As the United States Global Change Research Program's National Climate Assessment (NCA) initiative moves forward, with a report due in 2013, an emphasis is being placed on a bottom-up approach, where data and information from stakeholders at local and regional scales will build the Assessment. NOAA's National Climatic Data Center has supported the University of North Carolina at Asheville's National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC) in collaborating with other local, state, and federal agencies to develop a unique engagement strategy and framework for working with stakeholders across sector agencies in North Carolina that support regional climate assessments. This effort was meant to test how well a NCA could be applied at the local or regional scale. NEMAC began its engagement strategy by co-hosting a climate workshop for the North Carolina Interagency Leadership Team (NCILT) that brought together a diverse group of planners from across the state, including state and local government, planning organizations, academia, and private industry, among others, which represented various economic sectors and topics. The workshop identified the need for the state of North Carolina to create a climate adaptation plan. A creative risk assessment framework tool approach was utilized to follow up with key NCILT members, which led to the development of a climate sensitivity assessment framework for collecting and storing assessment information by sector and scale across North Carolina. This led to many small sector-based workshops where NCILT and stakeholder expertise populated the framework through information templates. The populated templates were entered and accessed through a database to compare climate concerns across sector and scale and were used to generate conceptual models. This information was then accessed, explored, and queried through geospatial viewer applications to aide in generating analysis and reports.
Key results from this engagement strategy and framework for regional climate assessments indicate that a climate assessment requires an ongoing relationship building process with sector stakeholders in order to best understand what the main system values are of an individual sector. In addition, decision and policy makers do not make decisions based purely on climate factors alone; therefore, stakeholders must assess non-climate factors as well. Combining climate and non-climate data with stakeholder values ensures that assessments are focused from the bottom-up, are end-user driven, incorporate cross-sector concerns, are scalable, and can lead to further vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning. The regional climate assessments can be further utilized as an education and outreach tool for decision and policy makers, as well as the general public from local to national scales.