The US National Assessment of climate change impacts is now available on DVD, free of charge

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The US Global Change Research Program (Climate Change Science Program) has produced a disk (DVD) containing electronic copies of a rich set of reports generated by an ambitious, multi-year national assessment of climate impacts across regions and sectors that took place during the latter part of the Clinton administration.  The DVD is available on request free of charge (order one here).  Though these reports were produced nearly a decade ago, they contain information that is still highly relevant and useful, but have been out-of-print for years and nearly impossible to obtain as a complete set, until now.

post by Rick Piltz and Anne Polansky

Climate Science Watch has written extensively about the US National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (USNA) completed and submitted to Congress and the President in 2000 (here, here, here, and here).

We have characterized the decision to abruptly terminate the program and suppress the results by forbidding federal managers from referring to it in official federal documents as the “central climate science scandal” of the Bush administration.  Now, nearly a decade after it was completed and published, the USNA is still used as reference material for discussing potential climate change impacts in specific regions of the US, as this was the last time a comprehensive assessment with significant stakeholder participation was conducted in the US.  The National Assessment was briefly reviewed by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences in its 2007 report, Analysis of Global Change Assessments: Lessons Learned.  The NRC concluded that the National Assessment reports “represent the current standard for comprehensive regional and sectoral analyses of the potential impacts of climate change for the United States.”

The CCSP has published two documents that cover the same terrain as did the 2000 US National Assessment, but lack any appreciable stakeholder input.  Most recently, the CCSP has published a Unified Synthesis Product (.pdf)—see our post—that presents existing and projected climate impacts, drawing primarily from the set of 21 Synthesis and Assessment Products and published, peer-reviewed scientific literature.  It was prepared by a stellar group of authors, editors, and reviewers in the scientific community but had virtually no stakeholder input.  In May 2008, the CCSP published a Scientific Assessment (.pdf) that is also a literature review of climate impacts, falling far short of the extent of analysis and scientist-stakeholder interaction that characterized the development of the 2000 National Assessment, but formally met the requirement of Sec. 106 of the Global Change Research Act and a May 31, 2008 court-ordered deadline after the federal government was sued for failing to produce an assessment within four years after the 2000 assessment (see our earlier posts, here and here).

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The CCSP’s accompanying description of this new product says:

In 1997, the U. S. Global Change Research Program initiated the “National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change for the United States.” This national level assessment included analyses of the importance of climate variability and change for twenty regions around the US, for five cross-cutting sectors, and for the US as a whole. A thirteen-member National Assessment Synthesis Team (NAST) summarized and integrated the findings of the regional and sectoral studies; and drew conclusions about the importance of the consequences of climate change and variability for the US. Both an Overview report (intended for decision makers and the public) and a Foundation report (intended for experts) were prepared and submitted to the President and Congress in November 2000. This DVD contains background information, the NAST reports (both the public review drafts and the final reports), citations, and high-resolution images. It also includes most of the regional and sectoral reports, or links to those reports. In addition, the DVD contains educational resources; back issues (July 1998 through September 2000) of “Acclimations,” the newsletter of the National Assessment; and Chapter 6 (Impacts and Adaptation) of “Climate Action Report 2002,” the U.S.‘s Third National Communication Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (the chapter is based to a large extent on the results of the US National Assessment). This DVD (like all other products in this catalog) is free of charge.

The Table of Contents on the disk only hints at the richness of the content on the DVD: 

Table of Contents
•  About this Document [HTML] [PDF]
•  About the Assessment Process [HTML] [PDF]
•  About Scenarios & Uncertainty [HTML] [PDF]

•  Summary:
—Climate Change and Our Nation [HTML] [PDF]
—Key Findings [HTML] [PDF]
—Impacts of Climate Change[HTML] [PDF]

•  Our Changing Climate [HTML] [PDF]
•  Tools for Assessing Climate Change Impacts[HTML] [PDF]
•  Looking at America’s Climate[HTML] [PDF]
•  Ecosystems in the Future[HTML] [PDF]
•  Our Changing Nation [HTML] [PDF]

•  Mega-Regions
—Regional Overview [HTML] [PDF]
—Northeast [HTML] [PDF]
—Southeast [HTML] [PDF]
—Midwest [HTML] [PDF]
—Great Plains [HTML] [PDF]
—West [HTML] [PDF]
—Pacific Northwest [HTML] [PDF]
—Alaska [HTML] [PDF]
—Islands [HTML] [PDF]
—Native Peoples and Homelands [HTML] [PDF]

•  Sectors
—Sector Overview [HTML] [PDF]
—Agriculture [HTML] [PDF]
—Water [HTML] [PDF]
—Human Health [HTML] [PDF]
—Coastal Areas and Marine Resources [HTML] [PDF]
—Forests [HTML] [PDF]

•  Conclusions [HTML] [PDF]
•  Research Pathways [HTML] [PDF]
•  Biographical Sketches of NAST Members [HTML] [PDF]
•  Acknowledgements [HTML] [PDF]
•  Glossary [HTML] [PDF]
•  Graphics and Photography Sources [HTML]

Many, many thanks and our sincerest appreciation to the CCSP staff, past and present, who painstakingly put this DVD together; it is a valuable service to the taxpayer, a resource of lasting significance and use. 

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A technical note:  the disk should open automatically once it is inserted, however, on some Windows systems it may not—all the user has to do is double-click the index.htm file in the root directory and the user’s preferred web browser will open up the DVD’s home page. 

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