THE WHITE HOUSE
January 8, 1998
Dr. Robert Corell
Assistant Director for Geosciences
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Blvd., Suite 705
Arlington, VA 22230
Dear Dr. Corell:
It is my pleasure to formally initiate the first U.S.
National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts by charging
you, as chair of the Subcommittee on Global Change Research
to lead this effort.
The National Assessment will be prepared under the auspices
of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources
(CENR) of the National Science and Technology Council
(NSTC) during 1998 and 1999. As you well know, the Assessment
is mandated by Congress in the authorizing legislation
of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Over the past
year, the USGCRP agencies have devoted considerable energy
in planning this endeavor. Our hope is that you will involve
the best and brightest minds from government, academia,
and the private sector, in order to ensure that the final
product represents the best possible assessment of the
impacts of climate change. Along these lines, I strongly
encourage you to seek an independent review of the Assessment
The NSTC will provide oversight of this critical USGCRP
process through its CENR. I have asked Rosina Bierbaum,
Co-Chair of the CENR, to serve as the lead for CENR's
participation in the Assessment process. Among other tasks,
I expect the CENR to serve as a review committee to assure
that the USGCRP fully addresses all comments received
during the government and independent review process.
I would recommend that you brief the CENR monthly on the
assessment progress, or more frequently if necessary.
The first task for the USGCRP is to complete a draft
Assessment Plan for approval by the CENR and NSTC. Because
the time line for the Assessment is so short, the Plan
should be drafted within the next 4 weeks, and describe
how the Assessment report will cover regional, sectoral,
and national concerns. It should also lay out a schedule
for completion and publication of the final report by
the end of 1999. The plan should describe how the Assessment
will address a series of key questions (see attached list).
We would like to circulate the plan for NSTC review in
late January or early February. We recognize that this
is a highly ambitious schedule, yet we feel it is justified
by the urgent need to better inform decision-makers at
all levels about the potential implications of climate
change for the U.S. and about the range of adaptation
and mitigation options available to manage this environmental
Should you have any questions or concerns regarding the
terms of reference for this activity, please call either
me or Rosina Bierbaum, Co-Chair of CENR, at 202-456-6202.
John H. Gibbons
Assistant to the President
Science and Technology
Questions for the Assessment
- What are the current environmental stresses and issues
for the United States that will form a backdrop for
additional impacts of climate change?
- How might climate change and variability exacerbate
or ameliorate existing problems?
- What are the priority research and information needs
that can better prepare policy makers for making wise
decisions related to climate change and variability?
What information and answers to what key questions could
help decision-makers make better informed decisions
about risk, priorities, and responses? What are the
potential obstacles to information transfer?
- What research is most important to complete over
the short term? Over the long term?
- What coping options exist that can build resilience
to current environmental stresses, and also possibly
lessen the impacts of climate change? How can we simultaneously
build resilience and flexibility for the various sectors
considering both the short and long term implications?
- What natural resource planning and management options
make most sense in the face of future uncertainty?
- What choices are available for improving our ability
to adapt to climate change and variability and what
are the consequences of those choices? How can we improve
contingency planning? How can we improve criteria for