Climate research needs to change to help communities plan for the future

Read the full story at The Conversation.

Climate change is a chronic challenge – it is here now, and will be with us throughout this century and beyond. As the U.S. government’s National Climate Assessment report made clear, it’s already affecting people throughout the United States and around the world.

Warmer temperatures are making heat waves more intense, with harmful effects on human healthMore intense rainfall and higher sea levels are leading to more frequent and intense flooding, with ensuing damages to property, infrastructure, business activity and health. Higher temperatures and strained water supplies are requiring new agricultural approaches, while fisheries are shifting and in some cases shrinking; in some cases, stressed food systems are contributing to national instability.

This reality means society needs to think about climate change in different ways than the past, by focusing on reducing the risk of negative effects. And speaking as a climate scientist, I recognize that climate science research, too, has to change.

Historically, climate science has been primarily curiosity-driven – scientists seeking fundamental understanding of the way our planet works because of the inherent interest in the problem.

Now it’s time for the climate science research enterprise to adopt an expanded approach, one that focuses heavily on integrating fundamental science inquiry with risk management.

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