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Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 1990. The U.S. Global Change Research Program: An Assessment of the FY 1991 Plans. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1606.
Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 1990. The U.S. Global Change Research Program: An Assessment of the FY 1991 Plans. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1606.

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Introduction The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is an initia- tive of the U.S. government aimed at establishing the scientific basis for national and international policymaldng relating to natural and human- induced changes in the global earth system. As such, the program calls for broadly-based research and modeling efforts within academia, government laboratories, and other research centers as well as observational systems to supply information on the earth system. The program is broadly constituted to include the study of the various dynamic and interrelated components of the earth system, induding the human influences affecting and affected by global environmental changes. Currently, seven science elements constitute the framework for the program, each including focused research, modeling, and observational activities. The seven elements are: physical climate and hydrological systems, biogeochemical dynamics, ecological systems, Earth system history, human interactions, solid Earth processes and solar influ- ences. The Earth Observing System, discussed in Part II of this report, is one major NASA initiative within the USGCRP. The USGCRP, formally initiated in FY 1990, is formulated by the interagency Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences (CEES)i under the Office of Science and Technology Policy's Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology. Within the CEES, the Working Group on Global Change, composed of representatives of seven participating agencies, develops plans for the program and coordinates these plans among the agencies. Separate worldng groups concerning research on mitigation and adaptation to global change and on groundwater are working in parallel to the working group on global change under the CEES. The CEES was known as the Committee on Earth Sciences until the spring of 1990. 11

12 The formal initiation of the USGCRP was the result of an evolutionary process within the scientific community and the federal agencies over the last decade. In 1983, the National Research Council (NRC) organized a workshop on the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) to consider the major questions for research on the atmosphere, oceans, lithosphere, biosphere, and solar-terrestrial interactions. The workshop concluded that a unifying theme for these research areas is the concept of global change. Subsequently, NRC issued a report in 1986, Global Change in the Geosphere-Biosphere: Initial Prioniies for an IGBP, defining a conceptual approach for the study of the interacting components of the earth system. This approach is reflected in the IGBP, formally initiated by the International Council of Scientific Unions in 1986, of which the USGCRP is a major national contributing program. The NRC has since developed a number of scientific priorities for the study of global change, as reflected in the 1988 reports Toward an Understanding of Global Change: Initial Prioniies for US. Conhibuiions to the IGBP and The Twenty-First Century: Mission to Planet Earth, and the forthcoming report on Research Strategies for the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Within NASA, the report from a 1982 workshop, Global Change: Impacts on Habitability: A Scieniifir Basis for Assessment and subsequent reports, most notably the 1988 report Earth System Science: A Program for Global Change, similarly helped to develop consensus within the scientific community on the needs for national and international research programs to understand global change. These reports collectively provide a rigorous assessment of the state of science and gaps in knowledge needed to improve understanding of natural and anthropogenic changes in the global environment, and they form the basis for assessing the federal research plan. The Panel to Review the FY 1991 USGCRP based its assessment on the brief description of the FY 1991 plans contained in the January 1990 document Our Changing Planet and brief one page descriptions of the projects included within each of the science elements for the FY 1991 budget. Because of the lack of detail in these documents, the panel con- sciously concentrated on general concerns about the USGCRP, rather than on specific analysis of the projects and plans for FY 1991. The panel formulated four questions for assessment: Does the program address the scientific priorities for reducing uncertainties about global environmental change? Is the USGCRP an appropriately balanced program? Are current processes of coordination and review adequate? And what other issues require particular attention in the implementation of the program? The four questions are addressed in Chapters 1 through 4 respectively. Appen- dLx B is a commentary on projects in the science priority elements of the USGCRP.

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