Expert Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Advancing the Science of Climate Change

Limiting the Magnitude of Climate Change

Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change

A five-video series on the America's Climate Choices project

Demand for information to support climate-related decisions has grown as people, organizations, and governments have moved ahead with plans and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Today, however, the nation lacks comprehensive, robust, and credible information systems to inform climate choices and evaluate their effectiveness. This report examines information needs and calls for the federal government to build upon its existing efforts and those of state and local government, the private sector and citizens by establishing clear federal leadership, responsibility, and coordination for climate related decisions, climate risk management, information systems, and services.

In order to meet national needs for state-of-the-art information on climate change, its impacts, and response options, a coordinated system of climate services is needed; such a system would require the involvement of multiple agencies and regional expertise, with very clear leadership at the highest level of government. A federally supported and credible system for greenhouse gas monitoring, reporting, verification, and management from multiple sources and at multiple scales is also a priority. The majority of Americans are concerned about climate change and are willing to respond, but would like more information. Therefore, the report also recommends the creation of a national task force on climate communication and education.

Key Messages

  • Climate-related information from other countries is essential to U.S. climate choices for reasons that include: 1.) the economic and market couplings of the U.S. with the rest of the world; 2.) shared water and other natural resources; 3.) disease spread and human health; 4.) humanitarian relief efforts; and 5.) human and national security. The federal government should support the collection and analysis of relevant international information about climate change and its impacts.
  • Decision makers in both public and private sectors can benefit from an iterative risk management framework for responding to climate change, in which decisions and policies can be revised in light of new information and experience. Information and reporting systems allow for the ongoing evaluation of responses to climate risks.
  • In order to meet national needs for state-of-the-art information on climate change, its impacts, and response options, a coordinated system of climate services is needed. In the panel's judgment, no single government agency or centralized unit can perform all the functions required; a system that involves multiple agencies and regional expertise is needed, with very clear leadership at the highest level of government, responsiveness to the needs of users, and ongoing metrics for evaluation.
  • The climate-related decisions that society will confront over the coming decades will require an informed and engaged public. A majority of Americans are concerned about climate change and are willing to respond, but would like more information. The federal government should establish a national task force that includes formal and informal educators, government agencies, policymakers, business leaders, and scientists, among others, to set national goals and objectives, and to develop a coordinated strategy to improve climate change education and communication.
  • There is a growing demand for better information on climate change that is tailored to user needs, provided at space and timescales to support decision-making, communicated clearly, and accompanied by decision support tools that allow exploration of alternative pathways.
  • There is considerable potential for the actions of state and local government, the private sector and individual citizens to contribute to the nationwide response to climate change, but better information and coordination with federal policies would make these decisions more effective.
  • To provide a policy framework that promotes effective responses at all levels of American society, the federal government should build on its existing efforts and establish clear federal leadership, responsibility, and coordination for climate related decisions, information systems, and services.
  • Today, the diversity of greenhouse gas standards, calculation methods, and reporting systems creates potential confusion for consumers, businesses, and policy makers. A federally supported system for greenhouse gas monitoring, reporting, verification, and management from multiple sources and at multiple scales is needed to ensure credibility and transparency.
  • Tools for informing consumer decisions, such as appliance ratings that predict energy use, coupled with incentives, can change behavior. The federal government should review and promote credible and easily understood standards and labels for energy efficiency and emerging measures of carbon/greenhouse gas information that build trust and awareness with consumers.