Assessment of the Consequences of
Climate Variability and Change for the United States
Question, Approach, Principles, & Strategy
Question: What are the risks and opportunities for the United Statesits people, its environment, and its economyassociated with increased climate variability and climate change? This is the question that will be addressed in a national assessment of the consequences of climate change, which will involve a broad spectrum of stakeholders from state, local, and federal government; business; academia; and non-profit organizations.
The national assessment will take place under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), a federal interagency program with the Congressional mandate to undertake scientific assessments of the implications of climate change for the United States. An independent board of advisors and an open peer-review process will assure the policy relevance and credibility of the assessment.
Approach: The national assessment process has been designed to establish and maintain a continuing, interactive dialogue among all stakeholders. A multi-pronged approach will be used to generate the best information about the implications of climate change and variability for the United States. This, in turn, will be used to develop both a near-term research and development strategy and a variety of options to manage resources wisely in a changing climate.
Regional assessment activities will focus on the issues of most importance at the regional level across the United States. As an initial step, eighteen scoping workshops, encompassing every state and territory, are identifying the distinctive regional characteristics and potential consequences of climate change.
Sectoral assessment activities will focus on issues that are national in scope and of importance to the services, needs, and goods on which people depend. Eight sectors have been tentatively identified for consideration, including: food availability; water availability; human health; forests; ecosystem services; energy; urban activities; and commerce, industry, and trade.
National synthesis activities will identify common themes and core issues concerning the implications of long-term climate change and variability for the United States. These findings will be integrated into a synthesis report that will serve as a national summary for decision makers.
An assessment oriented research program dedicated to supporting the development of policy-relevant information for decision-makers, will be implemented as part of the USGCRP and will actively seek cooperation with relevant natural resource research activities undertaken outside of the context of the current USGCRP.
Guiding Principles: The assessment process is founded on the principles of scientific excellence and openness; is designed to be comprehensive, integrative, and iterative; will link research by scientists with specific needs of stakeholders; and will provide planners, managers, organizations, and the public with the information needed to increase resilience to climate variability and cope with climate change.
Outreach and Communication: The value of the assessment is dependent on communicating the findings and lessons emerging from the assessment process to all interested parties. Assessment activities, workshop reports, and analytic findings also will be broadly communicated through the media, the Web, the educational community, and other channels. Reports will be made widely and inexpensively available.
Organizational Responsibilities: The National Assessment will be a core activity of the US Global Change Research Program. The USGCRP's role in the assessment process will be overseen by the National Science and Technology Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. To assure a fully open process, the assessment will include public and private sector partners.
A National Assessment Synthesis team will be established to provide the overall leadership and direction of the Assessment. The team will be responsible for preparation of the Synthesis report and for review and integration of the findings of regional and sectoral teams.
A National Assessment Coordination Office will be established by the USGCRP. The Coordination Office will be responsible for supporting the Synthesis Team and Coordinating National Assessment activities.
Products: The assessment will define regional, sectoral, and national research and development activities required to address gaps in understanding and development adaptation strategies. It will also identify and evaluate options for natural resource management. A series of regional and sectoral assessment activities occurring over the next two years will produce a first set of reports. A National Assessment Report will be issued in 1999, which will include regional and sectoral sections and a national synthesis. The National Assessment will address a series of questions:
What are the current environmental stresses on a region or sector?
How will projected changes in climate variability exacerbate or ameliorate the effects of the existing regional or sectoral stresses, or introduce new stresses?
What information is needed to provide better and more certain estimates of the consequences of climate variability and climate change?
What strategies may help the region or sector to cope with the anticipated consequences of changes in climate, especially in ways that also will help in coping with other stresses? What opportunities exist for "win-win" or "no regrets" responses?
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