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Our Changing Planet: The FY 2002 U.S. Global Change Research Program

Description: This document, which is produced annually, describes the activities and plans of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), which was established in 1989 and authorized by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990. Strong bipartisan support for this inter-agency program has resulted in more than a decade's worth of scientific accomplishment. "Because there is considerable uncertainty in current understanding of how the climate system varies naturally and reacts to emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols, current estimates of the magnitude of future warming should be regarded as tentative and subject to future adjustments (either upward or downward). Reducing the wide range of uncertainty inherent in current model predictions of global climate change will require major advances in understanding and modeling of both (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. There is also a pressing need for a global system designed for monitoring climate. Climate projections will always be far from perfect. Confidence limits and probabilistic information, with their basis, should always be considered as an integral part of the information that climate scientists provide to policy- and decision-makers. Without them, the IPCC SPM [Summary for Policymakers] could give the impression that the science of global warming is 'settled,' even though many uncertainties still remain. The emission scenarios used by the IPCC provide a good example. Human dimensions will almost certainly alter emissions over the next century. Because we cannot predict either the course of human populations, technology, or societal transitions with any clarity, the actual greenhouse gas emissions could either be greater or less than the IPCC scenarios. Without an understanding of the sources and degree of uncertainty, decision makers could fail ...
Date: September 2001
Creator: Subcommittee on Global Change Research, Committee on Environment and Natural Resources of the National Science and Technology Council
Item Type: Text