National Climate Assessment
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The National Climate Assessment (NCA) is a large-scale national project that is conducted under the auspices of the Global Change Research Act of 1990 and is one of the many activities of the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), a program which coordinates and integrates federal research on changes in the global environment and their implications for society. The next National Climate Assessment report will be delivered to the President and Congress in 2013 and will be available to the public in spring 2014.
The overarching goal of the NCA process is to enhance the ability of the U.S. to anticipate, mitigate, and adapt to changes in the global environment. The vision is to advance an inclusive, broad based, and sustained process for assessing and communicating scientific knowledge of the impacts, risks, and vulnerabilities associated with a changing global climate in support of decision-making across the U.S.
- Informs the nation about already observed changes, the current status of the climate, and anticipated trends for the future
- Integrates scientific information from multiple sources and sectors to highlight key findings and significant gaps in our knowledge
- Establishes consistent methods for evaluating climate impacts in the U.S. in the context of broader global change
- Provides input to Federal science priorities and is used by U.S. citizens, communities, and businesses as they create more sustainable and environmentally sound plans for the nation’s future.
In 2013, the President's Climate Action Plan released by the Executive Office of the President specifically noted the importance of the National Climate Assessments in achieving the goal of "Using Sound Science to Manage Climate Impacts".
Global Change Research Act
The National Climate Assessment (NCA) is conducted under the auspices of the Global Change Research Act of 1990. The GCRA requires a report to the President and the Congress every four years that integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP); analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity; and analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years.
The Federal government is responsible for producing these reports through the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), a collaboration of 13 Federal agencies and departments. A 60 member Federal advisory committee, the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC), has been charged with developing the Third NCA Report and recommendations about the ongoing assessment process.
Third National Climate Assessment
The Third NCA report, currently in development, is being written by more than 250 authors drawn from academia; local, state, tribal, and Federal governments; and the private and nonprofit sectors. The NCADAC selected these authors based on criteria that included expertise, experience, and ensuring a variety of perspectives.
After review by the NCADAC, the draft Third NCA report was released for public review and comment on January 14, 2013. By the time the public comment period closed on April 12, 2013, more than 4000 comments had been received from 644 government, non-profit, and commercial sector employees, educators, students, and the general public. NCAnet, a partnership of over 80 organizations, has also worked to further engage producers and users of assessment information across the United States.
Concurrently, the National Research Council, part of the National Academies of Science, reviewed the draft and submitted feedback. The NCADAC will produce a final draft of their report and provide it to the federal government for review in late fall of 2013; a final public version of the report is expected in March 2014. A number of derivative products, including a printed “Highlights” document, will be produced in addition to the full interactive electronic NCA document that will be available on the web.
The first National Assessment on Climate Change (NACC) was published in 2000. Entitled Climate Change Impacts on the United States: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, the report was a multidisciplinary effort to study and portray in regional detail the potential effects of human-induced global warming on the United States. The project was articulated into some 20 regional studies - each involving dozens of scientific and academic experts as well as representatives of industry and environmental groups.
The second National Climate Assessment, entitled Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, was published in 2009. In addition to synthesizing, evaluating, and reporting on what was known about the potential consequences of climate change, the report also sought to identify potential measures to adapt to climate change and to identify the highest research priorities for the future.
The first National Assessment received criticism from many of those who were involved in its early review.
- "Critics claimed that many of the model-projected impacts of possible future climate changes were overstated and unsubstantiated. The National Assessment Synthesis Team (NAST), with overall authority for the report, countered that much of the criticism it had received did not take into account the time scales upon which the report was based; the report targeted the effects of climate toward the middle of this century to the end of the next. Also, seemingly contradictory outcomes were produced by the two climate models selected for making the climate projections, casting some lingering doubt on the overall value and utility of the results for decision makers at the local, regional, and national levels. Various regional and resource-focused assessments are now available at the USGCRP website. A final synthesis report by the NAST, of the same title and consisting of an overview of all of the regional and sectoral studies, was released in December 2000."
The first National Assessment was criticized upon publication by the Competitive Enterprise Institute on the grounds that the research did not meet the requirements of the Federal Data Quality Act (FDQA). CEI filed lawsuits against the Bush administration, seeking to have the NACC report declared unlawful based on its lack of adherence to FDQA. The parties eventually reached mutual agreement to drop the case due to the fact that the FDQA was not in force when the report was being written.
The NACC report has also been criticized by other organizations, including the American Enterprise Institute. Its critics claim that the report is flawed in its methodology and conclusions.
- "National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change," National Assessment on Climate Change, November 2000.
- "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States," National Climate Assessment, 2009
- "Climate Change Impacts in the United States, National Climate Assessment (Draft), 2013
- National Climate Assessment Network (NCAnet)
- "National Climate Action Plan", Executive Office of the President, 2013