[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 172 (Tuesday, September 7, 2010)]
[Pages 54403-54406]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-22229]



U.S. National Climate Assessment Objectives, Proposed Topics, and 
Next Steps

ACTION: Notice of Publication of National Climate Assessment (NCA) 
Objectives, Proposed Topics, and Next Steps and Request for Public 


SUMMARY: The purpose of this notice is to enhance the value of the 
National Climate Assessment (NCA), a project of the U.S. Global Change 
Research Program, by engaging people who are interested in climate 
issues and requesting specific input on the outline for the next NCA 
synthesis report, to be delivered to Congress and published in June 
2013. This notice refers to the NCA Objectives, Proposed Topics, and 
Next Steps (http://globalchange.gov/hat-we-do/assessment/notices). 
Public comments received on these documents will be evaluated and, if 
appropriate, used to inform the NCA structure and process. Updates on 
the NCA structure and process will be posted on the NCA Web site 
(http://globalchange.gov/what-we-do/assessment) as they are available. 
Comments will also be provided to the Federal Advisory Committee for 
the NCA, the ``National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory 
Committee,'' when it is constituted this fall. All comments will be 
collated and posted on the NCA Web site.
    Response Instructions: The White House Office of Science and 
Technology Policy and the U.S. Global Change Research Program are 
interested in comments on the NCA Objectives, Proposed Topics, and Next 
Steps. When submitting your response, please indicate the (1) 
Objectives, (2) Proposed Topics, or (3) Next Steps heading to

[[Page 54404]]

which you are referring. Please be specific and concise.
    Responses to this request should be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Eastern 
Time on October 8, 2010. Responses to this request must be submitted 
electronically at http://globalchange.gov/what-we-do/assessment/notices.
    Responses to this notice are not offers and cannot be accepted by 
the Government to form a binding contract or issue a grant. Information 
obtained as a result of this request may be used by the government for 
program planning on a non-attribution basis. Do not include any 
information that might be considered proprietary or confidential.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Any questions about the content of 
this request should be sent to Emily Cloyd, U.S. Global Change Research 
Program Office, 1717 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Suite 250, Washington, DC 
20006, Telephone (202) 223-6262, Fax (202) 223-3064. Additional 
information regarding this request can be found at http://globalchange.gov/what-we-do/assessment/notices. Questions and responses 
may also be sent by mail (please allow additional time for processing) 
to the address above.

    What is the NCA? The National Climate Assessment (NCA) is being 
conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Program 
(USGCRP), pursuant to the Global Change Research Act of 1990, Section 
106, which requires that: ``On a periodic basis (not less frequently 
than every 4 years), the Council [the National Science and Technology 
Council], through the Committee [the Global Change Research Committee], 
shall prepare and submit to the President and the Congress an 
assessment which--
    1. Integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the 
[USGCR] Program and discusses the scientific uncertainties associated 
with such findings;
    2. Analyzes the effects of global change on the natural 
environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water 
resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social 
systems, and biological diversity; and
    3. Analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and 
natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 
    Assessments serve an important function by providing the scientific 
underpinnings of informed policy. They also serve as progress reports 
by identifying advances in the underlying science, providing critical 
analysis of issues, and highlighting key findings and key unknowns that 
can improve policy choices and guide decision making related to climate 
change. The approach that is envisioned for this NCA is a comprehensive 
assessment of climate change, impacts, vulnerabilities and response 
strategies within a context of how communities and the nation as a 
whole create sustainable and environmentally sound development paths.
    This new NCA will differ in multiple ways from previous U.S. 
climate assessment efforts (http://globalchange.gov/what-we-do/assessment/nca-reports). For example, it is more focused both on 
supporting the Nation's activities in adaptation and mitigation and 
also on evaluating the current state of scientific knowledge relative 
to climate impacts and trends. Additionally, it will build on the 
recommendations of previous NCA efforts by implementing a long-term, 
consistent process for evaluation of climate risks and opportunities 
and providing information to support decision making processes within 
regions and sectors.
    A primary goal of this NCA is to establish permanent assessment 
capacity both inside and outside of the Federal government. The NCA 
will be an ongoing process that draws upon the work of stakeholders and 
scientists across the country. Assessment activities will result in the 
capacity to execute ongoing assessments of vulnerability to climate 
stressors, observe and project impacts of climate change within regions 
and sectors, develop consistent indicators of progress in adaptation 
and mitigation activities, and allow for the production of a set of 
reports and Web-based products that are useful for decision-making at 
multiple levels.
    Strategic planning for the NCA began in early 2010 with the 
circulation of the first strategic plan outline in January, 2010. This 
outline served as a basis for strategic planning input meetings in 
Chicago in February, 2010. In addition, NCA staff convened a listening 
session with regional, State, and local participants following the 
National Adaptation Summit in May, 2010. More information about the 
process to date, including workshop outcome summaries, is available 
from http://globalchange.gov/what-we-do/assessment.


    NCA Vision: The vision for the NCA incorporates recommendations 
from the National Research Council, feedback from previous assessment 
processes, and the results of the workshops and listening session 
described above. It has been developed within the Interagency National 
Climate Assessment (INCA) Task Force, which includes members from all 
13 USGCRP agencies and departments and additional agencies and 
departments whose work is relevant to the NCA (http://globalchange.gov/what-we-do/assessment/nca-participants). The NCA will continue to 
solicit input from a broad range of individual stakeholders, decision 
makers, and concerned citizens to ensure that its vision and 
implementation is responsive to their needs.
    The overarching goal for the broad climate science program within 
the U.S. government is to inform and enhance our ability to respond to 
changing climate in a multi-stress context. The primary vision of the 
NCA is a continuing, inclusive national process that: (1) Synthesizes 
relevant science and information; (2) increases understanding of what 
is known and not known; (3) identifies needs for information related to 
preparing for climate variability and change and reducing climate 
impacts and vulnerability; (4) evaluates progress of adaptation and 
mitigation activities; (5) informs science priorities; (6) builds 
assessment capacity in regions and sectors; and (7) builds societal 
understanding and skilled use of Assessment findings. The NCA will be a 
sustained and integrated process that is responsive to climate 
assessment needs and meets the requirements of the Global Change 
Research Act, is based on the best available science, and is 
authoritative, transparent, and accessible.
    NCA Key Objectives: In order to achieve its vision, the NCA has 
established seven overarching, cross-cutting objectives:
     Objective 1: Create a sustainable assessment process that 
involves networks of participants in regions and sectors across the 
country in addition to engaging Federal scientists in multiple 
agencies. The reports that will be generated will be viewed as a 
``time-slice'' through an ongoing evaluation effort. This process will 
enable national, regional, sectoral or topical reports to be created 
over time as needed to serve important policy and science objectives.
     Objective 2: Establish an ongoing, national-scale, 
consistent and replicable approach to assessing current and projected 
climate impacts and climate-related risk in the context of other 
stressors. This includes examining the integrated effects on ecosystems 
and ecosystem services, social and economic

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systems, and American civil society and institutions. The intent of 
this effort is to identify opportunities and risks associated with 
changes in climate conditions. An ongoing component will be work 
towards attribution and explanation of events and trends that are 
observed in the climate system.
     Objective 3: Within this broad ongoing assessment, nest 
more specific investigations of regions and topics that have high 
priority due to existing or anticipated climate stresses, generally in 
the context of a variety of other concerns. The number and scale of 
these specific nested investigations, as well as the time frame and 
responsibility for completing products related to them have not yet 
been determined.
     Objective 4: The NCA office will perform a central 
coordination function while depending on a distributed process and 
inclusive engagement with partners both inside and outside of the 
Federal government to meet NCA goals. Although it is the role of the 
Federal government to conduct a national climate assessment and to 
provide the support needed for regional efforts, it is neither 
appropriate nor possible for the Federal government alone to conduct 
the totality of this undertaking . This distributed approach will also 
maximize the likelihood that national climate assessments will continue 
over time. However, the Federal government must play a leading role in 
cross-regional and international aspects of the NCA.
     Objective 5: To the extent possible, depend on regional 
networks and a variety of public and private partners to do the 
``ground-truthing'' of scientific findings, and depend on Federal 
monitoring programs for larger scale or more comprehensive assessments 
and evaluations. The intent is to have the National Climate Assessment 
become the ``connective tissue'' that ties these efforts to Federal 
science programs.
     Objective 6: Recognize the international context of 
climate trends and efforts and help to support some of the U.S. inputs 
to the IPCC. Adaptation and mitigation decisions within the U.S. have 
impacts on other countries, and vice versa. Climate impacts occur 
within economic and social systems that affect every country across the 
globe. The NCA will lay the groundwork for a strategic approach to 
engaging with internationalclimate assessment activities and with a 
specific focus on North America.
     Objective 7: Build a strong stakeholder engagement 
process, based on mobilizing a regionally coordinated network of local 
stakeholders and a nationally coordinated network of professional 
associations to connect to a series of important sectors and various 
levels of government. The stakeholder engagement process will rely on 
both in-person and virtual (Web-based) interactions that will make the 
assessment process accessible to the general public. Online tools, such 
as Web pages, webinars, and online data sets will help to maximize 
opportunities for education and communication and will make the data 
and information collected for the NCA more useful.

Proposed Topics

    The NCA is both an ongoing process of assessing the impacts of 
climate change in the context of broader, baseline conditions and also 
a periodic report that evaluates, integrates, and interprets these 
impacts. For the next NCA synthesis report, due by June 2013, the 
following topics are proposed in the initial outline for the product:
    I. Background and Context for the Process: This section of the 
report will contain information on the (1) Purpose (mission, 
objectives, and intended audience); (2) Background (legal requirements, 
explanation of previous rounds of assessment, and ways in which USGCRP 
is responding to advice from the National Research Council); (3) 
General scope for the NCA (global change and climate variability and 
change, limitations of the process, and challenges); and (4) Assessment 
process (timeline, methods and design, tools for assessing climate 
change and impacts, dealing with uncertainty, sources of material, and 
common lexicon/glossary of terms).
    II. The Scientific Basis for Climate Change: This section of the 
report will contain information on (1) What climate change is and what 
it means for the U.S. (summarizing and interpreting the science, new 
maps and projections, regional climate drivers and impacts, and climate 
variability and change and climate extremes); (2) Current observations 
of global change and projections of future changes (detecting the 
impacts of climate change through a matrix for long-term assessment, 
models and scenarios, and vulnerability assessment); (3) Overview of 
research on human responses to climate change (adaptation and 
mitigation) (4) Interpreting the science (assessing the value of 
information and science and execution of decisions); and (5) 
Uncertainty (scales of time, space, and decisions and prioritizing 
which uncertainties are important to reduce).
    III. Sectors: This section of the report will contain information 
on the impacts of and responses to climate change in sectors. In 
addition to introductory information (what a sector is and how sectors 
are delineated), individual sectoral chapters under consideration 
include: (1) Natural environment (ecosystems), (2) Biological 
diversity, (3) Agriculture and forestry, (4) Land resources, (5) Water 
resources, (6) Marine resources, (7) Air quality, (8) Energy production 
and use, (9) Transportation, (10) Human health and welfare, and (11) 
Human social systems (including impacts on cultures and cultural 
    IV. Regions: This section of the report will contain information on 
the impacts of and responses to climate change in geographic regions. 
In addition to introductory information (what a region is, how regions 
are chosen), individual regional chapters under consideration include 
those used in the 2009 Global Climate Change Impacts Report (http://globalchange.gov/what-we-do/assessment/nca-reports): (1) Northeast, (2) 
Southeast, (3) Midwest, (4) Great Plains, (5) Southwest, (6) Northwest, 
(7) Alaska, (8) Islands, and (9) Coasts; and a new region: (10) Arctic.
    V. Integrated, Cross-Sectoral Issues: This section of the report 
will contain information on climate change impacts in specific, 
integrated issue areas. In addition to introductory information 
(criteria for selecting integrated assessment topics and criteria for 
selecting level of assessment effort), this section will include both 
short case studies (distributed throughout the report) and individual 
chapters. Topics under consideration include: (1) Water supply, energy, 
and agriculture; (2) Biogeochemical cycles (e.g., carbon, nitrogen) (3) 
Land use change, land cover, and human settlements (e.g., urban 
environments, rural environments, and/or traditional use rights); (4) 
Migratory species; (5) Tipping points, thresholds, and extreme events; 
(6) Ecosystem services and human and natural systems trade-offs; (7) 
Disaster, recovery, risk management, and perception; and (4) 
International context: U.S./global systems interactions (e.g., trade, 
migration, economics, food security, disaster preparedness and 
response, water, and health).
    VI. Human Responses to Climate Change: This section of the report 
will describe human responses to climate change and look broadly at how 
the nation is meeting the challenges of climate change impacts without 
evaluating individual actions. It will include case studies that 
explore (1) Adaptation; (2) Mitigation; and (3) Interactions and 
integration across adaptation and mitigation (e.g., management of 
forests to sequester carbon and increase resilience,

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management of heat island responses, and transportation impacts).
    VII. Future Scientific and Societal Needs: This section of the 
report will contain information on (1) Science gap analysis for this 
round of assessment; (2) Priorities for climate science investments 
(including impacts and responses); and (3) Facilitating decisions 
related to climate impacts and responses.
    VIII. Appendices: One or more appendices to the report will provide 
further information about tools, methodologies, guidelines, and 
assumptions for the NCA, including (1) long-term data sets; (2) models; 
(3) scales and interactions; (4) scenarios; (5) risk; (6) impact 
assessment; (7) vulnerability assessment; (8) economic and alternative 
valuation techniques; (9) dealing with uncertainty; (10) detecting 
changes through monitoring and observations; (11) knowledge management 
strategies; (12) communications and engagement; (13) interactions with 
other types of assessments; and (14) building capacity within regions 
and sectors for conducting and using assessments in the future.

Next Steps

    The next steps in planning for the NCA include gathering inputs on 
a number of issue areas to help define the NCA process and expectations 
for its products. Public comments on the above NCA objectives and 
proposed topics and on the following issue areas may be used by the 
Interagency National Climate Assessment (INCA) Task Force and the 
National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee, an 
advisory body being created at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration in compliance with the provisions of the Federal 
Advisory Committee Act, in their discussion of plans for developing the 
first draft of the this National Climate Assessment.
    Issue Areas: The INCA Task Force has identified the need for 
discussion on important tools, methodologies, guidelines, and 
assumptions for assessment. USGCRP and the NCA team are actively 
soliciting input on the following topics:
     Knowledge Management, Metadata, and Peer Review: How to 
manage data, archiving, quality assurance/quality control, peer review, 
qualifications for inclusion of data in official Assessment documents; 
documentation of sources; chain of custody of information.
     Communications and Engagement: Ensuring consistent 
messages about what we are trying to accomplish, encouraging co-
production of information between government and external stakeholders, 
coordination with other Federal climate-related programs, design of 
documents and tailored communications with a variety of partners.
     Economic and Alternative Valuation Techniques and Metrics 
for Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Mitigation: Ways of 
evaluating the effectiveness of adaptation and mitigation options using 
tools that acknowledge non-monetary values and inter-generational 
     Vulnerability Assessments: Identification of approaches to 
evaluating the relative vulnerability of ecological and social 
communities and approaches to prioritization of risk across sectors and 
     Planning for Regional and Sectoral Assessments: Methods to 
ensure consistent approaches to building regional and sectoral 
components of the assessment.
     Role of International Climate Impacts and Responses, and 
their Implications for the United States: The ways in which the NCA 
will consider the implications of stresses that are generated elsewhere 
in the globe and to consider the global context for the NCA process.
     Scenarios for Climate Change Assessment: Methods for the 
development and use of consistent projections of possible future 
conditions for use within NCA activities.
     Climate Change Modeling and Downscaling: Issues and 
methodological perspectives related to selecting model and downscaling 
outputs and approaches for their use in NCA activities. This includes 
socioeconomic, land use, and other model types and outputs, in addition 
to climate model outputs.
     Monitoring Climate Change and its Impacts: Selecting from 
existing monitoring and observing systems and a variety of impact 
reports to design an integrated, ongoing monitoring system for the NCA. 
This includes establishing a long-term, consistent approach to 
documenting climate impacts and trends (including developing indicators 
of, e.g., impacts to the built environment and energy sectors, impacts 
on and responses of natural systems, socio-economic and public health 
trends, and disasters and extreme events).

Ted Wackler,
Deputy Chief of Staff.
[FR Doc. 2010-22229 Filed 9-3-10; 8:45 am]