The Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5), which will be released next year, is a Congressionally-mandated report on climate change and its impacts. The ICF Climate Center recently hosted a webinar with Allison Crimmins, Director of the National Climate Assessment, to discuss the draft of NCA5.
WATCH NOW: Draft Fifth National Climate Assessment – How climate change is impacting the United States
For state and local government officials, the release of the National Climate Assessment (NCA) every four years is an important milestone. Composed of nearly 1,700 pages and drafted by more than 1,000 authors, it’s essentially the encyclopedia of the best climate science and the impacts of climate change on regions across the country.
But its very size can be intimidating. So, what are the most important aspects of the NCA to know?
The gold standard
The NCA is the most comprehensive report on climate impacts in the U.S. Each iteration of the report illustrates where climate science, and our response to climate change, is evolving. Each report is also an opportunity to connect science to more facets of society, in part thanks to a more engaged process.
The report now covers a wide array of sectors, regions, and populations—going further into the direct and indirect consequences of climate change, including equity and justice. Looking at the NCA over time and across different contexts can help state and local organizations anticipate where they need to respond.
You don’t need to read the entire report or previous reports. Since the 2014 assessment, the information has been structured in a web-based, interactive format. You can jump straight to a sector, region, or topic of your interest. Once there, you can peel back the layers of information. Start with the top takeaways (or “Key Messages”) and move to more descriptive text and figures. Finally, explore the supporting evidence in detail through the traceable accounts. Each of these resources is valuable for different types of people and organizations.
A key message may be a useful talking point for senior officials. The figures—complete with source information—can be used free of charge to convey relevant data and concepts to a variety of audiences whether the general public, students, or groups within your community. Think of the NCA as an online repository of the most recent climate science you need to make choices, rather than as a book to read cover to cover. That’s why it’s a widely-used resource for climate risk management.
A solid foundation
As less than half of states have their own climate assessments to draw upon, the NCA serves as a primary source of information. States like California and New York developed their own state-level assessments to support their plans. But a number of other states may need to rely on the NCA to start taking action.
Part of the report’s value is in its ability to kickstart state and local responses by providing a foundation. The assessment can help decision-makers at all scales more easily request technical assistance by framing problem and solution spaces. The assessment may also help government officials align programs or policies with those of Congress and the federal government.
Shaping the final draft
The NCA is at a crucial stage: the draft has been released and is open to public comment. Checkpoints like this allow—and require—the government to take into account external perspectives and bring more people into the scientific discussion. State and local entities can influence the final outcome in areas of the report that are most salient to them.
A few things can change through stakeholder input. First, climate experts can add to the body of science the NCA draws upon for its conclusions. Second, they can increase the focus of the NCA on certain issues in the report. If we're getting a lot of requests to expand on a specific point in the report, we can provide additional focus or clarity. It’s also important to know where we’re perhaps asking the wrong question.
So, what we're looking for is state and local organizations to provide input and help us make this report more relevant and useful to them. The main thing is we're asking people to help us strengthen the evidence base. The NCA is an important part of the evidence base for policy and action at state and local levels. Take a look at the draft content and let us know where we could make it more useful and relevant for decision-making. If we got something wrong, let us know.
The NCA will be used to make federal, state, and local decisions about how to address climate change, so your input will help shape those decisions. Your perspective helps us add context, meaning, and utility to the report.
Go here to add your input by January 27, 2023: https://review.globalchange.gov/