This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies
IN A NUTSHELL: The US government is seeking public comments on the first-ever national assessment of potential climate change impacts. A draft synthesis report has been released for comment as have several specific reports addressing impacts on individual sectors and regions of the country. AGI encourages geoscientists to review the draft reports and submit comments before the August 11, 2000 deadline.
In 1990, President George Bush signed the Global Change Research Act (PL 101-606) into law, establishing the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) to coordinate federal research on this topic. USGCRP was charged to conduct a periodic assessment for the President and Congress that: "(1) integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the 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 years."
The National Assessment has three main components: regional analyses, sectoral analyses, and a national synthesis. Starting in 1997, USGCRP held a series of regional workshops around the nation as well as a National Forum to gather input from a range of shareholders. Regional workshops were held in every state and territory to encourage discussion among federal agencies, the science community, stakeholder communities, and the interagency committee for global change research in order to develop a comprehensive assessment. Information from these meetings (available at http://www.nacc.usgcrp.gov/regions/) helped USGCRP to prepare the regional and sector sections of the assessment. Background information on the assessment is available at the USGCRP website http://www.nacc.usgcrp.gov/.
The synthesis report -- "Climate Change Impacts on the United States: the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change" -- has been released in draft form for public comment. The draft report is available at http://www.gcrio.org/NationalAssessment/ as a PDF document along with information on submitting comments and other supporting documents. Because the synthesis report draws upon the findings in the regional and sectoral reports, there has been some controversy over the release of the draft synthesis before completion of most of these reports. The draft regional and sectoral reports will be rolling out for public comment over the next few months. Currently, draft reports on the health sector (deadline: July 24th) and the metropolitan east coast region (deadline: July 19th) are available for comment on the USGCRP website http://www.nacc.usgcrp.gov/.
The assessment examines scenarios that might arise from a business-as-usual path, assuming no major interventions to reduce the global emissions of greenhouse gases. Unlike the international climate change assessments conducted under the auspices of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the US national assessment looks at potential consequences at the national and regional scales and also addresses implications for society and the economy.
A major theme in the report is that as a whole, the direct economic impacts of climate change on the nation will be modest, but on the regional and local scale, the impacts could be extensive. Simply put, impacts will not be uniform across the nation. The report describes the vulnerability of ecosystems to climate change and the economic implications of the disappearance, transformation, or fragmentation of these ecosystems, including the near-term increase in forest growth due to increased carbon dioxide levels. The assessment concludes that more information is needed on the range of climate change issues to develop national and local response plans. An appendix to the assessment is a section on the future research needs to give a more complete understanding of climate change impacts and responses.
The assessment provides information on possible climate change impacts for various sectors and regions:
Sources: Federal Register, USGCRP website, American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News, and Washington Post.
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted June 29, 2000; Action Completed August 11, 2000
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