Consensus Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Climate change is one of the most important global environmental problems facing the world today. Policy decisions are already being made to limit or adapt to climate change and its impacts, but many of these decisions are being made without the science support that could help shape better outcomes. In the United States, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) is responsible for coordinating efforts to generate the scientific knowledge to understand, predict, and respond to climate change. At the request of the CCSP, the National Research Council established a committee to evaluate the progress of the program and to identify future priorities. This, the committee's second and final report, proposes six priorities for restructuring the United States' climate change research program to develop a more robust knowledge base and support informed responses.

Key Messages

  • Coordinate federal efforts to provide climate services (scientific information, tools, and forecasts) routinely to decision makers.
  • Develop the science base and infrastructure to support a new generation of coupled Earth system models to improve attribution and prediction of high-impact regional weather and climate, to initialize seasonal-to-decadal climate forecasting, and to provide predictions of impacts affecting adaptive capacities and vulnerabilities of environmental and human systems.
  • Establish a U.S. climate observing system, defined as including physical, biological, and social observations, to ensure that data needed to address climate change are collected or continued.
  • 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.
  • Reorganize the program around integrated scientific-societal issues to facilitate crosscutting research focused on understanding the interactions among the climate, human, and environmental systems and on supporting societal responses to climate change.
  • The committee's top six priorities, cast as actions for the restructured climate change research.