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Fifth National Climate Assessment - Read the Report

Smithsonian Institution

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Global change research and public education at the Smithsonian Institution (SI) is primarily conducted by the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives. At the core of SI’s global change research are diverse themes, encompassing atmospheric processes, ecosystem dynamics, and observing natural and human-induced environmental change across different time scales. Scientists delve into historical artifacts, geologic records, and long-term observations to gain insight into our planet’s past and present.  Through the Smithsonian’s Global Earth Observatories, networks such as ForestGEO and MarineGEO explore the dynamics of forests and coastal marine habitats over decadal time frames, providing invaluable data for understanding our rapidly changing ecosystems. 

Collaboration lies at the heart of SI’s efforts. Researchers from various disciplines unite to address joint challenges. From estimating volcanic emissions, understanding and sustaining biodiversity, monitoring and mitigating the human encounters of animal migrations, characterizing working landscapes and seascapes, or studying emerging infectious diseases in wildlife and humans, these endeavors ensure a holistic understanding of our planet’s interdependent systems. SI’s paleontological research documents and interprets the history of terrestrial and marine ecosystems spanning millions of years while scientists analyze the impacts of historical environmental change on the ecology and evolution of species, including humans. Archaeobiologists examine early human impacts on planetary ecosystems through their domestication of plants and animals, shedding light on our role in shaping the environment. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory built and operates NASA’s TEMPO mission to monitor pollution by tropospheric emissions. SI also leads vital work in green carbon in forests and grasslands and blue carbon in the Coastal Carbon Network.

Underpinning these efforts is SI’s Our Shared Future: Life on a Sustainable Planet initiative, which combines research, collections, partnerships, and public outreach to foster sustainable communities, address social justice, slow and reverse climate change, and conserve Earth’s ecosystems and biodiversity. Incorporating history and art from units such as the Center for Folklife and Cultural History, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Anacostia Community Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, SI explores human responses and resilient adaptations to global change within diverse communities and through artistic expression. SI outreach and education programs share scientific and social understanding of our changing planet through exhibits and public programs, annually reaching nearly 14 million visitors in-person and 170 million online. SI’s trust status allows it to leverage private funds for additional research, education, and outreach programs.