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.