The U.S. National Climate Assessment

December 7, 2011

By Jim Buizer, Deputy Director for Climate Adaptation and International Development, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona and Member, Executive Secretariat, NCADAC
(This article appears in the December, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Adapting to the impacts of climate changes already underway, and projected to continue to increase over this century, is critical to ensuring that our nation's social and economic sectors can be resilient to these impacts. In recognition of the significance of climate change to the long-term wellbeing of the United States, the Federal Government is currently conducting the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA).  The NCA is Congressionally mandated under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 and is to be undertaken approximately every 4 years.  Administered by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and with support from the 18-Agency U.S. Global Change Research Program, the NCA is based on both peer-reviewed, scientifically produced knowledge and verifiable experiential knowledge coming from outside the research community.  Due at the end of 2013, the report will be a snapshot of what is known about climate change science and impacts.  It will shed light on options for adaptation to impacts of climate change; it will also recognize and communicate mitigation activities underway across the nation in order to prevent even greater climatic changes.

An NCA Office in Washington, D.C. coordinates the activities, and manages the advice and input of a Development and Advisory Committee (NCADAC), consisting of 60 experts appointed and chartered by the Secretary of Commerce, and drawn from academia, federal and state governments, industry and non-governmental associations.  In addition to the NCADAC, the Office will rely heavily on input from across the country.

Previous reports were published in 2000 and 2009.  In contrast with the previous efforts, this assessment includes the additional challenge of establishing a sustainable assessment process that involves networks of participants in regions and sectors across the country, in addition to engaging federal scientists in multiple agencies.  Continuing beyond the 2013 release of the report, mechanisms are being put in place to conduct ongoing, national-scale, consistent and replicable approaches to assessing current and projected climate impacts and climate-related risk in the context of other stressors.  To this end, the Assessment team is building a strong stakeholder engagement process, based on mobilizing a regionally coordinated network of local stakeholders and a nationally coordinated network of professional associations to connect to a series of important sectors and various levels of government.

The University community is central to both the production of this report and to a sustainable ongoing assessment process.  Our research and educational efforts, as well as our commitment as a community to mitigation and adaptation, are being highlighted as critical to the success of the NCA.

For more information please visit the NCA Website.

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