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Results from the first generation of coupled carbon-climate models suggest that the capacity of the oceans and land surface to store carbon will decrease with global warming, which would represent a positive feedback on warming Friedlingstein et al. Improved understanding and representation of the carbon cycle in Earth system models is thus a critical research need. Feedbacks and thresholds within human systems and human-managed systems, and between the climate system and human systems, are a closely related research need that spans both this research theme and several of the other research themes described in this chapter.

For example, crops respond to multiple and interacting changes in temperature, moisture, CO 2 , ozone, and other factors, such as pests, diseases, and weeds. Experimental studies that evaluate the interactions of multiple factors are needed, especially in ecosystem-scale experiments and in environments where temperature is already close to optimal for crops.

Of particular concern are water resources for agriculture, which are influenced at regional scales by competition from other uses as well as by changing frequency and intensity of rainfall. Assessments that evaluate crop response to climate-related variables should explicitly include interactions with other resources that are also affected by climate change. Designing effective agricultural strategies for limiting and adapting to climate change will require models and analyses that reflect these complicated interactions and that also incorporate the response of farmers and markets not only to production and prices but to policies and institutions see Themes 3, 4, and 7 below.

In fisheries, sustainable yields require matching catch limits with the growth of the fishery. Climate variability already makes forecasting the growth of fish populations difficult, and future climate change will increase this uncertainty. There is considerable uncertainty about—and considerable risk associated with—the sensitivity of fish species to ocean acidification. Further studies of connections between climate and marine population dynamics are needed to enhance model frameworks for effective fisheries management.

Most fisheries are also subject to other stressors, such as increasing levels of pollution, and the interactions of these other stresses should be analyzed and incorporated into models. Finally, all of these efforts should be linked to the analysis of effective institutions and policies for managing fisheries. See Chapter 9 for additional details of links between climate change and agriculture and fisheries.

The role of large built environments including the transportation and energy systems associated with them in shaping GHG emissions, aerosol levels, ground-level air pollution, and surface reflectivity need to be examined in a systematic and comparative way to develop a better understanding of their role in climate forcing. This should include attention to the extended effect of urban areas on other areas such as deposition of urban emissions on ocean and rural land surfaces as well as interactions between urban and regional heat islands and urban vegetation-evapotranspiration feedbacks to climate.

Examination of both local and supralocal institutions, markets, and policies will be required to understand the various ways urban centers drive. See Chapter 10 and Theme 4 later in this chapter for additional details. Finally, the identification and evaluation of unintended consequences of proposed or already-initiated strategies to limit the magnitude of climate change or adapt to its impacts will need to be evaluated as part of the overall evaluation of the efficacy of such approaches.

This topic is explored in more detail later in the chapter, but it depends on a robust Earth system research enterprise. Knowledge gained from research involving physical, chemical, and ecological processes has been critical for establishing that climate change poses sufficiently serious risks to justify careful consideration and evaluation of alternative responses. Emerging concerns about how best to respond to climate change also bring to the fore questions about human interactions with the climate system: Thus, not surprisingly, many of the research needs that emerge from the detailed analyses in Part II focus on human interactions with climate change see Table 4.

Human and social systems play a key role in both causing and responding to climate change. Therefore, in the context of climate change, a better understanding of human behavior and of the role of institutions and organizations is as fundamental to effective decision making as a better understanding of the climate system. Such knowledge underlies the ability to solve focused problems of climate response, such as deciding how to prioritize investments in protecting coastal communities from sea level rise, choosing policies to meet federal or state targets for reducing GHG emissions, and developing better ways to help citizens understand what science can and cannot tell them about potential climate-driven water supply changes.

Such fundamental understanding provides the scientific base for making informed choices about climate responses in much the same way that a fundamental understanding of the physical climate system provides the scientific base for projecting the consequences of climate change. Research investments in the behavioral and social sciences would expand this knowledge base, but such investments have been lacking in the past e.

Barriers and institutional factors, both in research funding agencies and in academia more broadly, have also constrained progress in. This section outlines some of the key areas of fundamental research on human behavior and institutions that need to be developed to support better understanding of human interactions with the climate system and provide a scientific basis for informing more effective responses to climate change.

It draws on several past analyses and assessments of research gaps and needs NRC, a, a, , b, a, g, k. Climate change represents a special challenge for human comprehension Fischhoff, ; Marx and Weber, To make decisions about climate change, a basic understanding of the processes of climate change and of how to evaluate the associated risks and potential benefits would be helpful for most audiences. However, despite several decades of exposure to information about climate change, such understanding is still widely lacking. A number of recent scientific analyses Leiserowitz, ; Maibach et al.

First, because of the inherent uncertainties, projections of future climate change are often presented in terms of probabilities. Cognitive studies have established that humans have difficulty in processing probabilistic information, relying instead on cogni-. Second, the time scale of climate change makes it difficult for most people to observe these changes in their daily lives. Climate change impacts are not yet dramatically noticeable in the most populated regions of the United States, and even rapid climate change takes place over decades, making it difficult for people to notice unless they look at historical records Bostrom and Lashof, ; Moser, Scientists are only beginning to understand how recent and longer-term trends in weather influence perceptions of climate change Hamilton and Keim, ; Joireman et al.

It is also difficult to unambiguously attribute individual weather events to climate change, and climate change is easily displaced by events people perceive as exceptional or simply as more important at any one time Fischhoff, ; Marx and Weber, ; Marx et al. Third, people commonly use analogies, associations, or simplified mental models to communicate or comprehend climate change, and these simplifications can result in significant misunderstandings. Likewise, confusing the atmospheric lifetimes of GHGs with those of conventional air pollutants sometimes leads people to the erroneous inference that if emissions stop, the climate change problem will rapidly go away Bostrom and Lashof, ; Morgan et al.

Information that is consistent with, rather than incongruent with, existing beliefs and values is more likely to be accepted, as is information from trusted sources Bishr and Mantelas, ; Cash et al. These challenges demonstrate the importance of understanding how people—acting as consumers, citizens, or members of organizations and social networks—comprehend climate change, and how these cognitive processes influence climate-relevant decisions and behaviors.

Fundamental knowledge of risk perception provides a basis for this understanding e. A wide range of relevant theories and concepts have been advanced in various branches of psychology, sociology, and anthropology, as well as the political, pedagogic, and decision sciences among others , but these have yet to be more fully synthesized and applied to climate change Moser, Improved knowledge of how individuals, groups, networks, and organizations understand climate change and make decisions for responding to environmental changes can inform the design and evaluation of tools that better support decision making NRC, g.

Individual decisions about climate change, important as they are, are not the only human decisions that shape the trajectory of climate change. Some of the most consequential climate-relevant decisions and actions are shaped by institutions—such as markets, government policies, and international treaties—and by public and private organizations. Institutions shape incentives and the flow of information. The problem of decision making for the collective good has been extensively studied around localized resources such as forests or fisheries Chhatre and Agrawal, ; Dietz and Henry, ; McCay and Jentoft, ; Moran and Ostrom, ; NRC, b; Ostrom, , ; Ostrom and Nagendra, This body of research can provide important guidance for shaping effective responses to climate change at local and regional levels.

It can also inform the design and implementation of national and international climate policies see Chapter However, improving our understanding of the flexibility and efficacy of current institutions and integrating this body of knowledge with existing work on international treaties, national policies, and other governance regimes remains a significant research challenge.

Many environmentally significant decisions are made by organizations, including governments, publicly traded companies, and private businesses. Research on environmental decision making by businesses covers a broad range of issues. These include responses to consumer and investor demand, management of supply chains and production networks, standard setting within sectors, decisions about technology and process, how environmental performance is assessed and reported, and the interplay between government policy and private-sector decision making NRC, a. A number of state and local governments have also been proactive in developing policies to adapt to climate change and reduce GHG emissions.

To learn from these experiences, which is a key aspect of adaptive risk management, research is needed on both the effectiveness of these policies and the various factors that influenced their adoption Brody et al. In the United States, local policies are almost always embedded in state policies, which in turn are embedded in national policies, raising issues of multilevel governance—another emerging research area see Chapter Finally, it is clear that public policy is shaped not only by the formal organizations of government, but also by policy networks that include government, the private sector, and the public.

An emerging challenge is to understand how these networks influence policy and how they transmit and learn from new information Bulkeley, ; Henry, Decisions about consumption at the individual, household, community, business, and national levels have a profound effect on GHG emissions. For example, voluntary consumer choices to increase the efficiency of household energy use could reduce total U. GHG emissions by over 7 percent if supportive policies were in place Dietz et al. Consumer choices also influence important aspects of vulnerability and adaptation; for example, increasing demand for meat in human diets places stresses on the global food system as well as on the environment Fiala, ; Stehfest et al.

Considerable research on consumption decision making has been carried out in economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and geography NRC, a, a , but much of this research has been conducted in isolation. For example, economic analyses often take preferences as given.

Studies in psychology, sociology, and anthropology, on the other hand, focus on the social influences on preferences but often fail to account for economic processes. Decisions based on knowledge from multiple disciplines are thus much more likely to be effective than decisions that rely on the perspective of a single discipline, and advances in the understanding of climate and related environmental decision making are likely to require collaboration across multiple social science disciplines NRC, a, b. This is an area of research where.

Ultimately, it is desirable to understand how choices, and the factors that shape them, lead to specific environmental outcomes Dietz et al. A variety of hypotheses have been offered and tested about the key societal factors that shape environmental change—what are often called the drivers of change NRC, a. Growth in population and consumption, technological change, land and resource use, and the social, institutional, and cultural factors shaping the behavior of individuals and organizations have all been proposed as critical drivers, and some empirical work has elucidated the influence of each of them NRC, b, c, a, b.

However, much of this research has focused on only one or a few factors at a time and has used highly aggregated data Dietz et al. To understand the many human drivers of climate change as a basis for better-informed decision making, it will be necessary to develop and test integrative models that examine multiple driving forces together, examine how they interact with each other at different scales of human activity and over time, and consider how their effects vary across different contexts.

To evaluate the effectiveness of policies or other actions designed to limit the magnitude of climate change, increased understanding is needed about both the elasticity of climate drivers—the extent to which changes in drivers produce changes in climate impacts—and the plasticity of drivers, or the ease with which the driver can be changed by policy interventions York et al. For example, analyses of the effects of population growth on GHG emissions suggest an elasticity of about 1 to 1.

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On the other hand, recent research suggests that environmental impact is more directly related to the number of households than to the number of people Cole and Neumayer, ; Liu et al. Thus, a shift to smaller average household size could offset or even overwhelm the reduction in climate drivers resulting from reduced population growth. Similarly, it has been argued that increasing affluence leads at first to increased environmental impact but, once a threshold level of affluence has been reached, environmental impact declines Grossman and Krueger, ; Selden and Song, In the case of GHG emissions, however, emissions apparently continue to increase with increasing affluence Carson,.

The adoption of new technology is yet another area in which institutions, organizations, and networks have an important influence on decision making. New and improved technologies will be needed to meet the challenges of limiting climate change and adapting to its impacts NRC, a,c. However, the mere existence of a new technology with desirable properties is not sufficient to ensure its use. For example, individuals and organizations are currently far less energy efficient than is technologically feasible or economically optimal Jaffe and Stavins, ; Weber, There are also many examples of differential use of or opposition to new technologies among individuals, communities, and even nations.

Although adoption of and resistance to innovation, especially in new technologies, have been extensively studied e. A validated theoretical framework has not yet been developed for analyses of adoption issues related to new technologies to reduce GHG emissions or enhance resilience of particular systems, or of proposals to intentionally modify the climate system see Chapter One lesson from the existing literature is worth highlighting—the earlier in the process of technological development that social acceptance is considered, the more likely it is that technologies will be developed that will actually be used Rosa and Clark, Another is that, beyond the character of the innovation itself, it is essential to understand the role of the decision and institutional environment in fostering or constraining its adoption Lemos, ; Rayner et al.

Many of these concepts and research needs also emerge from the next two themes in this chapter. Not all people, activities, environments, and places are equally vulnerable 1 or resilient to the impacts of climate change. Identification of differences in vulnerability across space and time is both a pivotal research issue and a critical way in which scientific research can provide input to decision makers as they make plans to adapt to climate.

Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including changes in climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity NRC, a. A number of climate and climate-related processes have the potential to damage human and environmental systems in the coastal zone, including sea level rise; saltwater intrusion; storm surge and damages from flooding, inundation, and erosion; changes in the number and strength of coastal storms; and overall changes in precipitation amounts and intensity.

Under virtually all scenarios of projected future climate change, coastal areas face increased risks to their transportation and port systems, real estate, fishing, tourism, small businesses, power generating and supply systems, other critical infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, and police and fire stations , and countless managed and natural ecosystems. Coastal regions are not homogenous, however, and climate change impacts will play out in different ways in different places. Some areas of the coast and some industries and populations are more vulnerable, and thus more likely to suffer harm, than others.

Thus, managers and decision makers in the coastal zone—including land use planners, conservation area managers, fisheries councils, transportation planners, water supply engineers, hazard and emergency response personnel, and others—will face a wide range of challenges, many of them place specific, regarding how to respond to the risks posed by climate change. What does a coastal land use planner need to know about climate change impacts in order to make decisions about land use in a particular region? How can a research program provide information that will assist decision makers in such regions?

Knowledge and predictions about just how much sea level will rise in certain regions over time is a fundamental question. However, as noted in Chapter 7 , precise projections are not easy to provide. Managers also need to know how changes in sea level translate into erosion rates, flooding.

Indeed, the companion report Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change NRC, a identifies vulnerability assessments as a key first step in many if not all adaptation-related decisions and actions. An example of the use of vulnerability assessments in the context of climate-related decision making in the coastal zone can be found in Box 4. In addition to merely identifying and characterizing vulnerabilities, scientific research can help identify and assess actions that could be taken to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience and adaptive capacity in human and environmental systems.

In addition to these climate and other environmental changes, coastal managers need to consider the numbers of hospitals, schools, and senior citizens in potentially affected areas; property tax dollars generated in the coastal zone; trends in tourism; and many other factors.

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Vulnerability assessments of human, social, physical, and biological resources in the coastal zone can help decision makers identify the places and people that are most vulnerable to climate change and help them to identify effective steps that can be taken to reduce vulnerability or increase adaptive capacity. To help coastal managers and other decision makers assess risks, evaluate trade-offs, and make adaptation decisions, they need a scientific research program that improves understanding and projections of sea level rise and other climate change impacts at regional scales, integrates this understanding with improved understanding or nonclimatic changes relevant to decision making, identifies and evaluates the advantages and disadvantages of different adaptation options, and facilitates ongoing assessment and monitoring.

Such a program would require the engagement of many different kinds of researchers, including those focusing on resource and land use institutions; social dynamics; economic resilience; developing or evaluating regional climate models; sea level and ocean dynamics; coastal ocean circulation; spatial geomorphologic, geologic, and geographical characteristics; and aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem dynamics, goods, and services.

In addition to interdisciplinary interactions, research teams would benefit from interactions with decision makers to improve knowledge and understanding of the specific challenges they face Cash et al. The knowledge gained by these researchers needs to be integrated and synthesized in decision-support frameworks that actively involve and are accessible to decision makers e. Finally, a research enterprise that includes the development, testing, and implementation of improved risk assessment approaches and decision-support systems will enhance the capacity of decision makers in the coastal zone—as well as other sectors—to respond effectively to climate change.

They can also help to identify sectors, regions, resources, and populations that are particularly vulnerable to changes in climate considered in the context of changes in related human and environmental systems. Finally, scientific research can assist adaptation planning by helping to develop, assess, and improve actions that are taken to adapt, and by identifying barriers to adaptation and options to overcome those barriers.

Indeed, many of the chapters in Part II of the report identified vulnerability and adaptation analyses, developing the scientific capacity to perform such analyses, and developing and improving adaptation options as key research needs.


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Vulnerability and adaptation analyses can be performed in many contexts and have a wide range of uses. In general, vulnerability analyses assess exposure to and impacts from a disturbance, as well as sensitivity to these impacts and the capacity to reduce or adapt to the negative consequences of the disturbance. These analyses can then be used by decision makers to help decide where, how much, and in what ways to intervene in human or environmental systems to reduce vulnerability, enhance resilience, or improve efficient resource management Eakin et al.

The Hurricane Katrina disaster Box 4. As recognition has grown that vulnerability should be assessed in a wider context, attention has increasingly turned to integrated approaches focused on coupled human-environment systems. Such analyses consider both the natural characteristics and the human and social characteristics of a system, evaluate the consequences of climate change and other stresses acting on the integrated system, and explore the potential actions that could be taken to reduce the negative impacts of these consequences, including the trade-offs among efforts to reduce vulnerability, enhance resilience, or improve adaptive capacity see Figure 4.

Integrated approaches that allow the evaluation of the causal structure of vulnerabilities i.


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From left to right, the figure includes the stresses on the coupled system, the degree to which those stresses are felt by the system, and the conditions that shape the ability of the system to adapt. The Mississippi River, especially in and around New Orleans, has been intensively engineered to control flooding and provide improved access for ships to the port of New Orleans. In addition, the construction of channels and levees and other changes in the lower delta have affected vegetation, especially the health of cypress swamps.

Together, these changes in elevation and vegetation have weakened the capacity of the lower delta to serve as a buffer to storm surges from the Gulf of Mexico.

How Climate Scientists Predict the Future

Various assessments of the condition of the lower Mississippi Delta—which together form a quasi-integrated vulnerability study—revealed that in the event of a direct hurricane strike, the vegetation and land areas south of New Orleans were insufficient to protect the city from large storm surges, and also that various hydraulic works would serve to funnel flood waters to parts of the city Costanza et al.

This, combined with a lack of institutional preparedness and other social factors, led to a well-documented human disaster, especially for the poorest sections of the city Costanza et al. While climate change may or may not have contributed to the Katrina disaster see Chapter 8 for a discussion of how climate change might influence the frequency or intensity of hurricanes and other storms , it does illustrate how scientific analysis can help identify vulnerabilities. The Katrina disaster also illustrates how scientific analyses alone are not sufficient to ensure an effective response.

Integrated vulnerability analyses also allow improved understanding and identification of areas in which climate change works in combination with other disturbances or decisions e. Because of the complexity of interactions within and the variance among coupled human-environment systems, integrated vulnerability and adaptation analyses often rely.

This photo is from the U. However, with few notable exceptions e. The development of common metrics and frameworks for vulnerability and adaptation assessments is needed to assist cross-sectoral and interregional comparison and learning. While some research has focused on useful outputs for decision making and adaptation planning Luers et al. Hence, adaptive capacity can often only be assessed based on assumptions about different factors that might facilitate or constrain response and action Eakin and Luers, ; Engle and Lemos, or through the use of model projections. Progress here will rely on improved understanding of human behavior relevant to adaptation; institutional barriers to adaptation; political and social acceptability of adaptation options; their economic implications; and technological, infrastructure, and policy challenges involved in making certain adaptations.

Decisions about how to limit the magnitude of climate change, by how much, and by when demand input from research activities that span the physical, biological, and social science disciplines as well as engineering and public health. In addition to assessing the feasibility, costs, and potential consequences of different options and objectives, research is critical for developing new and improving existing technologies, policies, goals, and strategies for reducing GHG emissions. Scientific research, monitoring, and assessment activities can also assist in the ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness and unintended consequences of different actions or set of actions as they are taken—which is critical for supporting adaptive risk management and iterative decision making see Box 3.

This section highlights some pressing research needs related to efforts to limit the magnitude of future climate change. Commonly discussed strategies for limiting climate change see Figure 4. The blue boxes represent factors that can potentially be influenced to affect the outcomes in the purple circles. There is also increasing interest in solar radiation management and other geoengineering approaches see Chapters 9 , 14 , and While much is known about some of these strategies, others are not well understood, and there are many scientific research needs related to the development, improvement, implementation, and evaluation of virtually all technologies, policies, and other approaches for limiting climate change.

Setting goals for limiting the magnitude of climate change involves ethical and value questions that cannot be answered by scientific analysis. However, scientific research can help inform such efforts by providing information about the feasibility and potential implications of specific goals. It will also require pursuing multiple emissions-reduction strategies across a range of sectors, as well as continued research and development aimed at creating new emissions-reduction opportunities. Finally, to support adaptive risk management and iterative decision making with re-.

This range was derived from recent integrated assessment modeling exercises carried out by the Energy Modeling Forum http: These and other examples of research needs for supporting actions to limit climate change are listed in Table 4. The challenge of limiting climate change also engages many of the other research themes identified in this chapter.

For example, understanding and comparing the full effects of various energy technologies or climate policies including their comparative benefits, costs, risks, and distributional effects typically requires an integration of climate models with energy and economic models Theme 7 , which in turn are based on fundamental understanding of the climate system Theme 1 and human systems. Theme 2 , as well as the observations Theme 6 that underpin such understanding. Similarly, setting and evaluating goals and policies for limiting the magnitude of future climate change involves decision-making processes at a variety of scales that would benefit from decision-support tools that aid in handling uncertainty and understanding complex value trade-offs Theme 5.

Thus, while the following subsections describe a number of key research needs related to limiting the magnitude of future climate change, progress in many other research areas will also be needed. Efforts to reduce transportation- and energy-related GHG emissions focus on reducing total energy demand through, for example, conservation or changes in consumption patterns ; improving energy efficiency; reducing the GHG intensity of the energy supply by using energy sources that emit fewer or no GHGs ; and direct capture and sequestration of CO 2 during or after the combustion of fossil fuels see Figure 4.

The strategy of reducing demand is discussed earlier under Theme 2: Human Behavior and Institutions. Technology development is directed primarily toward the other three strategies: Numerous scientific and engineering disciplines contribute to the development and implementation of energy technology options: In many cases, these diverse disciplines need to work together to evaluate, improve, and expand energy technology options.

A coordinated strategy for promoting and integrating energy-related research is needed to ensure the most efficient use of investments among these disciplines and activities. A number of reports e. Climate Change Technology Program [DOE, c] have suggested that priority areas for strategic investment in the energy sector should include energy end use and infrastructure, sustainable energy supply, carbon sequestration, and reduction of non-CO 2 GHG emissions. These are discussed in Chapter Chapter 13 includes additional discussion on these topics. Technology developments in the energy and transportation sector are interrelated.

For example, widespread adoption of batteries and fuel cells would switch the main source of transportation energy from petroleum to electricity, but this switch will only result in significant GHG emissions reductions if the electricity sector can provide low- and no-GHG electricity on a large scale. This and other codependencies between the energy and transportation sectors underscore the need for an integrated, holistic national approach to limit the magnitude of future climate change as well as related research investments.

As described in Chapter 12 , urban design presents additional opportunities for limiting climate change. However, the success of new urban and building designs will depend on better understanding of how technology design, social and economic considerations, and attractiveness to potential occupants can be brought together in the cultural contexts where the developments will occur. Research is also needed to consider the implication of new designs for human vulnerability to climate change as well as other environmental changes.

Finally, as discussed in Chapter 10 , there are a number of potential options for reducing GHG emissions from the agricultural, fisheries, and aquaculture sectors through new technologies or management strategies. Development of new fertilizers and fertilizer management strategies that reduce emissions of N 2 O is one area of interest—one that may also yield benefits in terms of agricultural contributions to other forms of pollution. Reducing CH 4 emissions through changes in rice technologies or ruminant feed technologies are two additional areas of active research.

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Further research is needed in these and other areas, and also on the effectiveness, costs and benefits, and perceptions of farmers, fish stock managers, and consumers when considering implementation of new technologies in these sectors. There are a number of barriers to the adoption of technologies that could potentially reduce GHG emissions.

For example, the Environmental Protection Agency EPA recently suspended Energy Star certification for programmable thermostats because it was unable to show that they save energy in actual use EPA, a. Research on improved designs of these and other types of monitoring and control equipment could help reduce energy use by helping users operate homes, motor vehicles, and commercial and industrial facilities more efficiently. There are similar opportunities for improved energy efficiency through behavioral change. Research on behavioral change suggests that a good portion of this potential could actually be achieved, but further analysis is needed to develop and assess specific strategies, approaches, and incentives.

In general, barriers to technology adoption have received only limited research attention e. Such research can identify barriers to faster adoption of technologies and develop and test ways to overcome these barriers through, for example, better technological design, policies for facilitating adoption, and practices for addressing public concerns. This research can also develop more realistic estimates of technology penetration rates given existing barriers and assess the perceived social and environmental consequences of technology use, some of which constitute important barriers to or justifications for adoption.

Finally, the gap between technological potential and what is typically accomplished might be reduced by integrating knowledge from focused, problem-solving research on adoption of new technologies and practices e. The 20th century saw immense social and cultural changes, many of which—such as changes in living patterns and automobile use—have had major implications for climate change. Many societal and cultural changes can be traced to the confluence of individual and organizational decision making, which is shaped by institutions that reward some actions and sanction others, and by technologies.

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Many such mechanisms are already in operation, and these constitute natural experiments, but the scientific base for evaluating these experiments and designing effective institutions is limited see, e. Institutional design would likely be enhanced by more systematic research to evaluate past and current efforts, compare different institutional approaches for reaching the same goals, and develop and pilot-test new institutional options.

A large number of individual, community, and organizational decisions have a substantial effect on GHG emissions and land use change as well as on vulnerability to climate change. Many of these decisions are not currently made with much or any consideration of climate change. For example, individual and household food choices, the layout of communities, and the design of supply chains all have effects on climate. Understanding social and cultural changes is important for projecting future climate change, and, in some cases, these changes may provide substantial leverage points for reducing climate change.

Thus, enhanced understanding of the complex interplay of social, cultural, and technological change is critical to any strategy for limiting future climate change. Available evidence suggests that avoiding serious consequences from climate change poses major technological and policy challenges. Such efforts, often referred to as geoengineering approaches, encompass two very different categories of approaches: Two proposals for CDR—iron fertilization in the ocean and direct air capture—are discussed briefly in Chapters 9 and 14 , respectively.

As noted in Chapter 2 and discussed in greater detail in Chapter 15 , little is currently known about the efficacy or potential unintended consequences of SRM approaches, particularly how to approach difficult ethical and governance questions. Therefore, research is needed to better understand the feasibility of different geoengi-. Global climate changes are taking place within a larger context of vast and ongoing social and environmental changes.

These include the globalization of markets and communication, continued growth in human population, land use change, resource degradation, and biodiversity loss, as well as persistent armed conflict, poverty, and hunger. There are also ongoing changes in cultural, governance, and economic conditions, as well as in technologies, all of which have substantial implications for human well-being.

Thus, decision makers in the United States and around the world need to balance climate-related choices and goals with other social, economic, and environmental objectives Burger et al. Accordingly, in addition to climate and climate-related information, decision makers need information about the current state of human systems and their environment, as well as an appreciation of the plausible future outcomes and net effects that may result from their policy decisions. They also need to consider how their decisions and actions could interact with other environmental and economic policy goals, both in and outside their areas of responsibility.

The research needs highlighted in this report are intended to both improve fundamental understanding of and support effective decision making about climate change. As explored in the companion report Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change NRC, b , there is still much to be learned about the best ways of deploying science to support decision making. Scientific research on decision-support models, processes, and tools can help improve these systems.

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Effective decision support also requires interactive processes involving both scientists and decision makers. Such processes can inform decision makers about anticipated changes in climate, help scientists understand key decision-making needs, and work to build mutual understanding, trust, and cooperation—for example, in the design of decision tools and processes that make sense both scientifically and in the actual decision-making context.

Even when viable technologies or actions that could be effective in limiting the magnitude or adapting to the impacts of climate change exist, and appropriate institutions and policies to facilitate their implementation or adoption are in place see Themes 2 , 3 , and 4 , success can depend strongly on decision-making processes in populations or organizations NRC, a, h. One of the major contributions the social sciences can make to advancing the science of climate change is in the understanding, development, assessment, and improvement of these decision-making processes.

Scientific research can, for example, help identify the information that decision makers need, devise effective and broadly acceptable decision-making processes and decision-support mechanisms, and enhance learning from experience. Specific research agendas for the science of decision support are available in a number of other reports NRC, g, b , and other sections of this chapter describe some of the tools that have been or could be developed to inform or assist decision makers in their deliberations. One of the most important and well-studied approaches to decision making is deliberation with analysis also called analytic deliberation or linked analysis and deliberation.

Deliberation with analysis is an iterative process that begins with the many participants in a decision working together to define a decision problem and then to identify 1 options to consider and 2 outcomes and criteria that are relevant for evaluating those options. Typically, participants work with experts to generate and interpret decision-relevant information and then revisit the objectives and choices based on that information.

This model was developed in the broad context of environmental risks NRC, and has been elaborated in the context of climate-related decision making NRC, b, g. The deliberation with analysis approach allows repeated structured interactions among the public, decision makers, and scientists that can help the scientific community understand the information needs of and uses by decision makers, and appreciate the opportunities and constraints of the institutional, material, and organizational contexts under which stakeholders make decisions Lemos, ; Rayner et al.

It also helps decision makers and other stakeholders better understand and trust the science being produced. While research on deliberation with analysis has provided a general framework that has proven effective in local and regional issues concerning ecosystem, watershed, and natural resource management, more research is needed to determine how this approach might be employed for national policy decisions or international decision making around climate change NRC, , a, a, h. A decision-support system includes the individuals, organizations, networks, and institutions that develop decision-relevant knowledge, as well as the mechanisms to share and disseminate that knowledge and related products and services NRC, g.

Agricultural or marine extension services, with all their strengths and weaknesses, are an important historical example of a decision-support system that has helped make scientific knowledge relevant to and available for practical decision making in the context of specific goals. The recent report Informing Decisions in a Changing Climate NRC, g identified a set of basic principles of effective decision support that are applicable to the climate change arena: Effective decision-support systems work to both guide research toward decision relevance and link scientific information with potential users.

Such systems will thus play an important role in improving the linkages between climate science and decision making called for both in this report and in many previous ones e. Research on the use of seasonal climate forecasts exemplifies current understanding of decision-support systems see Box 4.

The basic principles of effective decision support are reasonably well known see, e. For the past 20 years, the application of seasonal climate forecasts for agricultural, disaster relief, and water management decision making has yielded important lessons regarding the creation of climate knowledge systems for action in different parts of the world at different scales Beller-Sims et al. Successful application of seasonal climate forecasting tends to follow a systems approach where forecasts are contextualized to the decision situation and embedded within an array of other information relevant for risk management.

The application of seasonal climate forecasts is not always perfect. Seasonal forecasts have proven useful in certain U. There is evidence that too much investment in climate forecasting may crowd out more sustainable alternatives to manage risk or even harm some stakeholders Lemos and Dilling, More recent efforts to apply the lessons from seasonal climate forecasting to inform climate adaptation policy argue for the integration of climate predictions within broader decision contexts Johnston et al.

However, they need to be applied differently in different places, with different decision makers, and in different decision contexts. Determining how to apply these basic principles is at the core of the science of decision support—the science needed for designing information products, knowledge networks, and institutions that can turn good information into good decision support NRC, g. The base in fundamental science for designing more effective decision-support systems lies in the decision sciences and related fields of scholarship, including cognitive science, communications research, and the full array of traditional social and behavioral science disciplines.

Expanded research on decision support would enhance virtually all the other research called for in this report by improving the design and function of systems that seek to make climate science findings useful in adaptive management of the risks of climate change. A recent review of research needs for improved environmental decision making NRC, a emphasized the need for research to identify the kinds of decision-support activities and products that are most effective for various purposes and audiences. The key research needs for the science of decision support fall into the following five areas NRC, g:.

Research is needed to identify the kinds of information that would add greatest value for climate-related decision making and to understand information needs as seen by decision makers. Communicating risk and uncertainty. People commonly have difficulty making good sense and use of information that is probabilistic and uncertain. Research on how people understand uncertain information about risks and on better ways to provide it can improve decision-support processes and products. Research is needed on processes for providing decision support, including the operation of networks and intermediaries between the producers and users of information for decision support.

This research should include attention to the most effective channels and organizational structures to use for delivering information for decision support; the ways such information can be made to fit into individual, organizational, and institutional decision routines; the factors that determine whether potentially useful information is actually used; and ways to overcome barriers to the use of decision-relevant information. These products may include models and simulations, mapping and visualization products, websites, and applications of techniques for structuring decisions, such as cost-benefit analysis, multiattribute decision analysis, and scenario analysis.

These efforts can be treated as a massive national experiment that can, if data are carefully collected, be analyzed to learn which strategies are attractive, which ones work, why they work, and under what conditions. Research on these experiments can build knowledge about how information of various kinds, delivered in various formats, is used in real-world settings; how knowledge is transferred across communities and sectors; and many other aspects of decision-support processes.

Nearly all of the research called for in this report either requires or would be considerably improved by a comprehensive, coordinated, and continuing set of observations—physical, biological, and social—about climate change, its impacts, and the consequences both intended and unintended of efforts to limit its magnitude or adapt to its impacts Table 4. Extensive, robust, and well-calibrated observing systems would support the research that underpins the scientific understanding of how and why climate is changing, provide information about the efficacy of actions and strategies taken to limit or adapt to climate change, and enable the routine dissemination of climate and climate-related information and products to decision makers.

Unfortunately, many of the needed observational assets are either underdeveloped or in decline. In addition, a variety of institutional factors—such as distributed responsibility across many different entities—complicate the development of a robust and integrated climate observing system. The breadth of information needed to support climate-related decision making implies an observational strategy that includes both remotely sensed and in situ observations and that provides information about changes across a broad range of natural and human systems.

To be useful, these observations must be. Table Of Content Preface. Dust variability over Northern Africa and rainfall in the Sahel; N. Desiccation in the Sahel; C. Hydrological response of desert margins to climatic change. The effect of changing surface properties; A. Weathering, gemorphology and climatic variability in the Central Namib Desert; H. Warm season land surface-climate interactions in the United States Midwest from meso-scale observations; J.

Streamflow changes in the Sierra Nevada, California, simulated using a statistically downscaled General Circulation Model scenario of climate change; R. Examining links between climate change and landslide activity using GCM's. Case studies from Italy and New Zealand; M.

Geologic evidence of rapid, multiple and high magnitude climate change during the last glacial Wisconsinan of North America; F. Aeolian geomorphic response to climate change: Evaporite minerals and organic horizons in sedimentary sequences in the Libyan Fezzan: Relict cryogenic mounds in the UK as evidence of climate Change; S.