit about how to link information services that support both adaptation and emission reduction strategies. Finally, climate services will need to be designed to adapt to regional needs. Experience with regional programs such as the RISAs and interagency conversations at the regional level suggest that user needs can vary considerably between regions. For example, in the western states, the convergence of climate change with other stresses, including land use change and increasing water demands is driving new demands as climate change impacts become more evident and interest grows in regionally downscaled information to undertake the planning. The RISAs in the West have been approached both jointly and separately by coalitions of regionally based agencies of USDA and the DOI for training in planning for climate change and are also working with tribal groups concerned about climate issues. In the southeastern states, user interest is driven especially by agriculture and concerns about sea level rise and storms. The latest observations of climate change in different regions, including the rapid changes in the Arctic, suggest hot spots for climate change (IPCC, 2007b) that
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change have immediate demands for region-specific information. A climate service needs to be responsive to the various regional demands and be adaptive as those needs change over time. Several reports and legislative proposals have offered various institutional designs for a formal NCS. For example, H.R. 2407, the National Climate Service Act of 2009, sets out a process whereby the executive branch, led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), creates a NCS, spells out how coordination is to be achieved, establishes an interdepartmental oversight board, establishes an external advisory committee with both federal and non-federal membership, establishes a quality assurance program, and delivers periodic reports to Congress. The Act largely, but not completely, separates the NCS from a single agency and formally gives the leadership function to the director of OSTP. However, a Central Operations Office, responsible for day-to-day administration of the proposed NCS, is to be placed in NOAA, but “operated as a cross agency priority by the Administrator.” Special emphasis is placed on including regional centers of activity. Another draft National Climate Service Act proposes the establishment of a NCS within the Department of Commerce with NOAA as the lead agency. This proposed approach would include a national office and a network of “regional climate service enterprises” to produce climate information and products guided by an advisory council and coordinated through a climate services board. This proposal suggests that NOAA will be responsible for the delivery of climate observations, model results, and for overall coordination, but that the majority of the support to stakeholders will be provided by regional centers (selected through a competitive process) that will consist of collaborative arrangements between the NWS, other regional offices of federal agencies, RISAs, and other public and private sector climate service groups. These proposals, together with significant discussion with the community, outline important elements of a national climate service, including a focus on user needs, interagency coordination, and support for regionally based activities. However, they focus primarily on the provision of information about climate change with less attention to climate modeling capability, which is needed to support key decisions about emission reductions, anticipate the onset of abrupt climate change, and understand interactions with other stresses. Based on its analysis, the panel identifies three critical concerns regarding institutional requirements for successful climate services: Leadership at the highest level. Making decisions related to climate change is daunting and will involve many people at various scales. This requires leadership at the highest level of government to coordinate agencies, manage risks associated with multiple spatial scales, confront the increased frequen-
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change cies and intensities of extreme events, and make recommendations on potential tradeoffs between emissions reductions and adaptation. With a credible information stream from climate services, decision makers would be able to make more balanced policy decisions even when faced with uncertainty. Good leadership is critical and must be encouraged. Adequate funding and independent budget authority. Because addressing climate risk requires building decision support infrastructure (e.g., training programs, data access systems, monitoring and assessment capacity, etc.), it does not lend itself well to an ad hoc funding source that is based on the goodwill of individual decision makers within the multiple federal science agencies. There needs to be significant, centralized coordination with budget authority to ensure that structural support is built and that outcomes are delivered. Priority setting should be based on risk and vulnerability (among other considerations) and be apolitical. Every sector and every region has needs, but not all will be met. Some user demands may be met successfully only after years of research. There should be clear milestones and periodic reviews to ensure that the work is progressing in the right direction and that there is a sustained commitment to the high priority elements. Coordination and engagement of federal agencies. Although the roles of the various federal agencies in climate services have not been finalized, NOAA is likely to play a central role and has been identified as the potential lead agency in some reports. Building from previous reports, the panels’ judgment is that NOAA cannot create an effective climate service on its own because it currently lacks comprehensive capacity and expertise in key functions (e.g., vulnerability assessment and assessing user needs). To develop these functions in house would be costly and would duplicate some functions already available at the regional level and in other agencies. Incentives are necessary to encourage agencies to work together toward common climate service goals. There is no time and no money for turf battles over the components of this system. Making effective decisions related to climate change will require a variety of innovative partnerships with local and regional entities and universities, as well as functional partnerships between federal agencies. In addition, a climate service should serve as a clearinghouse for information produced and resolve any differences in information between agencies. The case studies in Boxes 5.7 and 5.8 provide important examples of how elements of climate services can be designed and implemented—the RISA program of the United States and the U.K. Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) from Europe—and draw some lessons from these cases.
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change GOALS FOR CLIMATE SERVICES OPERATION Climate services need to have a clear set of principles to guide products and services and to ensure that they remain appropriately focused and are managed effectively. Any climate service should be an “honest broker” providing scientifically credible information with clarity and should be committed to a user-centric approach and scientific rigor. Its work and product development should be transparent and thoroughly vetted. All aspects of the observations, research, modeling, data management, and delivery need to be grounded in sound science and include sustained collaborations with various key partners (including non-federal governments, academia, and the private sector). It is important for information providers (scientists, federal agencies, etc.) and information users (farmers, resource managers, etc.) to build up mutual trust to balance information needs with the long lead time needed for research. This trust is essential for the team that actually delivers the service to stakeholders, thereby becoming a member of a community in which learning goes both ways. Time and collaborative work then merge to provide a valuable addition to the functional tool kit of the team delivering the service in the form of vetting information which may be suspect for a variety of reasons. A climate service can also demonstrate how science can be relevant to iterative decision processes by providing new information to incorporate into decisions (see Chapter 3). The panel generally endorses the decision support principles set forth in previous NRC reports (1999, 2001, 2008, 2009a,d). The panel elaborates on four key principles for climate services: User-centric problem definition. To provide the most effective services, there should be an ongoing effort and dialogue to identify the key decisions where climate information is needed by users and to frame at least some portion of the federal research program around those decisions and information needs. Basic understanding of the climate system and its interactions with humanity is still needed (i.e., social and economic science research), but increased emphasis on decision-relevant research questions is needed (see Advancing the Science of Climate Chang , NRC, 2010b) while maintaining research efforts that are likely to have future implications for the environment. Credibility of information. Much is riding on the decisions associated with climate predictions, in some cases billions of dollars in infrastructure investments; in other cases, these decisions may make or break a family or a business. As discussed in Chapters 1 and 8, users need to trust the source of information. This, in turn, calls for testing the skill of tools that have been provided to users. In addition, rigorous scientific assessments at regular intervals are
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change BOX 5.7 Regional Climate Services: Lessons from the Regional Integrated Sciences Assessments (RISA) Program In February 1995, NOAA’s Office of Global Programs (OGP), funded a pilot program in the Pacific Northwest, the Climate Impacts Group (CIG) based at the University of Washington, to link national and global developments in climate science to real decisions and decision makers at the regional spatial scale. This was to be accomplished by linking climate science, especially the advances in seasonal forecasting such as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events up to a year ahead of time and the ability to downscale global climate model results from IPCC scenarios, to a specific place. The program was designed to focus on communities of stakeholders and their climate science and decision support needs. With modest funding, the CIG focused on regional hydrology and water resources management, forest ecosystems, aquatic ecosystems (both marine and terrestrial) including salmon, and the coastal zone. These were selected because they were among the most climate sensitive socioeconomic sectors in the Pacific Northwest, defined as encompassing Washington, Oregon, and Idaho (a large portion of the Columbia River Basin). In 1997, building on the initial success of CIG, stakeholder-oriented research, and regional stakeholder workshops associated with the U.S. National Assessment, NOAA established the RISA program. Additional initiatives in the Southwest (Climate Assessment for the Southwest [CLIMAS], University of Arizona) and the Southeast (University of Florida and Florida State University) were established, focusing on ENSO impacts on agriculture, and subsequently expanded to include Georgia and Alabama as the South East Climate Consortium (SECC). The focus was to derive societal benefits from the application of advances in climate science. By 2008, the RISA program had grown to nine regions and included a wide range of sectors. The RISA program, with its focus on place-based, stakeholder-driven research, partnership, and services, created an effective demonstration-scale climate service for parts of the nation. The experience of listening necessary to ensure that user demands can be met by reliable and authoritative information, with a proper measure of scientific confidence, and characterization of uncertainty that is meaningful to decision makers. Trust also comes from partnership between information producers (e.g., scientists) and information users (e.g., policy makers). Adaptive management and performance evaluation. Climate services need to encourage learning from past mistakes and successes and be responsive to new information. There is enormous value in continuous assessment and evaluation of climate services at national and regional levels, with regional evaluations providing a critical “finger on the pulse” of user needs and responses to climate services. New management infrastructure and information systems should be designed to incorporate changing climate conditions (both
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change to stakeholders, partnering with them on research, and developing decision support tools and other products is especially valuable. RISAs couple and integrate national efforts to provide global observations, research, and modeling with regional scale needs. They serve on the front lines in support of regionally based state and local agencies, NGOs, the private sector, and the public, all of whom must become climate literate and plan for adaptation and emissions reductions on a multi-decadal timescale. However, the RISAs are dependent on the larger national institutions, such as NOAA and NSF, who fund research and climate modeling and communicate climate information. The RISA programs have shown that a critical element of the regional focus is the intense, sustained contact with users that is necessary to uncover, assess, and refine the ways in which climate services can best meet user needs. Because the research that is undertaken at this scale is largely, though not completely, determined in an interactive process with stakeholders, the activities of these units often break new ground and are, therefore, a continuing source of innovation (Kennel, 2009). The RISA process has, in several cases, driven new scientific discoveries through responding to stakeholder interests, including the discovery of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) (Mantua et al., 1997). Successes have also been achieved in the application of seasonal forecasts to water supply, in drought prediction, planning, monitoring, and assessment. Collaboration among RISAs in the western United States has produced a major addition to U.S. capabilities to cope with drought hazards in the creation of NIDIS. RISAs have also been in the forefront of significant innovations in decision tools for managers of water supply systems, wildland fire management, and agriculture. For example, SECC and CLIMAS have made major advances in grafting a climate focus onto the traditional agricultural extension functions, including the development of decision tools and the creation of climate extension positions. The RISAs are a relatively small and experimental program, but now there is a growing demand for the creation of such teams in regions where they do not currently exist. They have built up strong stakeholder constituencies and expertise in translating science, doing impact research, and working with regional offices of federal agencies such as USGS, USDA, and NOAA. The RISAs provide a model of the functions required for the regional component of a national climate service. changes and variations in the physical climate and changes in the political climate), including using new communications techniques (e.g., cutting-edge informatics) that recognize non-stationarity in the climate system and the decision-making environment. It should also be responsive to changing user needs and socioeconomic contexts. Environmental justice and equal access to information. The impacts of climate change are often unequally distributed, especially because of the differential vulnerabilities of regions, sectors, and social groups. Research has shown that the impacts of climate variability and change can fall disproportionately on poor, elderly, and minority populations (e.g., Arctic indigenous people and island nations) and that these groups may also lack access to climate information and adaptation options. Environmental justice considerations have
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change BOX 5.8 The U.K. Climate Impacts Programme Several countries have established national climate services, including the United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany. The U.K. Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) was established in 1997 to help organizations assess how a changing climate will affect them and help them prepare to adapt to climate change by providing climate impacts information. UKCIP was initially funded by the U.K. government’s Department of Environment (DEFRA) but is increasingly supported directly or in kind by other government agencies and NGOs. The UKCIP operates as a grant funded entity located at a university but with deliverables strongly guided by detailed contracts with government. It relies heavily on the United Kingdom’s climate analysis and modeling capability of the government funded Hadley Centre. More than a decade of experience with climate services in the United Kingdom provides several lessons of relevance to the United States, including the importance and cost-effectiveness of serious engagement with stakeholders (who co-produce many UKCIP reports), the challenges and rewards of reaching some sectors, the communicative value of a risk management approach, and the importance of sustained investment in both climate data and modeling, as well as in expertise beyond basic science for impact assessment, vulnerability analysis, communication, training, and adaptation planning within the climate service. Valuable decision support tools include climate and socioeconomic scenarios (including probabilistic climate ensembles); online tools for estimating costs, identifying adaptation options, and sharing best practices; and training experts to deliver information and tools to their local regions or organizations. The UKCIP experience illustrates the value of climate services as a function that is seen as independent of the agency that collects climate information and runs climate models (the U.K. Meteorological Office). For example, UKCIP is, to some extent, able to distance itself from public skepticism about inaccurate weather forecasts and to work with the full range of national and local government agencies without being “owned” by any one agency. In particular, the funding base and partners for UKCIP broadens to include other government departments, regional and local government, the private sector, and NGOs. UKCIP has also taken a lead in adaptation planning (see Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change, NRC, 2010a). Other countries are developing climate services, taking into account the experiences of UKCIP. In Australia since 2007, climate information and tools for adaptation have been encompassed within a Department of Climate Change, which is charged to deliver information to decision makers for managing climate risks, especially through an adaptation and land management division. In Germany, the new Climate Service Center is intended to become the platform for inquiries and information about climate change in Germany and includes both natural and social science expertise and the goal of establishing networks. In all three international cases, the core staff is relatively small (20-50 people) and relies heavily on partners and on national climate observations, data, and modeling capability.
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change become a formal concern of agencies such as EPA, with specific programs and funding for disadvantaged groups and minority populations, avenues for legal actions, advocacy training, collaborative solution processes, and other actions. In developing a service, safeguards that ensure equal treatment of economically distressed and minority communities and that address the special concerns of tribes must be an overarching principle. There are also justice concerns regarding timing and access to information in relation to the role of climate information in futures markets, where a climate service must balance the private value of climate information with the public good (NRC, 1999). METRICS FOR EVALUATING PERFORMANCE OF CLIMATE SERVICES Among the most important metrics for evaluating the performance of climate services (Miles et al., 2006), the panel believes the most important are the following: Responsiveness to user needs as measured by regular input from stakeholders and advisory boards, by feedback on the climate service portal, and by evidence that information and decision tools are actually being used in decision making and are improving climate literacy among users. Use of the best available science as measured by timely integration of new observations, model results, and analysis of the climate system and associated social, ecological, and economic impacts and vulnerabilities. Delivery of annual regional and sectoral assessments that provide user-relevant and scientifically based information on how the climate is changing, the latest projections for future change and vulnerabilities given policy alternatives, the current and potential impacts on regions and key sectors, and the progress and potential for adaptation and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Evidence of effective collaboration between agencies and other actors including (a) funding being appropriately balanced between national and regional activities, natural and social sciences, research, translation, and operations; (b) joint production of information, reports, and assessment; and (c) development of a single portal for stakeholders and the public. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS An informed response to climate change requires that the widest possible range of decision makers—public and private, national and local—have access to reliable information about current and future climate changes, the impacts of such changes,
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change the vulnerability of different regions, the vulnerability of sectors and groups, and the options for reducing risks or adapting to them. Decision makers need information tailored to their particular needs, communicated clearly, and accompanied by decision support tools that allow the exploration of alternatives, emphasize local priorities, and encourage flexible responses. Climate services can meet user needs by providing climate information to improve planning, risk management, resource allocation, impacts assessment, adaptation, and emission reduction strategies. In this chapter we have provided guidance on potential functions, institutional considerations, principles for operation, and performance metrics for climate services, taking into account previous reports and ongoing proposals. The panel’s assessment is that current proposals include important elements of a service, but key functions may be overlooked in the attempt to base the system on existing federal capabilities. No single government agency or centralized unit can perform all the functions required by climate service. Therefore, coordination of agency roles and regional activities is a necessity for effective climate services. A major barrier to providing climate services is the lack of clear federal roles which has stalled the implementation of information delivery systems. Federal roles should be clarified to recognize the respective missions, strengths, and limitations. Aligning the roles of federal departments and agencies for successful climate services will require coordination and very clear leadership. A core service function is the timely delivery of user-relevant climate information. The development of new technologies will provide opportunities for rapid and cost-effective dissemination of climate information. Making effective decisions related to climate change will require a variety of innovative partnerships with local and regional entities and universities, as well as functional partnerships between federal agencies. Current regional initiatives, such as RISAs, Sea Grant and Land Grant programs, and regional climate centers, provide important models illustrating how to interact with stakeholders and provide relevant climate information. NOAA, USDA, and other agencies with regional centers could advance the climate service idea by increasing operational support for existing regional centers and establishing partnerships with other federal agencies to implement the nationwide system. Recommendation 6: The nation needs to establish a coordinated system of climate services that involves multiple agencies and regional expertise, is responsive to user needs, has rigorous scientific underpinnings (in climate research, vulnerability analysis,
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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change decision support, and communication), performs operational activities (timely delivery of relevant information and assessments), can be used for ongoing evaluation of climate change and climate decisions, and has an easily accessible information portal that facilitates coordination of data among agencies and a dialogue between information users and providers.
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