State and local governments, corporations, and nongovernmental organizations are key partners in the nation's climate change research enterprise (see Recommendation 6). These partners will need a workforce that can engage effectively with the scientific community. There are many opportunities for sponsorship and leadership on climate-related research and decision support at the state and local levels. State, local, and tribal entities should work together with federal and nongovernmental partners to build expertise and create the kinds of networks, partnerships, and institutions that enable effective collaborations between the research community and decision makers. Progress in this direction is already being made. For example, climate advisory councils composed of experts from state universities, research institutions, nongovernmental organizations, municipalities, tribal governments, and agencies have been mandated by executive orders or state legislatures in a number of states. In other cases, science-based nongovernmental organizations have provided leadership in developing impact assessments and climate action plans (both for GHG emissions reductions and adaptation) that have proven helpful for informing policy makers.
A number of corporations have also taken a leadership role in reducing GHG emissions (NRC, 2010b) and promoting other sustainable business practices. These efforts can be expected to increase intellectual capacity and practical experience, both of which will be useful to both the research community and society at large. Partnerships between the research community and the private sector are critical for building effective science-decision maker relationships, for linking knowledge and action, and for identifying critical science workforce needs. Federal programs, such as NOAA's RISA program and the Regional Climate Centers, can aid in these efforts.
Finally, a strategy is needed for educating and training the next generation of climate change researchers as well as the personnel needed to design, build, and maintain the physical infrastructure and institutional assets needed to respond effectively to climate change. Climate researchers and research managers will also need training in decision-support and outreach activities needed to shape a decision-relevant science agenda. In addition, growing demands for climate information will require more people with skills and practice in effective communication, science-policy interaction, and activities at the interface between research and decision making. Much of the training in these areas will presumably need to take place at regional and local scales, but federal leadership and support are essential. Further discussion of the actions needed to educate and train future generations of scientists, engineers, technicians, managers, and decision makers for responding to climate change can be found in the companion report Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change (NRC, 2010b).
Recommendation 7: Congress, federal agencies, and the federal climate change research program should work with other relevant partners (including universities, state and local governments, the international research community, the business community, and other nongovernmental organizations) to expand and engage the human capital needed to carry out climate change research and response programs.
We have entered a new era of climate change research. Although there are some uncertainties in the details of future climate change, it is clear that climate change is occurring, is largely due to human activities, and poses significant risks for people and the ecosystems on which we depend. Moreover, climate change is not just an environmental problem; it is a sustainability challenge that affects and interacts with other environmental changes and efforts to provide food, energy, water, shelter, and other fundamental needs of people today and in the future. In response to the risks posed by climate change, actions are now being taken both to limit the magnitude of future climate change and to adapt to its unavoidable impacts. These responses to climate change should be informed by the best possible scientific knowledge. Research is needed to improve understanding of the climate system and related human and environmental systems, to maximize the effectiveness of actions taken to respond to climate change, and to avoid unintended consequences for human well-being and the Earth system that sustains us. Acquiring the needed scientific knowledge, and making it useful to decision makers, will require an expanded climate change research enterprise. The challenge is tremendous, and so, too, should be our response, both in magnitude and in breadth.
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