The National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee held its first meeting in Washington, DC, this week, April 4-6, marking the formal beginning of a process aimed at producing the next National Climate Assessment by June 2013. Done effectively, the assesment should engage and inform the public in ways that are crucial to building the understanding needed to support progress on climate change policy in the U.S. The critical importance of the assessment process and of the reports that are produced has long been recognized by the global warming disinformation campaign.
The report is required “not less frequently than every 4 years” under Section 106 of the Global Change Research Act of 1990.
The planned National Climate Assessment (NCA) process is intended to be stakeholder-driven and will include regional and sectoral workshops around the country during the next twelve months. The National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee (NCADAC) is charged with producing a draft report for public comment, probably during the latter half of 2012. The process of expert-stakeholder engagement that is a key aspect of the strategy for the assessment is intended to continue and be ongoing after the next report is issued.
According to an NCA draft strategy document dated January 3, 2011, the Obama Administration considers the assessment to be one of the top two climate science priorities for Fiscal Year 2012.
The critical importance of the assessment process and of the reports that are produced also has long been recognized by the global warming disinformation campaign. Led by the likes of the corporate-funded anti-regulatory policy group the Competitive Enterprise Institute and right-wing denialist Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), the disinformation campaign did everything they could, including lawsuits, to prevent the Federal government from communicating the results of the first National Assessment published in 2000. The Bush Administration colluded with this attack and essentially suppressed the first National Assessment.
I believe the denialists understood that free communication of the results of a national assessment of climate change impacts would undermine manufactured doubts about the reality and seriousness of the climate change problem and would tend to increase public support for both mitigation and adaptive preparedness.
A second national assessment report, Climate Change Impacts in the United States, produced under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, was released in June 2009. This was a well-done report with important scientifically based assessment findings and deserves more attention than it has received. However, it did not engage regional and sectoral stakeholders in its preparation, as the pathbreaking first National Assessment began to do in the late 1990s, and as is part of the strategy for the new National Climate Assessment now underway.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has been slow to get the new NCA development committee process going, although a good deal of groundwork has been laid during the past year under the leadership of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Nearly two of the four-years available to produce the NCA within the statutory deadline now have elapsed. This not only leaves very little room for additional delays, but has pushed this early stage of the NCA deeper into a hostile political environment.
Other signs of potential trouble for the NCA are the deep budget cuts proposed by Congressional Republicans for federal climate-related activities. The proposed cuts could well create pressure for an extended timeline for the NCA, as well as pressure for a diminished effort. The 2007 National Research Council report, Analysis of Global Change Assessments, said “it is necessary to have adequate funding that is both commensurate with the mandate and effectively managed to ensure an efficient Assessment process.”
For more information on the National Climate Assessment, go to http://www.globalchange.gov/what-we-do/assessment for information about the following:
-- Workshops and Meetings
o November 2010 Regional Sectoral Workshop (Draft)
o September 2010 Knowledge Management Workshop
o September 2010 RISA Q&A session
o February 2010 Midwest Regional Workshop
o February 2010 Strategic Planning Workshop
-- Interagency NCA Task Force
-- Strategic Plan
-- Federal Register Notices
o March 2, 2011
Federal Register Notice: "National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee; Request for Nominations and Notice of Meeting" pdf | html
o December 23, 2010
Federal Register Notice: "National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee; Establishment and Meeting" (pdf | html)
o September 3, 2010
Federal Register Notice: "U.S. National Climate Assessment Objectives, Proposed Topics, and Next Steps" (pdf | html)
-- Comments on the Federal Register Notice: "U.S. National Climate Assessment Objectives, Proposed Topics, and Next Steps" filed September 3, 2010 here (xls) and one additional comment here (pdf).
-- The National Climate Assessment Objectives, Proposed Topics, and Next Steps (pdf)
-- NCADAC Charter (pdf)