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Seismic Sensors in Orbit
AGU position statements provide scientific expertise on significant policy issues related to Earth and space science. Each draft statement is developed by a task force of experts, then they are available online for a 30-day member review period. The task force then reviews member comments and makes any final edits before the statements are approved by AGU’s Board and Council. After their official adoption, position statements are reviewed every four years. AGU members can propose new position statements via this form.
We encourage our members to engage in the process by reviewing the current position statements out for review and submitting their comments via the forms linked after the draft statements. If a position statement is not listed below, it is not up for comment.
Prompt and concerted actions to limit and adapt to human-caused climate change are less costly than remaining on the current trajectory and can provide great benefits for human well-being.
Human activities are changing Earth’s climate, causing increasingly disruptive impacts to society and the environment. To limit these impacts, the world’s nations agreed to hold the increase in global average temperature, relative to pre-industrial levels, to well below 2°C (3.6°F). To have a good chance of achieving this goal, human society must promptly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, including bringing net carbon dioxide emissions to zero. Such reductions require substantial near-term transformations in energy sources and uses, more efficient food systems, and enhanced removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. At the same time, societies must prepare to cope with and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. Done strategically, efficiently and equitably, the needed transformations can provide increased prosperity and well-being for society.
Concentrations of greenhouse gases—including CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and halocarbons—in the atmosphere rose to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years due to fossil-fuel burning and other human activities. Extensive, scientific observations document that the global average surface temperature in the atmosphere and ocean has increased by about 1°C (1.8°F) since the late 1800s. It is extremely likely that human influences are responsible for most, and possibly all, of the observed global warming since the mid-20th century.
In addition to increasing average temperatures, many other striking changes have been documented. These include more frequent heat waves on land and in the ocean; reductions in Arctic sea ice, Northern hemisphere snow cover, Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, and mountain glaciers; changes in the global water cycle that escalate precipitation; and a rise in global sea-level. Increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are also directly acidifying ocean waters and affecting the growth and nutritional value of land plants.
Realistic and continually improving computer simulations of the global climate predict that both temperature and sea level will continue to rise as a result of past and future greenhouse gas emissions. Past emissions will contribute to some additional heating into the near-future. However, the amount of rise will be predominantly determined by future human-caused emissions. Global average temperature will only stabilize after net emissions of CO2 reach zero, i.e. the amount entering the atmosphere is matched by the amount removed, and emissions of other greenhouse gases are stable or decreasing. Simulations demonstrate that limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C, including the 1.0°C warming that has already occurred, requires that human-caused CO2 net emissions reach zero by or shortly after 2050. Large reductions in emissions of other greenhouse gases are also required, as well as active removal of CO2 from the atmosphere during subsequent decades. Even if global temperature is stabilized, sea level will continue to rise, but at a much slower rate than if warming continued.
Because ecosystems and human communities were established under previous climatic conditions, climate change has been and will continue to be disruptive. Climate change will cause increasing health, economic, security, and ecological risks. The impacts of climate change on human health and well-being include heat-related death, illness, and loss of labor productivity; increased exposures to allergens and algal toxins, hazards such as flooding and wildfire, infectious diseases and water scarcity; and decreased mental health. Economic consequences will also result from shifts in agricultural and fisheries productivity, more intense droughts, damages to coastal infrastructure, and the disruptive costs of certain intensified extreme weather events. The increasing frequency and severity of extreme events can also slow economic growth and increase civil conflict, thus affecting global migration patterns and increasing global security risks.
The consequences of climate change vary geographically and by socioeconomic status. As lower-income populations generally have less capacity to adapt to changes, climate change will act to amplify pre-existing inequalities. It will continue to severely damage threatened ecosystems, such as coral reefs, permafrost landscapes and the Arctic, and cause loss of biodiversity on land and in the oceans. It can increase the risks and negative effects of wildfires and extreme weather events and affect the spread of invasive species, pests and diseases.
Deleterious consequences of global climate change can be moderated by taking prompt actions to: transition to renewable sources of energy, reduce demand for high greenhouse gas emitting products and services, implement existing and novel technologies and practices to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and prepare for changes already underway. These actions must involve communities, businesses and governments locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. Done smartly, they can yield significant economic and social benefits, including improved public health and new employment opportunities. Climate intervention approaches, such as carbon dioxide removal and albedo modification, cannot substitute for deep cuts in emissions or the need for adaptation, but might contribute to a comprehensive climate risk-management strategy.
Effective climate policies will rely on innovative and responsive science to inform and weigh response options. Scientists and engineers must continue to engage broadly with the public, businesses, community leaders, and policy makers to undertake solution-oriented research and analysis. Scientific institutions, including academic institutions and governmental agencies, should expand their support for research, application, and dissemination that addresses the climate crisis.
Data and other research artifacts, such as physical samples, software, methods, and algorithms, are all part of the science ecosystem and essential for research. They must be discoverable, accessible, verifiable, trustworthy, and usable, and those responsible for their acquisition or creation should receive due credit for their contribution to scientific advancement. All players in the science ecosystem—researchers, repositories, publishers, funders, etc.—should work to ensure that relevant scientific evidence is processed, shared, and used ethically, and is available, preserved, documented, and fairly credited. Trustworthy, robust, verifiable, and open science is our responsibility and legacy for future generations.
To achieve this legacy, all AGU members and stakeholders must have a clear understanding of the culture of responsible research, and take action to support, enable, and nurture that culture.
Science as science should be. Robust, verifiable science requires that evidence behind an assertion should be accessible for evaluation. Researchers have a responsibility to collect, develop, and share this evidence in an ethical manner, that is as open and transparent as possible. Most Earth and space science data can and should be openly available except in cases where human subjects are involved or where data release could cause harm, (e.g. where data could lead to identification of specific people). Even where data are not publicly available, transparency of collection and processing methods, data quality, inherent assumptions, and known sources of bias is essential.
Recommendation: AGU members should continue to build transparency and ethical behavior into the scientific process, even as technology and scientific practice evolves.
Share and share right. Research artifacts are useful to the broader scientific community only insofar as they can be shared, examined, and reused. While sharing without restrictions is preferred, community-adopted practices, standards, clear documentation and appropriate licensing facilitate sharing and interoperability.
Recommendation: AGU members should use community-adopted standards, ontologies and controlled vocabularies where available, be cognizant of legal restrictions when combining data sets from many disciplines, and make use of automated documentation workflows or other services that create the metadata that enables interoperability.
There is no free lunch. Creating research artifacts is only a small part of a robust science ecosystem. Artifacts must be prepared for an existence rivaling civilization’s most precious and enduring physical structures. Documentation must ensure that future users fully understand how to use these products or services as well as their full provenance (i.e. everything that has been done to and with the research artifact). Infrastructure must be available (repositories, networks, etc.), to ensure accessibility well into the future. Ongoing maintenance is also required. Trained and skilled people must be available to pass critical knowledge and skills from one generation to the next. New facilities must be created and older facilities repurposed to handle growing amounts of data, especially in underserved areas. All of this requires ongoing monetary, physical, and human resources—sustainability of research artifacts must be a key driver in future geophysical research funding.
Recommendation: AGU members should plan for the long-term management of their research artifacts by developing data management plans prior to undertaking research. Members should also work with funding agencies to develop clear data management planning requirements, and with their institutions to develop skill pipelines, mentoring programs, and training plans to develop good practices and guard against critical loss of knowledge as the workforce changes over time.
The cherry on top. Community-driven recognition and reward are a necessary part of genuine culture change. Effective culture change thrives in a framework of trust and support and is reinforced through proper recognition and demonstration of impact. Comprehensive community adoption through education and training (knowledge of available resources, community support, etc.) is part of any effective culture change. Consistent messaging from publishers, funders, and institutions about the importance, and recognition, of data management best practices also encourages the culture of robust, verifiable, and open science for which we strive. This enhanced, transparent, and elevated recognition of contributions creates the space where true culture change is supported.
Recommendation: AGU members should ensure that research artifacts are citable, with credit and attribution given for all scientific contributions, including data wrangling, code development and data stewardship. Research institutions are encouraged to include the quantitative impact of data sharing in promotion and tenure review committees.
Recommendation: AGU members should work with funders, publishers, and institutions to establish a requirement for citation of data, code, and other research artifacts beyond publications. Researchers should make use of dynamic data citation through linked data providers where possible, and continue to demonstrate the impact of data sharing through appropriate metrics.