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U.S. Climate Change Science Program
The U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP)11 is an interagency research planning and coordinating entity. It is responsible for facilitating the development of a strategic approach to Federally supported climate research, integrated across the participating agencies. Its principal aims are to investigate natural and human-induced changes in the Earth’s global environmental system, monitor important climate parameters, predict global change, and provide a sound scientific basis for national and international decision-making. Figure 1 shows that it operates under the direction of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. It reports through the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Climate Change Science and Technology, composed of agency deputies, to the CCCSTI.
Regarding climate change science, on May 11, 2001, the President asked the National Research Council (NRC)12 to examine the state of knowledge and understanding of climate change. The resulting NRC report 13 concluded that “the changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability.” The report also noted that there are still major gaps in our ability to measure the impacts of GHGs on the climate system. Major advances in understanding of the climate system, modeling of the factors that influence atmospheric concentrations of GHGs and aerosols, as well as the feedbacks that govern climate sensitivity, are needed to predict future climate change with greater confidence.
In July 2003, CCSP released its strategic plan for guiding climate research.14 The plan is organized around five goals: (i) improving our knowledge of climate history and variability; (ii) improving our ability to quantify factors that affect climate; (iii) reducing uncertainty in climate projections; (iv) improving our understanding of the sensitivity and adaptability of ecosystems and human systems to climate change; and (v) exploring options to manage risks. Annually, the Federal Government spends almost $2 billion on research related to advancing climate change science.
A subsequent NRC review of the CCSP strategic plan concluded that the Administration is on the right track, stating that the plan “articulates a guiding vision, is appropriately ambitious, and is broad in scope.” The NRC’s report also identified the need for a broad global observation system to support measurements of climate variables.15
In June 2003, the United States hosted more than 30 nations at the inaugural Earth Observation Summit, which resulted in a commitment to establish an intergovernmental, comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained Earth observation system. The data collected by the system will be used for multiple societal benefit areas, including better climate models, improved knowledge of the behavior of CO2 and aerosols in the atmosphere, and the development of strategies for carbon sequestration.
Since that initial meeting, two additional ministerial summits have been held, and the intergovernmental partnership has grown to nearly 60 nations. At the most recent meeting, Earth Observation Summit III in Brussels, a Ten-Year Implementation Plan for the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) [PDF] was adopted, and the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations was established to begin implementation of the 2-, 6-, and 10- year targets identified in the plan. The U.S. contribution to GEOSS is the Integrated Earth Observation System (IEOS). In April 2005, the U.S. Government Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) released the Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System 16 that addresses the policy, technical, fiscal, and societal benefit components of this integrated system and established the U.S. Group on Earth Observation (USGEO).