Recommendations for Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change Research

Meeting the diverse information needs of decision makers as they seek to understand and address climate change is a formidable challenge. The research needs and cross-cutting themes discussed in Chapter 4 (and listed in Box 4.1) argue for a new kind of climate change science enterprise, one that builds on the strengths of existing activities and

• Focuses not only on improving understanding, but helps to inform solutions for problems at local, regional, national, and global levels;

• Integrates diverse kinds of knowledge and explicitly engages the social, ecological, physical, health, and engineering sciences;

• Emphasizes coupled human-environment systems rather than individual human or environmental systems in isolation;

• Evaluates the implications of particular choices across sectors and scales so as to maximize co-benefits, avoid unintended consequences, and understand net effects across different areas of decision making;

• Develops and employs decision-support resources and tools that make scientific knowledge useful and accessible to decision makers;

• Focuses, where appropriate, on place-based analyses to support decision making in specific locations or regions, because the dynamics of both human and environmental systems play out in different ways in different places and decisions must be context-specific; and

• Supports adaptive decision making and risk management in the face of inevitable uncertainty by remaining flexible and adaptive and regularly assessing and updating research priorities.

These points, and the discussion in the preceding chapters, lead to the following conclusion.

Conclusion 2: The nation needs a comprehensive and integrative climate change science enterprise, one that not only contributes to our fundamental understanding of climate change but also informs and expands America's climate choices.

This comprehensive, integrative program of science will need to continue current research but also engage in new research themes and directions, including research in the physical, social, ecological, environmental, health, and engineering sciences, as well as research that integrates these and other disciplines. Creating and implementing this more integrated and decision-relevant scientific enterprise will require fundamental changes in the way that research efforts are organized, the way research priorities are set, the way research is linked with decision making across a broad range of scales, the way the federal scientific program interfaces and partners with other entities, and the way that infrastructural assets and human capital are developed and maintained. This chapter examines some of the steps that will be needed to implement this new era of climate change research.

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