The National Climate Assessment: 4 years in the making

January 10, 2013 | 9:50 pm | , Research Associate

How many things can you name that only happen once every four years?

Leap years, U.S. presidential elections, the Olympics …

If you’re an American who cares about climate change, there’s one more answer you should add to your list: the publication of the National Climate Assessment (NCA) — the most comprehensive report on climate change impacts in the States.

This Monday, a new NCA is scheduled for release (in draft). This will build on the 2009 report in several ways. But here are just some of the reasons why we think it’s so neat:

  • It shows what is happening, not just what might happen. Climate change can be hard to care about if you only have projections on what will or could happen sometime in the distant future. The NCA will tell us what trends are happening now based on real observation.
  • It tells us what to expect. In addition to what’s happening now, however, the report will still include detailed projections for the future. We’ll need that information so we know how our climate might continue to change — especially if we neglect taking action.
  • It gets local. Findings will be broken down by region — and sometimes even by state. This means that in addition to national trends, you’ll be able to get the latest information on what climate change means for your area.
  • It will inspire change. The report itself won’t recommend any policy changes. But the NCA will be used by decision makers from diverse sectors — public health, the economy, infrastructure, and the environment. It’s not a report meant to sit on a bookshelf. It will inform both the design and evaluation of our carbon pollution reduction and adaptation efforts.
  • It’s a true team effort. Not just one person is responsible for researching and writing the NCA. The U.S. Global Change Research Program — a collection of 13 federal departments and agencies — coordinated the effort. It’s a true integration of scientific information of technical reports from government, NGOs, university scientists, consulting firms, and industry.

So stay tuned for more on the new NCA next week. We’ll post highlights of its findings and instructions on how you can use the report to take action in your own community.

With your help, the NCA will kick-start conversations about climate change across the country, and elevate the issue to the level of importance it deserves.