This congressional mandate was not a matter of political symbols. It
was a matter of advancing public health, safety, prosperity, management
efficiency and the natural systems on which all life depends.
and now—helps us understand “how the world works.” What we learn brings
us new technologies; better management of risks to communities from
fire, drought, erosion and storms; cleaner energy; and much more.
Science helped my grandfather contribute to the development of
ventilators at steel mills that improved air quality over seven decades
ago. Science helped me at the Interior Department to understand why
peatland restoration at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
would reduce the risk of peatland fires that burn for months, covering
large areas with thick smoke and leaving large swathes of land
devastated. Science helps The Nature Conservancy better understand how
to restore soil health in ways that improve agricultural productivity
and bring environmental benefits.
Science is a perpetual discovery
process. The world around us is dynamic. People initiate and respond to
change, developing new priorities, identifying new challenges, and
inventing new technologies and solutions. Congress was smart to require
updated climate assessments every four years to keep up with the new
findings, new observations of changing circumstances, and new decision
processes—like scenario planning—to help us link science to decision
I took part in developing the 2014 National Climate
Assessment—co-leading preparation of the chapter on tools, methods and
processes. The information we included was vital to help people in their
workplaces, communities and the public sector reduce risks, sustain
infrastructure, improve environmental quality, and more.