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Climate Science Across America

Public universities are contributing significantly to America's understanding of climate change, according to a new analysis by the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE). The group analyzed the research of 80 public institutions from all 50 states and found that they had produced 10,004 studies on the impacts of climate change on their regions between 2014 and 2018.

The report found a widespread focus on the science of climate impacts, and the regional breakdowns show that public university scientists are investigating locally relevant topics, making their work particularly important to guiding local policy in sectors ranging from agriculture to forestry to medicine.

The 10 universities from the seven states in the Midwest region produced 1,736 studies, with an emphasis on agriculture. Studies covered issues like precipitation and drought, as well as soil and water quality, and this was the only region where "farmers" appear as a topic. Although the Midwest is an agriculture-heavy region, it is also one where urbanization issues appear regularly.

"No matter where you are in the United States, scientists are doing locally relevant research on the impacts of climate change," said Michelle Wyman, executive director of NCSE. "This research should absolutely inform the decisions of local, state and federal lawmakers."


The universities included in this analysis were all public, and had to fit one of more of the following criteria:

* The school is the largest land-grant university in the state.

* The university has the highest enrollment in the state.

* The university is affiliated with the state's climatology office.

This produced a sample size of 80 universities.

NCSE then used the Web of Science to search for peer-reviewed studies indexed through the university affiliation of the authors, and then searched for studies that included some variation of the word "climate," with additional subtopics to account for resilience, management and adaptation response studies published between 2014 and 2018. A separate protocol in VOSViewer was used to search for and visualize dominant keywords.

Regional Differences In Research Topics

Variation in the frequency of certain keywords across geography show that public universities are responding to the environmental challenges that their regions are facing.

Terms like "carbon" and "ecosystem" were widespread. But, the most prominent keywords from Alaskan research, for example, showed a greater focus on permafrost melting and indigenous peoples. Universities in the Southwest produced a larger portion of studies focused on precipitation. Midwestern schools produced research on soil and water quality as it relates to agriculture. Northwestern institutions emphasized forestry in its publications and universities in the Southeast produced more research on the spread of traditionally-tropical vector-borne diseases.

The report is intended as a resource to help decision-makers recognize the local salience of climate change and to develop policies that are responsive to the challenges facing their regions.


For more information, the following experts are available:

Michelle Wyman, NCSE Executive Director:; (510) 331-0441

Tom Richard, Director, Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment, Penn State University:; (814) 865-3722

Waleed Abdalati, Director, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, CU Boulder;; (303) 492-8773

John Walsh, Chief Scientist, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska-Fairbanks:; (907) 474-2677

Stephen Vavrus, Senior scientist, Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research,; (608) 265-5279


Here's the Illinois summary (total papers: 188).


See also: UI System Among 200 Signatories To Letter Declaring 'Climate Emergency.'



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* Hothouse Earth Co-Author: 'People Will Look Back On 2018 As The Year When Climate Reality Hit.'

* 5 Ways Trump And His Supporters Use The Same Strategies As Science Deniers.


Comments welcome.


Posted on December 2, 2019

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