The North American Carbon Program Plan (NACP)
A Report of the Committee of the
U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Steering Group

Chapter 4: Management and Deliverables

 Management of the NACP

The North American Carbon Plan represents a scientific agenda that is unprecedented in the history of carbon cycle research in the United States. The integrated nature of the carbon cycle and its inextricable connection to human activities make it one of the most complex Earth science topic areas at the present time. These facts, combined with the urgent need for policy-related information on controls on greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and how they will evolve in the future demand innovative management of the scientific enterprise and timely communication of results.

The U.S. portfolio of carbon cycle research is very diverse and is funded through diverse mechanisms for disciplinary scientific research and specific agency missions. Implementation of an integrated program as envisioned for the NACP requires strong coordination, both at a scientific level and at a funding agency level. The healthy diversity of the federal research enterprise should be harnessed by providing incentives and mechanisms for ensuring that research under the NACP is closely managed to achieve its objectives.

Guiding principles for integrated federal support for the NACP include adherence by agencies to a single scientific planning process and unified scientific guidance of the integrated program. To ensure that implementation stays current with scientific results, a single scientific steering group should guide implementation so that the distributed parts of the enterprise are meeting common goals. And, finally, a single international interface should be encouraged so that national efforts can work efficiently with efforts in other countries to achieve a globally consistent view. The practical implications of these principles include supporting a functioning process for close, interagency collaboration, developing common processes for project solicitation and review where applicable, and subscribing to a collaborative interagency process for making funding decisions.

The federal research system is not inherently predisposed toward this mode of operation. If an integrated research program is truly to be effective, strong incentives at top levels of agency management, including OMB, must be in place. Opportunities for coordinated budget initiatives across agencies must be supported. Progress towards goals should be reviewed at a cross-agency, integrated level. An integrated research program can deliver products such as described in the NACP, but only if the will exists to embark on an experiment in creative management of a diverse research enterprise.

 Deliverables of the NACP

Overarching deliverables of the NACP are the following:

  1. Measurements of sources and sinks for CO2, CH4, and CO for North America, at scales from continental (5,000 km) to local (10 km), with seasonal resolution.

  2. Attribution of the sources and sinks to the full suite of contributing mechanisms, including climate change, atmospheric change, and land use history.

  3. Documentation of North America's contribution to the Northern Hemisphere carbon sink, placed in the global context.

  4. Documentation of the effects of land management and land use history on carbon balances.

  5. Process understanding necessary to improve future predictions and management of the carbon budget for North America.

  6. Optimized sampling networks (both ground-based and remote) to determine past, current, and future sources and sinks of CO2, CH4, and CO.

  7. Data assimilation models to compute carbon balances.

  8. State of the Carbon Cycle for North America, a periodic report communicating results to the public.

  9. Data and observations to provide the foundation for major advances in atmospheric chemistry (better determination of sources and transformation of pollutants), resource management (improved knowledge of ecosystem function and response to global changes), and weather forecasting and climate models (real-time tracer concentration and flux data, coupled models with greatly improved representations of atmosphere-biosphere coupling, surface energy and mass fluxes).

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