Evolution of the National Climate Assessment Process and Products

Friday, February 17, 2017: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Room 313 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jerry Melillo, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA
The Global Change Research Act (GCRA) requires the United States Global Research Program (USGCRP or “Program”) to submit to Congress an assessment of the main findings of the Program regarding global change science every four years. The GCRA specifies that the assessment address the potential effects of global change, both human and natural, on a set of sectors and activities given observed trends and near-term (25 years), and long-term (100 years) projections.

The Program has prepared three National Climate Assessments (NCAs) - published in 2000, 2009, and 2014 - and is in the process of preparing a fourth one (NCA4). Over the past two decades, the process used to prepare the assessments has changed. The main variation concerns the degree of participation by experts and stakeholders outside the Federal Government. The first and third NCAs were produced through a process that included engagement of university-based experts and stakeholders from different sectors (e.g., agriculture, water resources, and insurance) and regions. The second NCA involved a smaller author team asked to synthesize material from a set of more focused assessments. In all cases, experts, stakeholders, and Federal Agencies that are part of the USGCRP have reviewed the reports for relevance, technical accuracy, and clarity.

The third NCA report (NCA3), Climate Change Impacts in the United States, released in 2014, included a number of innovations related to engagement, scenarios, risk assessment, and communications. Of particular note, the report was released through an interactive website, in addition to being available for download in more traditional report formats.

An important output of the 60-member Federal Advisory Committee that guided the NCA3 process was a report calling for the USGCRP to engage in a sustained assessment effort. The vision for the sustained assessment includes four major components: 1) advancing the science needed to improve the assessment process and its outcomes, building associated foundational knowledge, and collecting relevant data; 2) developing targeted scientific reports and other products that respond directly to the needs of federal agencies, state and local governments, tribes, other decision-makers, and end users; 3) creating a framework for continued interactions between the assessment partners and stakeholders and the scientific community; and 4) supporting the capacity of those engaged in assessment activities to maintain such interactions. The how the evolving NCA4 process relates to the sustained assessment vision will be discussed.