Caldeira Lab Research:Energy, Global Carbon Cycle, and Climate

America’s Climate Choices: Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change

National Academy Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change

A report released by a panel on climate change. After concluding that climage change is being largely caused by human activities, the panel recommends that the nation needs a comprehensive, integrated, and flexible climate change research enterprise that is closely linked with action-oriented programs at all levels.

National Academy Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change, 2010. America’s Climate Choices: Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change.

Fig. 15.1: Various geoengineering options, including both solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal. Dashed boxes represent carbon reservoirs (e.g., soil, ocean); black arrowheads represent shortwave radiation and are associated with solar radiation management; downward white and gray arrowheads correspond to a variety of natural and engineered processes, respectively, for removing CO2 from the atmosphere; the thicker, upward grey arrowhead represents enhanced ocean upwelling, which could conceivably help to remove CO2 from the atmosphere by enhancing biological activity at the ocean’s surface; and, the thinner gray arrowheads correspond to increased cloud condensation nuclei sources. SOURCE: Lenton and Vaughn (2009).


Science has made enormous inroads in understanding climate change and its causes, and is beginning to develop a strong understanding of current and potential impacts that will affect people today and in coming decades. This understanding is crucial because it allows decision makers to place climate change in the context of other large challenges facing the nation and the world. There are still some uncertainties, and there always will be in understanding a complex system like Earth’s climate. Nevertheless, there is a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that climate is changing, and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities. While much remains to be learned, the core phenomenon, scientific questions, and hypotheses have been examined thoroughly and have stood firm in the face of serious scientific debate and careful evaluation of alternative explanations. As a result of the growing recognition that climate change is underway and poses serious risks for both human societies and natural systems, the question that decision makers are asking has expanded from “what is happening” to “what is happening and what can we do about it?” Scientific research can help answer both of these important questions. In addition to the extensive body of research on the causes and consequences of climate change, there is a growing body of knowledge about technologies and policies that can be used to limit the magnitude of future climate change, a smaller but expanding understanding of the steps that can be taken to adapt to climate change, and a growing recognition that climate change will need to be considered in actions and decisions across a wide range of sectors and interests. Advice on prudent short-term actions and long-term strategies in these three areas can be found in the companion reports Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change (NRC, 2010b), Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change (NRC, 2010c), and Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change (NRC, 2010a). This report, Advancing the Science of Climate Change, reviews the current scientific evidence regarding climate change and examines the status of the nation’s scientific research efforts. It also describes the critical role that climate change science, broadly defined, can play in developing knowledge and tools to assist decision makers as they act to respond to climate change. The report explores seven cross-cutting research themes that should be included in the nation’s climate change research enterprise, and recommends a number of actions to advance the science of climate change — a science that includes and increasingly integrates across the physical, biological, social, health, and engineering sciences. Overall, the report concludes that: (1) Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems; and (2) The nation needs a comprehensive and integrated climate change science enterprise, one that not only contributes to our fundamental understanding of climate change but also informs and expands America’s climate choices.



PAMELA A. MATSON (Chair), Stanford University, California
THOMAS DIETZ (Vice Chair), Michigan State University, East Lansing
WALEED ABDALATI, University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado
ANTONIO J. BUSALACCHI, JR., University of Maryland, College Park
KEN CALDEIRA, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford, California
ROBERT W. CORELL, H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, Washington, D.C.
RUTH S. DEFRIES, Columbia University, New York, New York
INEZ Y. FUNG, University of California, Berkeley
STEVEN GAINES, University of California, Santa Barbara
GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
MARIA CARMEN LEMOS, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
SUSANNE C. MOSER, Susanne Moser Research & Consulting, Santa Cruz, California
RICHARD H. MOSS, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington, D.C.
EDWARD A. PARSON, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
A. R. RAVISHANKARA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado
RAYMOND W. SCHMITT, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts
B. L. TURNER, II, Arizona State University, Tempe
WARREN M. WASHINGTON, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
JOHN P. WEYANT, Stanford University, California
DAVID A. WHELAN, The Boeing Company, Seal Beach, California