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USA - U.S. Global Change Research Program Should Shift Focus to Preparing for and Avoiding Worst Potential Consequences of Climate Change, Says New Report

As it drafts its next decadal strategic plan, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) should shift its focus to providing insights that help society prepare for and avoid the worst potential consequences of climate change, while protecting the most vulnerable, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Traditional climate research that projects changes in the natural environment to estimate potential consequences is not meeting the needs of decision-makers as they respond to the climate crisis, the report says.

Global Change Research Needs and Opportunities for 2022-2031 recommends USGCRP accelerate research on the multidirectional relationships among human and natural systems to advance our understanding of how to manage urgent current and future climate risks. Our food availability, for example, depends on a complex interaction between natural systems, such as the carbon and water cycles, and aspects of human systems, such as population growth or farming practices.

The report calls on USGCRP to focus specifically on urgent climate risks to the security and well-being of Americans — including their health, food, energy, water, and economic security. Risk management should emphasize protecting the most vulnerable and addressing the underlying drivers of vulnerability, particularly inequity and exclusion.

USGCRP is an interagency program that is mandated to coordinate research across 13 federal agencies. Research fostered by USGCRP has shaped our understanding of climate change, and represents an unprecedented effort to observe, understand, predict, and project global changes. The committee that wrote the report is tasked with advising USGCRP as it begins development of its next decadal plan, due to be completed in 2022.

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