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Life on a Warming Planet Research at NSF

BIO / CISE / EHR / ENG / GEO / SBE
Interdisciplinary Partnerships / Additional Resources

This website will allow you to browse a diversity of Life on a Warming Planet-related topic areas supported by NSF, quickly find a program that best fits your proposal idea and get contact information for Program Directors who can help you further.

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The planet is warming faster than any other time in recorded history. The frequency and force of extreme events such as storms, wildfires, floods, droughts, and heat waves have been increasing, new diseases are emerging, and biodiversity loss is accelerating. The speed of these changes challenges the ability of species to adapt, shifts their geographic distribution, and alters the functioning of ecosystems, including those on which humans depend. These climate-driven changes to the biosphere - from genes to ecosystems-also feedback to influence the Earth's climate system in poorly understood ways that can both exacerbate or mitigate the negative consequences of climate change on species and ecosystems at local and regional scales. This complex interaction of biological, environmental, and climatic processes plays out over large spatial and temporal scales across terrestrial, freshwater, and ocean systems.


A crucial scientific challenge is advancing our predictive understanding of the response of living systems at all scales (cellular, organismal, species, ecosystems, biomes) to climate warming and developing a manipulative capability to mitigate negative impacts. NSF meets this challenge by supporting disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, training, and enabling infrastructure across diverse scientific disciplines to study the complex responses of life on a warming planet (LoWP). This LoWP research includes foundational studies of living systems' response to climate change, from the impact on cellular metabolism, microbial and biogeochemical processes, ecological relationships, evolutionary processes, biodiversity, food production, fisheries, agricultural systems, and ecosystem structure and function. It also includes development of new data analytic and modeling tools, observing systems and other infrastructure to study climate-driven changes in the biosphere from local to global scales. Outcomes from this research informs approaches for the management of natural and human-managed ecosystems that provide food, fiber and clear water. Additional challenges remain in all scientific domains before a predictive understanding of how biological systems respond to climate change can be developed. Such a predictive understanding is critical to assess the impacts on the nation's ecosystems and for the development of approaches that can be employed to promote resilience, sustainability, and security.


To respond to these challenges, NSF supports LoWP research and training through core programs and special solicitations across the Directorates. Core programs support individual and collaborative research projects. Special solicitations are typically aimed at larger, more interdisciplinary, integrative, and convergent projects that go beyond the scope of what a single program can accomplish. Descriptions of programs that provide substantial support for LoWP research can be found at the links below. Many core programs within the Directorates also support LoWP research. If you have questions about whether a program supports research in this area, please contact cognizant Program Officer(s).



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The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO)

The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) is interested in funding basic research that fosters an understanding of the ongoing impacts of climate change on the structure and function of living systems. The scientific knowledge and discovery resulting from this research, and its translation to application, holds promise to build the capacity and a set of solutions needed to create a more resilient and adaptive nation.

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Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)

The Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI) welcomes proposals that support infrastructure for instruments, human capital, shared cyberinfrastructure, and other biological resources that serve to advance understanding of how organisms respond to a warming planet. Proposals submitted to these programs with emphasis on building research and human resource capacity should clearly explain how the innovation or infrastructure serves to advance understanding of the impacts of a warming planet on the ecology and evolution of biological systems emphasis areas. Potential research topics include: proposals that support infrastructure for instruments, human capital, shared cyberinfrastructure, and other biological resources that serve to advance understanding of how organisms respond to a warming planet. Proposals submitted to these programs with emphasis on building research and human resource capacity should clearly explain how the innovation or infrastructure serves to advance understanding of the impacts of a warming planet on the ecology and evolution of biological systems emphasis areas. Potential research topics include:

  • Development of novel instruments or research methods through improved measurement, sensing, isolation, purification, or manufacture of biological compounds (Innovation)

  • Novel bioinformatics solutions that could advance forecasting, heterogeneous data integration, extraction and annotation of information from diverse digital sources such as sensors, imagery, and acoustics, and techniques to integrate analyses across biological scales (Innovation)

  • Development or significant expansion of cyberinfrastructure, improvement of field station or marine labs, and improvements to natural history or living stock collections that will facilitate observational, experimental, or modeling research related to understanding the drivers and responses to warming (Capacity)

  • Increased access to multi-user scientific and engineering instrumentation for transformative research and research training opportunities in the biological and ecosystem sciences in our Nation's institutions of higher education and not-for-profit scientific/engineering research organizations (MRI)

  • Building collaborative and multi-disciplinary teams investigating processes that sustain life and enable biological innovation to operate and interact within and across different scales of organization from molecules to ecosystems (BII)

  • New and creative paradigm or models for training undergraduates that prepare them for a future in climate-related careers in academia, government, or other private-sector contexts (REU-SITES)

  • Postdoctoral training with sponsors or partners in relevant ecological or evolutionary research (PRFB)

  • Creative use of networks of faculty and educators to address undergraduate biology education in relevant ecological or evolutionary research (RCN-UBE).

Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) welcomes proposals submitted to the four core programs: Evolutionary Processes (EP), Ecosystem Science (ES), Population and Community Ecology (PCE) and Systematics and Biodiversity Science (SBS) relevant to LoWP. We welcome proposals that advance understanding of the ecological and evolutionary response of organisms to environmental changes resulting from a warming planet and the capacity of natural systems to influence the effects of climate. A number of special programs connected with DEB science -- Long Term Ecological Research (LTER), Macrosystems Biology and NEON-enabled Science (MSB-NES) -- also provide unique opportunities to study the interactions between the climate system and the biosphere. Potential research topics include:

  • Studies that leverage historical collections and new biodiversity surveys to characterize changes in species distributions, evolution, and interactions under climate change (SBS)

  • Studies that examine the role of biodiversity in affecting climate change patterns (SBS)

  • Usage of high spatial and temporal resolution records of evolutionary change over time to determine adaption and extinction in response to rapid warming (EP)

  • Macroevolutionary and phylogenetic studies that examine organismal and species' resilience and adaptive capacity to warming environments - including evolutionary dynamics, co-evolution, phenotypic plasticity, epigenetic effects, and species range shifts (SBS, EP)

  • Ecological investigations of warm periods in Earth's past to determine the pace of shifts in community composition and population dynamics, using novel analytical approaches that could predict future shifts (PCE)

  • Disentangling the different environmental drivers of community change, understanding trophic mismatches under climate change, and predicting species and communities in the short and long term under various climate scenarios (PCE)

  • Studies that aim to understand the resilience of ecosystems to extreme disturbance events such as wildfire, floods and hurricanes (ES)

  • Studies that investigate the consequences of warming-induced drought on biological processes with implications for the global carbon cycle and sustainable ecosystem functioning (ES)

  • Studies that investigate the effects of warming on ecosystem processes that result in strong environmental feedbacks (ES)

  • Studies of how organisms and their functions change over many decades in response to increased temperatures, particularly comparing geographic locations across the U.S. (LTER)

  • Studies with the goal of forecasting ecological function under changing temperature, moisture, and seasonality conditions. Ecological function can include agricultural production, forestry, and water and nutrient provision (MSB-NES)

Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS)

The Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) welcomes proposals on the mechanistic bases of organismal responses relevant to Life on a Warming Planet, to better predict how organisms will respond, redistribute, and persist in the face of climate change. Potential research topics appropriate for core programs in the Behavioral Systems Cluster (BSC), the Developmental Systems Cluster (DSC), the Neural Systems Cluster (NSC), the Physiological and Structural Systems (PSS) Cluster, the Enabling Discovery through Genomics (EDGE) Program, the Plant-Biotic Interaction (PBI) Program, and the Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) include:

  • Studies of phenotypic plasticity in response to warming-induced stress at any level of organismal analysis, such as genomic, cellular, developmental, physiological, or behavioral. Studies should have the goal of understanding patterns of plasticity that contribute to successful responses to climate change and alternatively how the lack of plasticity limits success (all IOS)

  • Studies of the functional genomics of organismal response to warming-induced environmental changes, including but not limited to the causes and consequences of maladaptation, to identify genomic targets and pathways for diagnosing at risk populations and strategies for mitigation. Studies that take comparative approaches in non-model organisms outside of laboratory and greenhouse-controlled conditions are especially encouraged (all IOS)

  • Studies of the effects of multiple stressors related to climate change on organisms reflecting the multivariate and multigenic nature of organismal responses to a warming planet. These projects could involve ecological and/or evolutionary components such that the level of prediction for how organisms respond to climate change takes into account historical, spatial or temporal processes (all IOS)

  • Research on the life history and developmental consequences of life on a warming planet, especially with respect to understanding the mechanisms that underlie phenology and the timing of life history transitions (BSC; DSC; PSS; NSC)

  • Studies of the physiological, developmental, genetic, and behavioral drivers of dispersal, range expansion or contraction, and resiliency of organisms and populations in response to warming-induced changes such as drought, extreme temperatures, pest outbreaks, and phenological mismatches between interacting species (BSC; PSS; PGRP)

  • Research on the role of synergistic and antagonistic interactions on organismal resilience and response to climate change, in order to develop causal, predictive frameworks for how these interactions affect organismal persistence and distribution. Studies that take comparative approaches in either model or non-model organisms are especially encouraged (BSC; PSS)

For the research topics listed above, cross-disciplinary investigations that show how results can be translated to inform strategies to mitigate the deleterious effects of climate change on organisms and the ramification of these effects for higher levels of organization such as populations, species, communities, ecosystems, ecosystem services, biogeochemical cycles, and food security are especially encouraged (all IOS).

Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB)

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) welcomes proposals to its core programs Cellular Dynamics and Function (CDF), Genetic Mechanisms (GM), Molecular Biophysics (MB), and Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB) that use interdisciplinary approaches to understand the molecular and cellular basis for the responses and resilience of biological systems coping with a warming planet. MCB also welcomes proposals that aim to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Potential research topics include:

  • Research on molecular evolution, genome structure/dynamics, and epigenetic processes including epigenomic modifications governing gene expression to elucidate mechanisms underlying response and adaptation to a changing climate (GM)
  • Changes in cellular, subcellular and molecular organization and function in extreme conditions (e.g., high pressure, pH, temperature and salt levels) and how these changes relate to biological resilience (CDF, GM and MB)

  • Systems approaches that provide a mechanistic understanding of the signaling, regulatory or metabolic networks that respond to climate-induced stress and extreme environments (SSB and GM)
  • Synthetic approaches to mitigate the impact of climate change (e.g., synthetic approaches that increase the stress-tolerance of organisms, improve carbon sequestration, or help stabilize or restore climate-impacted ecosystems) (SSB)

  • A deeper understanding of plant cell wall complexity and plasticity that enables crop plants to resist biotic and abiotic stress (CDF), and advances in plant synthetic biology, engineered plant symbionts or plant microbiomes that enhance plant performance (e.g., growth, yield, drought resistance) (SSB). This topic is also of interest to IOS (PGRP, PBI, DSC)

  • The development of other molecular and cellular technology to mitigate the impacts of climate change (all MCB)

BIO Interdisciplinary and Special Programs

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Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE)

The mission of the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) is to enable the U.S. to uphold its leadership in computing, communications, and information science and engineering; promote understanding of the principles and uses of advanced computing, communications, and information systems in service to society; support advanced cyberinfrastructure that enables and accelerates discovery and innovation across all science and engineering disciplines; and contribute to universal, transparent, and affordable participation in an information-based society.

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The Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR)

The Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) welcomes proposals to support climate science research and education at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including at minority serving institutions.

  • The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program promotes effective training of STEM graduate students in convergent research areas such as climate science through a comprehensive traineeship model that is innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs.

  • The Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program supports efforts to integrate climate science into undergraduate STEM education through development and dissemination of teaching materials and faculty professional development.

  • Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI Program) program supports efforts to integrate climate science into undergraduate STEM education through development and dissemination of teaching materials and faculty professional development

  • The Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) Research Initiation Awards provide support for a STEM faculty member at the HBCU to pursue research at either the home institution, an NSF-funded Center, a research-intensive institution, or at a national laboratory. The project should further the faculty member's research capability and effectiveness, improve research and teaching at the home institution, and involve undergraduate students in research experiences. Research Initiation Awards are for faculty who are starting to build or are rebuilding a research program.

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The Directorate for Engineering (ENG)

The Directorate for Engineering (ENG) encourages the science and engineering communities to develop forward-thinking research that will demonstrably aid in the Nation's goal of developing approaches for adapting to the change that is already occurring. Climate Change is a call to action that encourages the submission of certain types of proposals to appropriate existing NSF core programs to lay the foundation for disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and to answer fundamental questions related to novel approaches and solutions to climate change. A recent report published by the National Academies in 2021 highlights the need for transforming the world's energy system to one with net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in response to climate change. The report calls for expanding our innovation toolkit by investing in new technology and reducing the cost of existing technology in a socially just way.

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Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)

The Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) invests in the creation of 21st century engineers and the discovery of new technologies through transformational center-based research, research in education and inclusion, and research opportunities for students and teachers. EEC is home to NSF's signature programs for Engineering Research Centers and Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers.
EEC welcomes proposals to the LoWP programs listed below that address climate change in the professional formation of engineers or department reform.

  • Research in the Formation of Engineers (RFE) - The NSF Engineering (ENG) Directorate has launched a multi-year initiative, the Professional Formation of Engineers, to create and support an innovative and inclusive engineering profession for the 21st century.

  • Research Initiation in Engineering Formation (RIEF) - The program has two goals: 1) Support research in the Professional Formation of Engineers (PFE), and 2) Increase the community of researchers conducting PFE research.

  • Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) - the program encourages revolutionary new approaches to engineering and computer science education, ranging from changing the canon of engineering, to fundamentally altering the way courses are structured, to creating new departmental structures and educational collaborations with industry.

EEC welcomes proposals to the LoWP programs listed below that address climate change and workforce development.

  • Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) - the program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation. REU projects involve students in meaningful ways in ongoing research programs or in research projects specifically designed for the REU program.

  • Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) in Engineering and Computer Science - The program supports authentic summer research experiences for K-14 educators to foster long-term collaborations between universities, community colleges, school districts, and industry partners.

EEC welcomes proposals to the LoWP programs listed below that address climate change and center-based research.

  • Engineering Research Centers (ERC) - the program has strategic goals addressing societal challenges (such as environment, energy, technology, health, food, and sustainability issues) through transformative cross-disciplinary scientific and engineering advances, and to prepare the next-generation globally competitive engineering workforce through a convergent, integrated engineering approach.

  • Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers (IUCRCs) - The IUCRC program generates breakthrough research by enabling close and sustained engagement between industry innovators, world-class academic teams and government agencies.

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The Directorate for Geosciences (GEO)

The Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) supports cutting-edge climate change research, education, and infrastructure. Climate change threatens our nation and planet’s security, health, welfare, and prosperity by increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, wildfires, drought, flooding, sea-level rise, and ocean acidification. Bold, innovative, and multi-faceted approaches are necessary to create the knowledge, to mitigate impacts, and to devise solutions to the many threats posed by climate change. GEO resources will support observational, experimental, theoretical, and computational studies to improve our understanding of the impacts and feedbacks between climate change and countless Earth systems and processes.

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Division of Earth Sciences (EAR)

The Earth Sciences are critical to understanding climate change and the response of Earth systems to climate warming. In addition, climate and Earth processes are intrinsically linked on multiple scales, from the atmosphere to the biotic layers of the critical zone, to the hydrologic system, and to the deep, solid Earth. Achieving transformative progress in Earth Science and climate change research requires fundamental understanding of the ways in which climate change impacts Earth processes, as well as how Earth processes drive changes in climate. Recent reports highlighting research needs in Earth sciences that address climate change include the following National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM): Earth in Time (NASEM, 2020), Earth Systems Science (NASEM, 2021), and NASEM Advice for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (NASEM, 2021).
The Division of Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) welcomes proposals submitted to the core programs: Geobiology and Low-temperature Geochemistry (GG), Hydrologic Sciences (HS), Geomorphology and Land-use Dynamics (GLD), Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology (SGP), Petrology and Geochemistry (CH), Geophysics (PH), Tectonics (TE), Education and Human Resources (EH), and Frontier Research in Earth Sciences (FRES), all of which have the potential to advance understanding of climate change and its impact on Earth systems. Of particular interest are interdisciplinary proposals that employ multidisciplinary approaches and crossovers between GEO programs and those in other directorates. Within EAR, the following topics are of particular interest, although others related to climate change and its impacts are also strongly encouraged:{

  • sources, sinks, and sequestration of greenhouse gases (GG, HS);

  • climate-driven extreme events (HS, GLD);

  • geohazards, including cascading hazards (PH, CH, GLD, TE, HS);

  • the hydrological cycle, including droughts and flooding (HS);

  • global and regional sea level rise (HS, TE, GLD);

  • volcanic and tectonic systems (CH, PH, TE);

  • coastal landscapes, biogeochemistry and ecosystems (GLD, HS, GG);

  • Earth surface and Critical Zone processes, including glacial landscape evolution (GLD, HS, GG);

  • impacts of deep Earth and planetary-scale processes on the climate system (PH, CH, TE);

  • Earth System responses in the geologic past and in the present-day (all programs);

  • development and application of paleo proxy records to advance understanding of the climate system (SGP);

  • training the next generation of climate scientists (EH).

Polar Programs (OPP)

The Office of Polar Programs (OPP), through the Antarctic Sciences (ANT) and Arctic Sciences (ARC) sections, promotes creative and innovative scientific research, engineering, and education in and about the polar regions, catalyzing fundamental discovery and understanding of the role of polar systems in global processes. OPP welcomes proposals to core programs Arctic Natural Sciences (ANS), Arctic Social Sciences Program (ASSP), Arctic System Sciences (ARCSS), Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems (AOE) and Polar Cyberinfrastructure (Polar CI) using disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to understand the molecular to ecosystems responses and resilience of polar biological systems coping with a warming region. Special programs connected with OPP science -- Long Term Ecological Research (LTER), Navigating the Arctic (NNA) - also provide unique opportunities and existing datasets to leverage in LoWP research goals and study the interactions between the polar climate system and the biosphere. Potential research topics include:

  • Research on improving understanding of interactions among the polar regions and global ecosystems in a changing climate and expanding fundamental knowledge of the adaptation of polar marine and terrestrial organisms and ecosystem processes.
  • Advancing understanding of how polar biota evolve and adapt to unique and changing high-latitude environments by characterizing the genetic underpinnings of organismal adaptations to their current environment and ways in which extant biota respond to changing conditions over different spatial and temporal scales.

  • Studies of large-scale organismal and ecosystem response to warming of polar regions (e.g., Atlantification of the Arctic Ocean and expansion of sub-Antarctic ecosystems in the Southern Hemisphere), including species migration, response to decreasing (sea) ice extent, introduction of invasive species and how these processes affect conservation, fisheries, tourism, and human life in high latitudes.

  • Research on the productivity and adaptation of food web structure and function in response to changes in oceanographic open-ocean conditions and at the air-ice-ocean boundary for the polar oceans, including understanding of sources, maintenance and recycling of limiting (micro)nutrients and the planetary role of polar ecosystems in atmospheric carbon dioxide sink.

  • A deeper understanding of the changes in Arctic terrestrial polar systems as ice caps melt, with emphasis on the role that modification of the permafrost brings to carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases (GHG).

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The Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE)

The Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) supports basic research on people and society. Its programs focus on human behavior and social organizations and how social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental forces affect the lives of people from birth to old age and how people in turn shape those forces. Research that fosters an understanding of the complex and dynamic relationships between climate change and people and society is encouraged. The scientific knowledge and discovery resulting from this research, and its translation to application, holds promise to build the capacity and a set of solutions needed to create a more resilient and adaptive nation.

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Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)

The Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) supports research that develops and advances basic knowledge about the brain, human cognition, language, social behavior, and culture including research on the interactions between human societies and their environments. Research relating to LoWP falls within the scope of Programs in Human-Environment and Geographical Sciences (HEGS), Social Psychology (SP), Cultural Anthropology (CA), Biological Anthropology (BA), Archeology (AR), Developmental Sciences (DS), Human Networks and Data Science (HNDS), Cognitive Neuroscience (CogNeuro), and Dynamic Language Infrastructure-Documenting Endangered Languages (DLI-DEL). Potential research topics appropriate for these core research programs include:

  • Studies that investigate the impact of a warming climate on human health and the social and environmental factors that affect vulnerability of different populations to extreme heat and other climate related processes.

  • Studies that investigate how human-environment systems can mitigate the effects of warming induced impacts on crop productivity and food security.

Social and Economic Sciences (SES)

The Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES) seeks to enhance our understanding of human, social and organizational behavior by supporting disciplinary and interdisciplinary research that advances knowledge in the social and economic sciences, and by building social science infrastructure. Research relating to LoWP falls within the scope of programs in Decision, Risk, and Management Sciences (DRMS), Economics (Econ), Law and Science (LS), Security and Preparedness (SAP), Science and Technology Studies (STS), and Sociology (Sos). Potential research topics appropriate for these core research programs include:

  • Studies that investigate how market processes can mitigate or exacerbate human effects on climate change and the human effects of climate change.

  • Studies the social, economic, and political characteristics of individuals and communities to assess which regions and populations will be most vulnerable to risks; the distribution of risks, costs, and benefits across social groups; and how decision-makers best can mitigate the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations.

  • Studies of people's willingness to take voluntary actions and support public policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as damages from unavoidable climate changes. This research includes how to communicate options that increase resiliency at the individual, family, neighborhood, municipal, state, regional, and global levels.

  • Studies that develop new methods and data sources for measuring the impact of a warming world on human social and economic behavior.

  • Studies of public attitudes and knowledge concerning climate change, including the effects of misinformation, and the influence of digital technologies such as social media. These include the creation of longitudinal databases to track and explain changes in these variables over time.

  • Research that examines the national and international security consequences of climate change, including the resilience of political systems to climate change, the challenges of securing international cooperation to address climate change, and the risks of violent conflicts arising within and between states due to the adverse economic and environmental consequences of climate change.

  • Research that uses historical, philosophical, and social scientific methods to investigate the complex responses of life on a warming planet.

  • Research that incorporates and contributes to ethical and responsible research, data governance, and the integration of diverse knowledges and values to understand and address the long and short-term societal responses and impacts of a warming planet on a variety of communities and ecosystems.

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Interdisciplinary Partnerships

Interdisciplinary Programs

Within NSF there are a wide range of interdisciplinary programs that relate to climate change and involve multiple Directorates. NSF is also working with other federal agencies, domestic and international partners to support initiatives that advance understanding of climate change. These programs may be also cross-listed under the units that are involved in each.

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