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Science Matters Podcast: Climate Change Research

Dr. Andy Miller

The Associate Director for Climate for the Agency's Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program answers questions about climate change research.

(6.1 MB, 6:01min)

Below are a few highlights of the conversation. 

Science Matters Host, Nathan Gentry: Thank you for joining us for another episode of EPA’s Science Matters podcast, where we chat with Agency scientists and engineers about how their work supports the protection of human health and the environment.

I’m your host Nathan Gentry, and joining me on the line to talk about EPA climate change research is Dr. Andy Miller.

Dr. Miller is the Associate Director for Climate for the Agency’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program in the Office of Research and Development, and a member of the subcommittee on global change research for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which coordinates scientific research across 13 Federal departments and agencies whose missions include understanding changes in the global environment and their implications for society.

Hi Dr. Miller, and thanks for joining us on the Science Matters podcast.

Dr. Miller: Hi Nathan. Thanks for having me.

Nathan Gentry: My pleasure. As the nation’s primary environmental Agency, obviously studying global climate change is a priority at EPA. What areas does the research program address?

Dr. Miller: That’s exactly right, Nathan, global change is a priority for EPA, as it is directly related to the Agency’s mission: to protect human health and the environment. Our global change research program is designed to support that mission—to advance the understanding of the impacts of global change specifically to provide the science that the Agency and the nation need to best plan for and respond to climate change and its related impacts.

Nathan Gentry: What do you mean by “impacts”?

Dr. Miller: We are primarily concerned with how climate change affects the quality of air, water, and the environment. For instance, we expect that climate change will result in more smog because higher temperatures generally mean higher ground-level ozone.  We are working to improve the scientific understanding of how global change will affect air quality, water quality, and ecosystems, and how those changes in turn will affect human health and well being. 

Nathan Gentry: Can you give me another example?

Dr. Miller: Yes, some of our work and the work of our partners shows that environmental risks—that’s the term we use to describe risks to health and well-being caused by damage to the environment—for certain populations, such as the elderly, are likely to increase with global change as populations as a whole face more heat waves and an increase in the number of days marked by worse air quality—two likely impacts driven by global change.

Nathan Gentry: So EPA is working to identify changes in health and environmental risks from global change. Does the work also include what to do about such risks?

Dr. Miller: Yes. I’m glad you asked that Nathan. A major goal of our research is to assess and develop what we refer to as “adaptation options”—and by adaptation we mean actions that people and communities can take or plan for to be better prepared for new conditions brought about by a changing climate.

Nathan Gentry: What kind of changes is the research looking at as far as exploring such adaptation strategies?

Dr. Miller: Collectively, we are looking at a broad spectrum of potential impacts, so we can help decision makers, local communities, and others become better prepared and more resilient. We need to be prepared for things such as rising sea levels, different weather patterns and perhaps more frequent extreme weather events, changes in rain and snowfall and how they affect groundwater, rivers and drinking water supplies, coastal erosion, among other things.  

Nathan Gentry: So EPA research is helping assess and develop what you call “adaptation options.” That’s important work. But what about helping keep global change from happening, or at least reducing it?

Dr. Miller: Good point Nathan. EPA is working closely with other organizations, especially the Department of Energy, that are responsible for developing approaches to mitigate global climate change.  While they are working on technologies and practices to reduce emissions that cause climate change, we are doing research to ensure that we understand how those approaches might impact public health and the environment.

Nathan Gentry: I mentioned during your introduction that you serve as a member of the subcommittee on global change research for the U.S. Global Change Research Program. How does the work you just described relate to your work with that group?

Dr. Miller: The program coordinates scientific research across 13 Federal departments and agencies, ranging from the Department of Energy to the Smithsonian Institution, whose missions, like EPA’s, include understanding changes in the global environment and their implications for society.

The Program develops a coherent, government-wide strategy for climate change research so that each agency can focus on their area of expertise.

Nathan Gentry: I see—I imagine there is a lot to contribute. What else?

Dr. Miller: Also, by working in a highly coordinated, collaborative manner, the Agencies involved collectively create an efficient, high-performance science portfolio.  Like EPA’s own impact-oriented research, the program places a premium on ensuring that its science is as immediately available to decision makers and others as possible.

Nathan Gentry: I can see how EPA researchers have a lot to contribute to global climate change science.

Dr. Miller: Yes, many of the topic areas—from natural ecosystems, to energy production and use, land and water resources, and human health and welfare—are the focus of much of the research we have just talked about. EPA researchers have a lot to contribute to global change science.

Nathan Gentry: Like other areas we have explored here on the Science Matters podcast, EPA's global change research really does matter. Thanks for sharing all the work with us.

Dr. Miller: It’s been my pleasure.

Nathan Gentry: And thank you again for listening. To learn more about EPA science and how it matters to you, please visit the Science Matters homepage. You can sign up for a subscription to our electronic newsletter, download other podcasts, and learn more about EPA research.

Thanks again for listening, and until next time, this is Nathan Gentry with EPA Science Matters.