Climate change science: an analysis of some key questions

Climate change science: an analysis of some key questions

The scientific case for taking global warming seriously

This review of climate-change science for the US Government confirms IPCC arguments: that greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but current research cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes are also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century

Research and policy priorities include:

  • predictions of global climate change will require major advances in understanding and modelling of (1) the factors that determine atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols and (2) the so called 'feedbacks' that determine the sensitivity of the climate system to a prescribed increase in greenhouse gases
  • it is essential to ensure the existence of a long-term observing system that provides a more definitive observational foundation to evaluate decadal- to century-scale variability and change. This observing system must include observations of key state variables-such as temperature, precipitation, humidity, pressure, clouds, sea ice and snow cover, sea level, sea-surface temperature, carbon fluxes and soil moisture. Additionally, more comprehensive regional measurements of greenhouse gases would provide critical information about their local and regional source strengths
  • in order to address the consequences of climate change and better serve the nation's decision-makers, the research enterprise dealing with environmental change and environment-society interactions must be enhanced. This includes support of
    • interdisciplinary research that couples physical, chemical, biological and human systems
    • improved capability of integrate scientific knowledge, including its uncertainty, into effective decision support systems
    • an ability to conduct research at the regional or sectoral level that promotes analysis of the response of human and natural systems to multiple stresses

  • the ability of the United States to assess future climate change is severely limited by the lack of a climate observing system, by inadequate computational resources, and by the general inability of government to focus resources on climate problems. Efforts are needed to ensure that U.S. efforts in climate research are supported and managed so as to ensure innovation, effectiveness and efficiency

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