February 1997, the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the Office of
Science and Technology Policy initiated a series of Regional Climate
Change Workshops with the goal of starting the process of examining the
vulnerabilities of regions of the United States to climate variability and
climate change. What was initially intended to be three or four
workshops developed into a series of twenty, covering every state and
territory of the United States. The workshops span from May 1997 to
September 1998 and represented the first step in conducting a regional
assessment. Each workshop was sponsored by one or more government agencies,
and was carried out by coordinators from local institutions. For
details on each workshop, including its geographic coverage, see:
Each workshop was focused on
four central questions:
What are the current
stresses and issues for the region?
What are the expected
consequences of climate change and variability and how will these
interact with existing stressors?
What are the priority
research and information needs?
What coping options exist
that can build resilience and possibly assist the climate change
High priority was also placed on the process of
engaging a network of stakeholders in a dialogue about vulnerabilities and
coping mechanisms. The goal was to begin a two way
process of interaction: scientists gained input from the stakeholders about
their information needs, and the stakeholders learned from the scientists
about climate change projections, and possible consequences in the region.
Before each workshop,
organizers developed one or more "white papers" to guide
discussions. In some cases, these served as preliminary text for a final
report; in other cases, they served to initiate discussion among
Following each workshop,
organizers guided the preparation of a final report. Although these reports
reflected special regional needs, they contained some standard elements:
Description of the
region's environmental, demographic, and economic conditions.
vulnerabilities to climate variability and change.
adaptation and resource management options.
Definition of research
needs for improving estimates of regional vulnerabilities, and
consequences of climate variability and change, and analyzing viable
Initial plan for a
These reports are accessible
via individual regional websites.
Workshops: Regional Assessments
The workshops were a first
step in conducting regional assessments, serving to scope key issues and
information needs. As a next step, each region was asked to expand upon the
ideas and enthusiasm generated in the workshop by (a) conducting a more
in-depth, quantitative analysis of key issues, and (b) continuing to
engage the network of stakeholders in an ongoing dialogue.