Process, Process, Process: The Evolution of the National Climate Assessment (Invited Presentation)

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Monday, 5 January 2015: 11:30 AM
121BC (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Kathy Jacobs, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

The Global Change Research Act of 1990 requires the development of a report that analyzes, assesses and evaluates the state of scientific knowledge related to climate change at least every four years. Historically, the primary focus for U.S. National Climate Assessments (NCA) has been on writing the congressionally-required assessment reports. However, beginning with the first NCA (released in 2000), the federal government acknowledged the need to engage the external scientific community in the assessment process in order to analyze the full suite of impacts and develop credible projections of the future. Engagement of stakeholders was also a major objective of previous NCA processes, but the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3), released in May of 2014, was designed to move beyond producing credible reports to building long-term assessment capacity. Building relationships between scientists, resource managers, and stakeholders as part of assessments processes has multiple benefits, because those relationships can evolve into support systems for adaptation and resilience. A number of NCA3 assessment products and processes were intended to build towards ongoing improvements in assessment capacity and decision support over time. They included 14 methodology workshops, leading to 10 published guidance documents; a set of climate histories and projections for all regions of the US; the first national set of sea level rise projections; a detailed engagement and communications strategy initiated early in the process; multiple training sessions for authors; building an on-line data management system and electronic access to underlying data; and initiating the development of an integrated set of national indicators of change across social, physical and ecological systems. Beyond these visible components of the assessment process, there were deliberate efforts to provide career-building opportunities for scientists and students who participated – including young agency scientists, AAAS and Knauss fellows, PMFs, IGERT fellows, and external technical teams. This presentation will provide historical context for the NCA3, including some of the “behind the scenes” discussions about building the assessment community.