What's Next? The Ongoing Assessment Process (Invited Presentation)

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Monday, 5 January 2015: 4:15 PM
121BC (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
James Buizer, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Managing climate related risks involves integration of multiple sources of knowledge, and promoting understanding of the intersections between multiple physical, social, environmental and economic systems. In order to limit potential impacts and maximize climate-related opportunities, society needs to be prepared for a variety of changing conditions on an ongoing basis and to make decisions in the context of uncertainty. A strategic and well-supported process of evaluating and integrating new scientific knowledge is critical to helping society understand current trends and potential future conditions. Within the charter for the Third National Climate Assessment federal advisory committee (the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee, or NCADAC) was a requirement to provide advice about how to sustain an ongoing effort to evaluate changes in scientific understanding and build the capacity to support adaptation and mitigation decisions. This presentation will summarize some of the most critical recommendations of the NCADAC related to sustaining assessment activities.

Among the conclusions of the NCADAC are the fact that connecting scientific information to decision processes can be improved by: 1) enhancing the production of decision-support tools such as scenarios of the future, 2) initiating continuous improvements in collecting and synthesizing information, including better ways of communicating levels of certainty in the findings, 3) building relationships between scientists and stakeholders, 4) providing feedback to ongoing research efforts, and 5) ensuring strong leadership and appropriate governance of assessment processes. Because a sustained assessment process offers the opportunity for planning and investment decisions to be more deliberate and phased in over time, the U.S. government can more efficiently provide support for science focused on solutions and investment opportunities; support the science and adaptation needs of federal agencies; and provide transparent access to data at a variety of scales for private businesses, local/state/regional/tribal governments, and other organizations that are planning for the future. The vision for a sustained assessment developed by the NCADAC involves partnerships between the federal government and public and private sector participants, including academia. It will require a long-term effort to connect federal, tribal, regional, and state-focused adaptation and mitigation efforts as well as developing enhanced monitoring capacity.

The NCADAC report, Preparing the Nation for Change: Building a Sustained National Climate Assessment concluded that a sustained assessment process will allow greater efficiency in development of assessment products (including quadrennial reports) to contribute to continued progress in research and responsive delivery of credible information for decision-making as well as doing a better job of meeting the needs of decision makers at multiple scales.