J9.3 Towards a framework for stakeholder engagement in conducting regional climate assessments

Monday, 24 January 2011: 4:30 PM
618-620 (Washington State Convention Center)
J. Greg Dobson, University of North Carolina Asheville, Asheville, NC; and J. Fox, M. Hutchins, and K. Lichtenstein

Climate variability and change are new challenges that decision and policy makers are forced to cope with and prepare for. These challenges contain a complexity of issues including information access, data formats and scale, uncertainty assessment, and vulnerability consideration. As our society becomes more aware of climate and climate change impacts, it is critical that stakeholders have a firm understanding of these issues in order to assess risk and develop action plans and adaptation strategies at local levels. Traditional practices of providing global-scale climate information, models, and products are no longer effective and do not equate to successful use and understanding of the information.

In preparation for the next National Climate Assessment by the United States Global Change Research Program, the University of North Carolina at Asheville's National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center, with support from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, and in collaboration with other local, state, and federal agencies, has developed a unique framework of engaging stakeholders across sectors to create comprehensive regional climate assessments. This included combining climate data with stakeholder values to facilitate the application of climate information from “global to regional to local levels”, while communicating and engaging directly with end-users and decision makers at local levels. These regional climate assessments not only emphasized the current state of the climate along with associated impacts and vulnerabilities, but took into account other key cross-sector concerns.

To serve as a test-case and model for developing such a framework, the approach of conducting regional climate assessments through stakeholder engagement was designed for the Carolina region of the southeastern United States. The design was suitable for such sectors as water resources, transportation, ecosystems, energy, agriculture, human health, and society. The assessment process included a bottom-up approach, where end-users were engaged from the beginning so that climate experts could better understand specific problems and concerns the end-users faced, and ensure that the assessments were user rather than product-driven. Through these assessments, the approach supported decisions by better understanding risk and vulnerabilities to climate-related impacts, and incorporated end-user and stakeholder needs throughout the process. Local decision makers were also engaged directly to facilitate proper communication and to guarantee that this group understood how to integrate climate information with other drivers in their communities. While climate is an important factor for decision makers, their decisions are not just climate driven, thus it is important to assess how climate integrates with other factors that they manage when conducting regional climate assessments.

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