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Experts outline scope of nationwide project on climate change

The country’s leading researchers on climate change came to Westwood recently to give the public a chance to learn and ask questions about the current science on climate change, options facing the United States and the work of the Committee on America's Climate Choices, the group that sponsored the event Jan. 13 at the W Hotel.
 
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Chancellor Emeritus Albert Carnesale talks about the mission of America's Climate Choices, a nationwide project he chairs launched by the National Academies.
The committee, which is chaired by Chancellor Emeritus and Professor of Public Policy Albert Carnesale, is leading a nationwide project launched by the National Academies and requested by Congress to provide policy-relevant advice, based on scientific evidence, to help guide the nation's response to climate change. America's Climate Choices involves four panels of experts in addition to the main committee, representing government, the private section and research institutions. They are evaluating strategies available to limit the magnitude of future climate change, to adapt to its impacts and advance climate change science, among other goals. The open session in Westwood was one of a series of town hall discussions held in Irvine; Boulder, CO; Washington, D.C.; and other cities.  A final report will be released sometime this summer.
 
The scope of the project, Carnesale explained, “Is not restricted to the science of climate change, but goes beyond the science and includes people from a wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds, from the academic spheres of social and physical life sciences, and also from political life and business life.
 
“Congress not only asked for this study, but authorized $5.8 million to support the research,” Carnesale said. “When you think of a study of this scope, it sounds like a large amount. It actually involves hundreds of participants who volunteer their time or receive indirect support from the institutions they work for.”     
 
The panel that came to Westwood included Thomas Wilbanks, group leader of the global change and developing countries programs at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Diana Liverman, co-director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona; Ian Kraucunas, senior program officer of the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate at the National Academies; Robert Fri, visiting scholar and senior fellow emeritus at Resources for the Future; and William L. Chaimeides, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.
 
One of the main challenges for all of the experts involved is to make sure that the recommendations of each of the four panels are consistent, Kraucunas said. "To that end, we have a broad range of scientists — absolutely top-notch physical climate scientists; also ecological systems; experts in social science and the human dimensions of climate change; in engineering and geo-engineering; experts in the management of science — to tackle the interconnected set of issues. We’re trying to build on a broad range of reports that pertain to this topic.”
 
In tracking down who is making decisions on  climate change in this country and what kinds of information they need to make those decisions wisely, said Liverman, "our panel realized we needed to . . . go far beyond the federal government and look at decision makers at all levels.   
 
“California has made some very serious decisions about responding to climate change. Los Angeles has made its own plans to address climate change, and the corporate sector has taken action as well," Liverman said. "We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the range of people making decisions and the information that they may need." Among the questions being asked is whether decision-makers have adequate information to decide, for example, how they might adapt to climate change, or determine whether climate change will affect them at all. 
 
"That’s part of a general discussion that’s going on in the U.S,” Liverman said.
 
A summit hosted by America's Climate Choices last March in Washington, D.C., brought together members of all four panels and began an open dialogue among key stakeholders and decision makers, including those in Congress, the Obama administration, federal officials, business leaders, state and local leaders, nongovernmental organizations and other voices.
 
To see a video about the study and find more information on America's Climate Choices, go here.