Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change: Statement of Task
The Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change will first provide a concise overview of past, present, and future climate change, including its causes and its impacts, and then recommend steps to advance our current understanding. The panel will consider both the natural climate system and the human activities responsible for driving climate change and altering the vulnerability of different regions, sectors, and populations; it will also consider the scientific advances needed to better understand the effectiveness of actions taken to limit the magnitude of future climate change and adapt to its impacts. The panel will be challenged to treat climate variables and the associated human activities and ecological processes as a single system, rather than a collection of individual elements. The panel will describe the observations, research programs, next-generation models, and other activities and tools that could improve our present understanding of climate change and its interactions with ecological and human systems, as well as the data, activities, and physical and human assets needed to support these activities. It is anticipated that the panel will convene a major workshop focusing on the research needed to better understand the potential efficacy, impacts, and risks of various “geoengineering” proposals (see Appendix E).
Ultimately, the goal of this panel is to answer the third question in the Statement of Task for the study (“What can be done to better understand climate change and its interactions with human and ecological systems?”). The panel will be challenged to produce a report that is broad and authoritative, yet concise and useful to decision makers. The costs, benefits, limitations, trade-offs, and uncertainties associated with different options and strategies should be assessed qualitatively and, to the extent practicable, quantitatively, using scenarios of future climate change and vulnerability developed in coordination with the Committee on America’s Climate Choices and the other study panels. The panel should also provide policy-relevant (but not policy-prescriptive) input to the committee on the following overarching questions:
What short-term actions can be taken to better understand climate change and its interactions with human and ecological systems?
What promising long-term strategies, investments, and opportunities could be pursued to advance the science of climate change?
What are the major scientific and technological advances (e.g., new observations, improved models, research priorities, etc.) needed to extend our understanding of climate change and its interactions with other systems?
What are the major impediments (e.g., practical, institutional, economic, ethical, intergenerational, etc.) to advancing the science of climate change, and what can be done to overcome these impediments?
What can be done to advance the science of climate change at different levels (e.g., local, state, regional, national, and in collaboration with the international community) and in different sectors (e.g., nongovernmental organizations, the business community, the research and academic communities, individuals and households, etc.)?