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Colorado State University scientists release National Climate Change Roadmap

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

agInnovation members at Colorado State University have released a National Climate Change Roadmap, a collaborative and detailed document designed to serve as a framework for future investments in climate-science research.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture provided $300,000 in grant funding for the year-long project. CSU’s Eugene Kelly, professor and deputy director of the Agriculture Experiment Station, and University Distinguished Professor Jan Leach co-led the effort to draft the roadmap, which was officially released on Nov. 13 at the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

at left: Eugene Kelly, Colorado State University professor and deputy director of the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station, presents the National Climate Change Roadmap at the APLU Annual Meeting on November 13, 2023.

“More people across disciplines are working on the climate crisis than ever before,” Kelly said, “and at no other time have scientists been more engaged in the policy part of this effort. What we’ve done is create a unique roadmap to help guide scientists — a new framework for studying climate change.”

Kelly and Leach began the process of drafting the report by gathering input from 61 leading scientists representing 51 academic and research institutions across the country. That process generated key insights that helped shape the final document.

One of the big takeaways, Leach said, is the need to emphasize what she described as co-created science: research that relies heavily on input from on-the-ground experts such as farmers, ranchers and members of Indigenous communities.

“The people who will use the knowledge in the end have to be involved in the creation,” Leach said. “We’ll be better able to implement our research and scientists can learn from these experts during their process.”

(pictured at right: Jan Leach, Colorado State University Distinguished Professor)

A need for more participatory research methods is one of the seven thematic principles outlined in the roadmap. The other six include:

  • Focusing on system-based innovations.

  • Integrating energy-efficient ag tech.

  • Addressing both climate-smart water resource management and ecosystem management.

  • Incorporating sustainable and regenerative ag practices.

  • Being mindful of the socioeconomics of policy research.

Kelly and Leach see the report as a tool that will help improve dialogue and information-sharing among scientists, policymakers and producers.

“Climate resiliency is not going to be solved by siloed disciplinary studies,” Leach said. “It’s going to require that we work across disciplines, across communities — and that we think more boldly and outside-the-box.”

What’s more, Kelly and Leach also view the roadmap as a document that can be used to advise funding decisions beyond the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

“It’s up to the scientists and producers to come together with ideas and proposals,” Kelly said. “But we hope this stimulates changes in other agencies as well.”

In addition to being co-led by Kelly and Leach, the project team also included Courtney Schultz, associate professor and director of the Public Lands Policy Group; Becca Jablonski, an assistant professor of food systems economics; and CSU doctoral student Erin Jackson.

Kelly and Leach will continue to showcase the roadmap in the coming months. In December, they will present to the National Academy of Sciences; in February, they will speak on this topic to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The work, however, does not stop there, Kelly said. “We hope this is a living document,” he said. “We hope people will use it and that there will be new ideas coming out of it.”

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