Consensus Report

Planning Climate and Global Change Research: A Review of the Draft U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan (2003) (2003)

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The report reviews a draft strategic plan from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, a program formed in 2002 to coordinate and direct U.S. efforts in climate change and global change research. The U.S. Climate Change Science Program incorporates the decade-old Global Change Research Program and adds a new component- the Climate Change Research Initiative- whose primary goal is to "measurably improve the integration of scientific knowledge, including measures of uncertainty, into effective decision support systems and resources."

Key Messages

  • A critical weakness in the draft plan is that it does not adequately explain how existing observation systems will be integrated with a plan for expansion of them to add key climate-related ecological, biogeochemical, geophysical, and environmentally relevant socio-economic measurements.
  • A manifestation of the general insularity of the draft plan is that it fails to place sufficient weight on the need for the global and long-term historical context in observing, understanding, modeling, and responding to climate variability and change. This lack of context is not consistent with the global and long time-scale research perspectives of many climate scientists.
  • A significant problem with the draft plan is that an explicit connection to decision-making problems both anticipated decision-making needs and past experiences is absent. Indeed, the plan does not recognize the full diversity of decision makers and does not describe mechanisms for two-way communication with stakeholders.
  • Another type of capacity building is necessary to acquire the computing, communication, and information management resources necessary both to conduct the extensive climate modeling called for in the draft strategic plan and to process and store the large amounts of data collected from a greatly expanded observation network.
  • Implementing this expanded suite of activities will require significant investments in infrastructure and human resources and therefore will necessitate either greatly increased funding for the CCSP or a major reprioritization and cutback in existing programs.
  • In general, the draft plan provides a solid foundation for the CCSP. With suitable revisions, the plan could articulate an explicit and forward-looking vision for the CCSP and clearly identifiable pathways to successful implementation.
  • The CCSP faces major challenges in capacity building : systematically developing institutional infrastructure; growing new multidisciplinary intellectual talent; nurturing networking of diverse perspectives and capabilities; and fostering successful transition from research to decision support applications.
  • The Climate Change Technology Program (CCTP) is an interagency program parallel to the CCSP and created to coordinate and develop technologies for stabilizing and reducing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. The committee is concerned that the existing management and program links between the CCSP and the CCTP may not be extensive enough to take advantage of the synergies between these two programs
  • The GCRP has been criticized in the past for being unable to do much beyond encouraging multi-agency cooperation and support because it lacked the authority to redirect long standing programs and mandates of individual agencies.
  • The committee believes that the draft plan misses an opportunity to develop a forward-looking strategy for improving international research and observation networks, exchanges of knowledge, and joint assessments.
  • The committee finds that the draft plan identifies many of the cutting-edge scientific research activities that are necessary to improve understanding of the Earth system.
  • The committee found that the draft strategic plan lacks the kind of clear and consistent guiding framework that would enable decision makers, the public, and scientists to clearly understand what this research program is intended to accomplish and how it will contribute to meeting the nation's needs.
  • The draft plan does not adequately consider the interactions and synergies of climate change with other global changes.
  • The draft strategic plan identifies the reduction of uncertainty as a top priority for the CCSP and the CCRI.
  • The draft strategic plan's description of applied climate modeling is quite insightful, reasonably well focused, and well grounded with respect to the priorities for climate modeling research and applications over the next decade.
  • The most difficult research management challenges will occur at the level of the CCSP program itself. Scientific and other stakeholder guidance will be needed for the whole program to establish and communicate clear priorities, evaluate progress toward meeting the overarching goals, and ensure that the inevitable trade-offs in resources and allocation of time are done so as to meet the overall program goals.
  • The plan does not describe the responsibilities and authorities of contributing agencies, such as which agencies will be responsible for implementing the work.
  • The revised strategic plan needs to describe more clearly how the research activities included in the GCRP support the decision support needs of the CCRI. Indeed, there should be a rolling linkage between the two programs, with CCRI objectives periodically redefined as a result of new scientific input from the GCRP.
  • There is now a strong need to augment the GCRP research of the last decade, which focused on national- to global-scale phenomena, with research that applies an understanding of the global scale to developing an understanding of the variability and change unique to regional scales.
  • coverage is insufficient to provide adequate input into the models and analyses necessary to reduce or clarify uncertainties, or to meet current and anticipated needs of decision makers.