U.S. Global Change Research Program

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The United States Global Change Research Program or USGCRP coordinates and integrates federal research on changes in the global environment and their implications for society. The program began as a presidential initiative in 1989 and was codified by Congress through the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-606), which called for "a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change."[1]

Thirteen departments and agencies participate in the USGCRP, which was known as the U.S. Climate Change Science Program from 2002 through 2008. The program is steered by the Subcommittee on Global Change Research under the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Sustainability, overseen by the Executive Office of the President, and facilitated by a National Coordination Office.

During the past two decades, the United States, through the USGCRP, has made the world's largest scientific investment in the areas of climate change and global change research. Since its inception, the USGCRP has supported research and observational activities in collaboration with several other national and international science programs.

These activities led to major advances in several key areas including but not limited to:

  • Observing and understanding short- and long-term changes in climate, the ozone layer, and land cover;
  • Identifying the impacts of these changes on ecosystems and society;
  • Estimating future changes in the physical environment, and vulnerabilities and risks associated with those changes; and
  • Providing scientific information to enable effective decision making to address the threats and opportunities posed by climate and global change.

These advances have been documented in numerous assessments commissioned by the program and have played prominent roles in international assessments such as those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Program results and plans are documented in the program's annual report, Our Changing Planet.

Definition of Global Change[edit]

The Global Change Research Act of 1990 defines global change as: "Changes in the global environment (including alterations in climate, land productivity, oceans or other water resources, atmospheric chemistry, and ecological systems) that may alter the capacity of the Earth to sustain life."[2]

Participating Agencies[edit]

The following is a list of participating agencies:.[3]

Strategic Planning[edit]

The USGCRP Strategic Plan for 2012-2021 maintains an emphasis on advancing global change science and research, but it also calls for a new focus on ensuring our science informs real-world decisions and actions. Moving forward, the strategic goals of USGCRP are to:

  • Advance Science (Study Climate and Global Change)--Advance scientific knowledge of the integrated natural and human components of the Earth system
  • Inform Decisions (Prepare the Nation for Change)--Provide the scientific basis to inform and enable timely decisions on adaptation and mitigation
  • Conduct Sustained Assessments (Assess the U.S. Climate)--Build sustained assessment capacity that improves the Nation’s ability to understand, anticipate, and respond to global change impacts and vulnerabilities
  • Communicate and Educate (Make Our Science Accessible)--Advance communications and education to broaden public understanding of global change and develop the scientific workforce of the future

The USGCRP has been guided over time by the following strategic plans.

  • 2012: National Global Change Research Plan 2012-2021[4]
  • 2008: Revised Research Plan: An Update to the 2003 Strategic Plan[5]
  • 2003: Strategic Plan for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program[6]
  • 1989: Our Changing Planet: The FY 1990 Research Plan[7]
  • 1989: Our Changing Planet: A U.S. Strategy for Global Change Research[8]

The program has recently undertaken a series of "listening sessions"[9] with a variety of stakeholder groups around the country to gain a better understanding of the emerging needs for climate information and ways in which federal research might be shaped to meet those needs. Stakeholder engagement that is a central element of the program's national assessment[10]

Program Elements[edit]

The USGCRP's thirteen participating agencies coordinate their work through Interagency Working Groups (IWGs) that span a wide range of interconnected issues of climate and global change. The IWGs address major components of the Earth’s environmental and human systems, as well as cross-disciplinary approaches for addressing issues under the purview of the USGCRP. The IWGs are composed of representatives from federal departments and agencies responsible for activities in each area. The IWGs are overseen by the Subcommittee on Global Change Research.[11]

Interagency Working Groups:

Integrated Observations
Process Research Coordinating Committee
Communications and Education (ICE-t)
Interagency Group on Integrated Modeling (IGIM)
Carbon Cycle
Social Science Task Force
Adaptation Science
International Research and Cooperation
Global Change Information System
Interagency National Climate Assessment (INCA)
Interagency Crosscutting Group on Climate Change and Human Health (CCHHG)

Decision support activities---including the development of assessments and other tools and information to support adaptation and mitigation decision making---are coordinated in a distributed fashion across the program and are part of the mandate of all IWGs and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research.

National Climate Assessments have been integral components of USGCRP since its inception. Along with its strategic role as coordinator of Federal global change research, USGCRP is required by the Global Change Research Act of 1990 to conduct a National Climate Assessment (NCA). The NCA is an important resource for understanding and communicating climate change science and impacts in the United States. 

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]