Friday, February 23, 2007

NAS Report Looks At Elements Of Global Change Assessments

Feb 23: A new National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Research Council (NRC) report identifies, for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, the essential elements of effective global change assessments, including strategic framing, engagement of stakeholders, credible treatment of uncertainties, and a transparent interface between policymakers and scientists. The report reviews lessons learned from past assessments, which are intended to inform policymakers about the scientific underpinnings of critical environmental issues such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, and ozone depletion. The report identifies 11 essential elements of effective assessments and provides recommendations on evolving the process to better support decision making.

According to the report, assessments convey scientific information to decision makers. Global change assessments are a deliberative process through which experts come to consensus, based on available scientific information, on specific questions related to the environment. Assessments can have a significant impact on public policies, technology development, and future research directions. The report presents a comparative analysis of eight past global change assessments, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. The report indicates that common components of effective assessments include superior leadership, extensive and well designed engagement with interested and affected parties, a transparent and effective science-policy interface, and well articulated communication strategies.

The eight assessments analyzed in the report include: the international Stratospheric Ozone Assessments; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); Global Biodiversity Assessment (GBA); National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts; Arctic Climate Impact Assessment; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment; German Enquete Kommission on “Preventive Measures to Protect the Earth’s Atmosphere”; and A set of 21 U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) Synthesis and Assessment Products.

The report concludes that assessment reports can go only so far to support decision making. To become even more valuable to society, assessments should develop decision support tools. These tools should make use of scientific analysis at the regional and local level where decisions are made. Assessments should provide tools that enable decision makers to link the information provided with their specific needs. For example, the report says, the impacts of climate change on individual watersheds could be assessed by using global-scale projections of future changes in temperature and precipitation as input to regional-scale hydrological models. Using such an approach, those areas or sectors that are highly vulnerable could be selected for a more focused assessment that also take into account pertinent local information such as projected changes in population and land use.

Access a 4-page report in brief (click here). Access a 22-page Executive Summary report (click here). Access links to the complete 206-page report in full or by sections (click here). [*All, *Climate]