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Review of National Climate Assessment Calls for Expanded Government Research

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

By Avery Fellow

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The federal government should expand its efforts to understand climate change impacts in the United States and provide more practical guidance for adapting to climate change, the National Research Council said in an April 15 report.

The draft National Climate Assessment does a reasonable job of fulfilling its objectives of assessing current climate change science and potential impacts on the United States, but the federal government should provide more information and guidance for the country, according to the research council report, A Review of the Draft 2013 National Climate Assessment.

The National Climate Assessment was released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a federal advisory council, in January (05 ECR, 1/8/13).

The draft assessment lacks information about climate change impacts on cities besides storm surge and sea-level rise, as well as detailed information on how urban areas can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the council, a branch of the National Academies. The report also lacks data on potential health threats related to infectious diseases caused by climate change, according to the review. The report should consider the steps to pursuing climate change mitigation and adaptation in urban areas, such as developing new engineering codes and other standards, the council said.

The climate assessment should give more examples of actual climate change adaptation efforts under way in the Unites States, the review states. It also should provide ideas for engaging small business and households in climate change adaptation, rather than just the government and large private-sector institutions, the review states.

Report Under Revision

Emily Cloyd, public participation and engagement coordinator for the National Climate Assessment, told BNA April 15 the U.S. Global Change Research Program did not yet have an official response to the research council report but said the authors of the assessment will consider the NRC report along with the public comments received on the draft assessment.

The authors are working to review the draft assessment during the next few months, and a federal advisory committee will meet and review the assessment this summer before submitting it to the federal government for review in the fall, she said. The final assessment is scheduled to be released in early 2014.

 

The National Research Council recommends that the final assessment include:

• a clear framework that helps readers understand climate change in the context of global changes in human activities and offers practical guidance on how to make decisions in the face of uncertainties in how the climate will change,

• details on how climate change affects and is affected by other types of major global environmental changes and societal developments,

• a discussion about uncertainties in regional projections of extreme precipitation and other climate change impacts, and

• hyperlinks to connect different parts of the report to guide readers.

 

Cloyd said the final national assessment will contain hyperlinks, while the draft did not. The authors also are including more graphics and visuals, she said.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program also is considering additional topics of research suggested in public comments and in the National Academies' report, Cloyd said.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program coordinates federal research on climate change. Representatives from 13 different federal agencies participate in the program.

President Obama's proposed fiscal year 2014 budget includes $2.65 billion for the program, which is $151 million more than fiscal year 2012 enacted funding levels (69 ECR, 4/10/13).

A report on climate science and climate change impacts is due to Congress every four years under the Global Change Research Act of 1990. Only two reports have been completed since the law passed, however, one in 2000 and one in 2009. The 2014 report will be the most extensive.

The draft National Climate Assessment projects that climate change will cause coastal and river flooding in the Northeast, compromising infrastructure and increasing the vulnerability of the region's residents, in addition to heat waves, droughts, and other impacts throughout the country. U.S. temperatures will rise between 2 degrees and 4 degrees Fahrenheit in most areas in the next few decades, according to the draft report. Sea levels are expected to rise between 1 foot and 4 feet globally by 2100, the draft states.