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11/18/2011
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Defense Dept. Jumps On Climate Change Research

DOD says poor intelligence on the negative effects of climate change poses a national security threat.

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The Department for Defense (DOD) is calling for a better system for collecting and analyzing data related to climate change in order to make more accurate forecasts about the world's changing weather patterns.

A report by the DOD's Defense Science Board task force calls for the creation of a "climate information system" that will gather intelligence from multiple agencies and experts both inside and outside the federal government, and allow that information to be used to forecast and mitigate the negative effects of climate change.

"The current collection of observational and model assets while important for conducting exploratory climate science do not constitute a robust, sustained, or comprehensive resource for generating actionable climate forecasts," according to the report.

Doing so requires collaboration and information sharing between multiple agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the CIA, and the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and State, as well as private-sector climate researchers and experts.

Indeed, climate-change research is already for a priority for agencies like NASA and NOAA, which are using advanced technology such as satellites and supercomputers to study changes in Earth's weather and climate patterns.

[Supercomputers keep getting more powerful. Check out Top 10 Supercomputers: U.S. Still Dominates.]

The report lists attributes of the proposed climate information system, which the DOD would manage. Those characteristics include the collection of "reliable, sustained climate data" over decades, including observations and system models; minimal gaps in data collection and minimal service interruptions; a clearinghouse of data records that keep track of "essential climate variables"; and global data records.

Other attributes a system should have include decision support tools to "enable synthesis assessment and translation of climate data records" into metrics that have benefits to society; transparency and the ability to reproduce observational data, models, and decision support tools and analysis; and sustained support for ongoing climate research, according to the report.

The report identifies climate change as a very real problem that has broad socioeconomic implications across the globe. Therefore, finding a way to harness research being done to "manage the consequences" of climate change should be a priority for the U.S. government, according to the report.

"Changes in climate patterns and their impact on the physical environment can create profound effects on populations in parts of the world and present new challenges to global security and stability," DOD science panel co-chairs Gen. Larry Welch and Dr. William Howard wrote in a memo attached to the report. "Failure to anticipate and mitigate these changes increases the threat of more failed states with the instabilities and potential for conflict inherent in such failures."

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