Monday, January 14, 2013

More On The Draft National Climate Change Assessment

Jan 11: Administration executives including John Holdren, Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Jane Lubchenco, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) authored a posting on the White House website announcing the release of the draft Third National Climate Assessment Report (NCA) [See WIMS 1/11/13].
    The posting indicates that a committee of independent advisors to the U.S. Government released its first draft of a new National Climate Assessment (NCA) -- a 400-page synthesis of scientists' current understanding of climate change and its impacts in the United States. The officials indicate, "The Global Change Research Act of 1990 calls for an NCA to be produced at least every four years -- the last came out in 2009. The draft NCA is a scientific document -- not a policy document -- and does not make recommendations regarding actions that might be taken in response to climate change. Today is the first time the Government has been presented with this draft and the administration will be one of a number of entities that will begin the process of reviewing it. When completed about a year from now, however -- after considerable inputs from the public and expert reviewers -- it will represent the most thorough, rigorous, and transparent assessment ever of climate change and its U.S. impacts."

    It is indicated that the new NCA has been years in the making, with the draft version released reflecting the efforts of more than 1,000 individuals from the public and private sectors and academia who have been compiling data since 2010. But the officials indicated, ". . .that's just the beginning of the process. Concurrent with our review of this document, the public, starting Monday [January 14, 2013], is also invited to comment on the draft, which will also be painstakingly reviewed by the National Academies. Ultimately, towards the end of this year, a final NCA will be presented to the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), which coordinates global-change research activities across the Federal Government. USGCRP will use the Assessment to help pinpoint knowledge gaps and develop research priorities.

    "But equally important, the NCA -- which as a scientific document makes no policy recommendations -- is expected to be used widely by public and private stakeholders who need information about climate change in order to thrive -- from farmers deciding which crops to grow, to city planners deciding the diameter of new storm sewers they are replacing, to electric utilities and regulators pondering how to protect the power grid. To maximize its practical usefulness, the draft document breaks down the impacts of climate change across eight regions of the United States and more than a dozen sectors of the U.S. economy and society, including: energy, transportation, agriculture, health, urban infrastructure, coastal zone development, and water resources.

    "While the specific findings of the draft NCA are still subject to revision in response to inputs from the public, the National Academies, and the 13 Federal departments and agencies that make up the USGCRP, the document released today deserves credit already for setting a new standard of scientific integrity, user relevance, and stakeholder inclusiveness. It was developed with input from more than 240 contributing authors under the leadership of 60 independent expert advisors. More than 1,000 volunteers across the Nation helped build it from the ground-up by organizing regional workshops and contributing technical reports."

    The posting also notes that in a parallel effort, USGCRP recently launched "NCAnet," a growing network of more than 60 stakeholder organizations committed to engaging broad and diverse audiences on this important topic. NCAnet represents a major step toward building the "sustained assessment" process that has been articulated as a strategic goal for USGCRP -- a process that will aim to inform climate-related decisions on continual basis, rather than just every four years.

    During the winter of 2012-2013, the National Climate Assessment will be hosting town hall meetings in each region of the United States. The meetings will bring together climate change experts and users of climate change information, from academia; local, state, tribal, and federal governments; non-profit organizations; and business and industry. Meetings are currently scheduled for: Southwest - San Diego, CA – January 18; Northeast - Syracuse, NY – January 23; Great Plains - Lincoln, NE – February 4; Alaska & Arctic - Anchorage, AK – February 5; Midwest - Ann Arbor, MI – February 12; Southeast - Tampa, FL – February 19; and Northwest - Portland, OR – March 12.

    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, issued the a brief statement saying, "This draft report sends a warning to all of us: we must act in a comprehensive fashion to reduce carbon pollution or expose our people and communities to continuing devastation from extreme weather events and their aftermath."

    Daniel Lashof, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC's) Climate and Clean Air Program, commented on the draft  Climate Assessment findings saying, "Climate chaos is sweeping our country, bringing more heat waves, floods, storms and drought, and faster than previously predicted. This report shows that every day we delay action on climate change the costs keep rising for our families, communities, economy and American way of life. Fortunately, the president has the tools at hand now to make big reductions in carbon emissions from largest source of climate-changing pollution: the nation's existing power plants. And he can do so with lower costs and higher benefits than many would expect." He noted that NRDC recently released a proposal that shows how U.S. EPA can team up with the states and use the Clean Air Act to cut carbon pollution by 26 percent by 2020 from existing power plants [See WIMS 12/5/12]. 

    The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) indicated in a release that the report is the "flagship climate change assessment for the United States." Todd Sanford, a UCS climate scientist said, "This could help restart a national conversation about climate change. It gives us a road map for climate change. And the road is much bumpier if we continue along a higher emissions pathway. Climate change is already affecting us and there's a growing demand at the local level for information about what it means for our present and our future. The climate conversation always starts with science. Because policymakers have generally supported policies that increase emissions, successfully adapting to climate change is becoming more difficult."

    Eileen Claussen, President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) issued a statement saying, "The release today of the draft National Climate Assessment is an important step in credibly documenting and raising awareness of the risks posed by climate change across the United States. As mandated by Congress, the National Climate Assessment draws on experts across many disciplines both in and outside government to compile and evaluate the best available science on climate change and its potential ramifications. Following a period of public comment, the final report will offer the most comprehensive assessment ever of observed and potential impacts on key economic sectors and all regions of the United States. This assessment will provide a critical foundation for informed decision-making in both the public and private sectors on steps to manage climate risks by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening the resilience of communities and critical infrastructure. Following a year of record heat, drought and wildfire, capped by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, a credible, comprehensive evaluation of the climate risks facings America is more urgent than ever."

     World Resources Institute (WRI) President Andrew Steer said, "The evidence is clear and mounting. The United States sits at the center of the climate crisis. Record heat is devastating crops, rivers are drying up, and storms are bearing down on our cities. Climate change is taking its toll on people and their economies, and will only become more intense without a strong and rapid response here in the United States and around the globe. It's not too late to take action, but given lags in policy and geophysical processes, the window is closing."

    Access the White House blog posting with links to related information (click here).  Access an overview and background (click here). Access complete information and link to the draft report (click here). [Note: the report is very large (147MB) and may be downloaded in 30 chapters and appendices.] Access information on the upcoming meetings (click here). Access detailed background information about sea level rise and climate trends (click here). Access detailed information about coastal changes (click here). Access more information on NCAnet (click here). Access the USGCRP website (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Boxer (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a release from UCS (click here). Access a release from C2ES (click here). Access a release from WRI (click here). [#Climate, #MIClimate]

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