What is the National Climate Assessment (NCA)?
The NCA is an important resource for understanding and communicating climate change science and impacts in the United States. It informs the nation about already observed changes, the current status of the climate, and anticipated trends for the future. The NCA report process integrates scientific information from multiple sources and sectors to highlight key findings and significant gaps in our knowledge. The NCA also establishes consistent methods for evaluating climate impacts in the U.S. in the context of broader global change. Finally, findings from the NCA provide input to Federal science priorities and are used by U.S. citizens, communities, and businesses as they create more sustainable and environmentally sound plans for the nation’s future.
What are the objectives of the NCA?
The NCA is envisioned as an inclusive, nationwide process with many key objectives, including:
- Evaluating, integrating, and assessing relevant climate science and information from multiple sources
- Summarizing and synthesizing the findings of the U.S. Global Change Research Program
- Increasing understanding of what is known and not known about climate change
- Informing climate science research priorities
- Building climate assessment capacity, including vulnerability assessment and documentation of impacts in regions and sectors
- Supporting climate‐literacy and skilled use of NCA findings
What is new about the Third NCA?
The NCA process and third report set the stage for more comprehensive assessments in the future. It differs from previous U.S. climate assessments in a variety of ways:
- It is an ongoing process, rather than a periodic report‐writing activity
- The NCA includes climate impacts and projections, but also assesses progress in response activities such as adaptation and mitigation
- Partnerships inside and outside of the government support this effort, including entities in both the public and the private sectors
- National indicators of change within regions and sectors are being developed, along with consistent and ongoing methods for evaluation
- This NCA report will be submitted as an interactive PDF and the entire report (including access to underlying data and resources) will be available via globalchange.gov; This allows for easier access to data for citizens and scientists, and transparent "line of sight" between data and conclusions
- This NCA is designed to support decision making processes within and across regions and sectors of the U.S. while also considering the international context of U.S. activities and impacts
Who is responsible for the NCA?
The Global Change Research Act of 1990 requires an assessment report at least every four years. The Federal government is responsible for producing these reports through the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), a collaboration of 13 Federal science agencies. A 60 member Federal advisory committee, the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC), has been charged with developing the Third NCA Report and recommendations about the ongoing assessment process. The report itself is being written by 240 authors drawn from academia; local, state, tribal, and Federal governments; the private sector; and the nonprofit sector.
How do I comment on the draft NCA report?
The NCADAC released a draft of the Third NCA Report for expert review and public comment in January 2013; the comment period closed on April 12, 2013. The review period allowed individuals and groups to examine a draft version of the report and provide comments aimed at improving it; report authors and the NCADAC are currently working on revisions in response to the comments they received. When the final Third NCA Report is released in early 2014, comments on the draft and authors’ responses will be published online. The public comment version of the draft report is still available for download at http://ncadac.globalchange.gov.
What topics are covered in the Third NCA report?
The Third NCA Report documents how climate change impacts regions (depicted on the map below) and sectors across the United States and society’s responses to climate change.
- Our Changing Climate
- Water Resources
- Energy Supply and Use
- Ecosystems and Biodiversity
- Human Health
- Water, Energy, and Land Use
- Urban Systems, Infrastructure, and Vulnerability
- Tribal, Indigenous, and Native Lands and Resources
- Land Use and Land Cover Change
- Rural Communities
- Biogeochemical Cycles
- Oceans and Marine Resources
- Coastal Zone Development and Ecosystems
- Decision Support
- Research Agenda for Climate Change Science
- The NCA Long‐Term Process
The report authors and NCADAC are in the process of revising the report in response to comments from scientists and experts from inside and outside the Federal government, the National Academy of Sciences, and the public. The NCADAC will deliver a revised draft of the report to the government in fall of 2013; the government expects to release a final version of the Third NCA Report in early 2014. The NCADAC anticipates releasing a special report providing advice on the sustained assessment process in Fall 2013. Sustained assessment process activities, such as developing a system of indicators, are already underway. The focus on a continual assessment process means regional and sectoral activities are expected to be ongoing, and reports will be produced on a more frequent basis.
Expected Outcomes and Benefits
The NCA will present a comprehensive picture of the changes in regions and sectors that occur in response to climate variability and change, including effects on public health and human well‐being, the economy, infrastructure, and the environment. This information will help decision makers throughout the country design adaptation policies, help citizens prepare themselves for climate change impacts, and help everyone understand how their everyday decisions impact the climate and the environment.
How can I get involved in the NCA?
There are multiple ways to be involved, including joining NCAnet, a network of organizations working with the NCA to engage producers and users of assessment information; providing review comments on NCA reports; or by directly engaging in data collection, regional or sectoral assessment activities, outreach efforts, or other components of the sustained assessment process. Visit the Opportunities for Engagement page for more information about current activities.