As discussed in Chapter 4, long-term, stable, and well-calibrated observations across a range of scales and a spectrum of human and environmental systems are essential for diagnosing, understanding, and responding to climate change and its impacts. Observations provide ongoing information about the health of the planet and clues about which components of the Earth system are at risk due to climate change and other environmental stressors. Observations are also critical for developing, initializing, and testing models of future human and environmental changes, and for monitoring and improving the effectiveness of actions taken to respond to climate change. Unfortunately, many of the critical observational assets needed to support climate research and climate change responses are either in decline or seriously underdeveloped, and the data that are being collected are not always managed as effectively or used as widely as they could be. A number of specific steps are needed to rectify this situation and develop a coordinated, comprehensive, and integrated climate observing system.
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