More Actionable Science Recommended to Address Climate Change

Release Date:

Working directly with resource managers to produce science and tools to address effects of climate change on the nation’s biological resources should remain the core focus of the Interior Department’s Climate Science Centers, according to a federal advisory committee report released today. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Working directly with resource managers to produce science and tools to address effects of climate change on the nation’s biological resources should remain the core focus of the Interior Department’s Climate Science Centers, according to a federal advisory committee report released today. 

The federal Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science advises the Interior Secretary on the operations of its USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and Interior’s eight Climate Science Centers. The committee has members from state and local governments, scientific and conservation organizations, American Indian tribes, academia, individual landowners, business interests and federal agencies.

“The Advisory Committee’s report commends the important role of Interior’s Climate Science Centers in using sound and practical science to assist resource managers in planning effectively for climate change,” said Doug Beard, acting associate director for the USGS’s Climate and Land Use Change program. “These centers and their many partners produce usable and action-oriented science that is already helping our lands and waters, our plants and animals, and our tribes and other indigenous peoples prepare for and adapt to climate change.” 

The committee noted that USGS and DOI have achieved significant accomplishments since the first climate science center in Alaska was opened in 2010, including establishing eight CSCs; developing stakeholder-informed science agendas; focusing science on the impacts of projected climate change on fish, wildlife and their habitats, as well as other natural and cultural resources; emphasizing the scientific needs of resource managers and decision makers; and allocating over $93 million in funding for climate adaptation research projects.

In addition, the committee placed great emphasis on the program’s focus on “actionable science” and recommended that the program expand its capacity to work closely with decision makers in states, tribes and other indigenous groups, within DOI and with other federal agencies, and environmental organizations. A “how-to guide” for such “actionable science” is included as an appendix to the report.

The committee’s co-chair, David Behar, emphasized that the USGS’s National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and Interior’s Climate Science Centers are some of the only entities in the nation specifically set up to address decision maker needs for climate information. “It is critical that the scientists work with resource managers from the beginning of an effort to collaboratively define and co-produce what is needed,” said Behar, who is also the climate program director of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. “The How-To Guide developed by the committee provides a valuable road map on how that process can work on the ground,” he added.

In addition to the How-To Guide, the report also includes two other documents to which committee members contributed: one is a summary of a primer on climate change and indigenous peoples and the other provides guidelines for considering traditional knowledge in climate change initiatives (both documents are available online). 

“Tribes and indigenous cultures and communities across the nation are already being challenged by drought, sea level rise, coastal erosion, altered snow regimes and more frequent and severe storms,” said Beard. “The Advisory Committee recommends that we further our commitment to working with indigenous and tribal communities to provide the science they need for climate-resilient and sustainable communities.”

The Advisory Committee also developed factors that should be used to evaluate the performance of the CSCs.  These include the usefulness of the “actionable science” they produce, education and other capacity building, partnerships and institutional factors such as planning and USGS-university interactions.

The report also advised developing more avenues to coordination with other federal programs and with regional stakeholders. “The need for practical, actionable climate science is so large that we must coordinate closely with partners to be sure every science investment is useful and unique,” said Sarah Ryker, deputy associate director of the USGS Climate and Land Use Change program and the federal co-chair of the committee. “One of the early successes of the program is partnering with universities to provide even more expertise to answer important regional resource management questions.”

The Advisory Committee’s recommendations and full report are available on the USGS website.

The mission of the DOI Climate Science Centers is to guide policy makers and managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural areas on how to help species, ecosystems and human communities adapt to climate change.