National Climate Assessment Due to be Released

The final edition of the National Climate Assessment, which was released in draft form about a year ago, is expected to reflect some approaches designed to make it more accessible for the public and more useful for decisionmakers.

The next domino to fall in this spring’s continuing series of climate change news makers is likely to be the release at the end of April or early May of the final edition of the National Climate Assessment, a product of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

The report this year is expected to again have a sharp focus on regional impacts along with storytelling of individuals’ efforts to address climate change impacts they already are experiencing. The federal agencies involved in the report have divided the U.S. into eight geographic regions, and they are expected to release two-page handouts capturing key aspects in each of the eight.

The report is also expected to include what participants call “threshold accounts,” allowing individual chapter authors to describe the trail they followed in arriving at approaches they outline in the report. They’re seen as sort of an outsider’s guide to answering “What were they thinking of that led them to these conclusions, to this point?”

One thing the public should not expect to get from the upcoming scientific study is an indication of what the authors propose be done to address the issues they are describing. Carbon taxes? Energy conservation? Cap-and-trade? There’ll be nary a word on any potential mitigation or adaptation strategies, as the federal agencies involved strive to focus like a laser on the science behind the issue … and not on “What’s to be done about it?”

Another component designed to help make the upcoming National Climate Assessment more useful for communicators is a series of story videos in which lead authors of individual chapters will provide visual introductions to those chapters. Along with planned “experienced reality” materials providing first-person though-the-eyes perspectives of those experiencing climate impacts, the materials are intended to make the overall report a more practical and more useful tool for public and private sector decisionmakers. The electronic version of the report, to be available from a federal website yet to be specified, is to be fully searchable.

A draft of the NCA was released in May 2013.

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