BOX 1.1

Statement of Task

This committee was asked to identify lessons learned from past assessments to guide future global change assessment activities of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). The study had two steps.

(1) The committee conducted a comparative analysis of past assessments that have stated objectives similar to those of the CCSP. Specifically, the committee examined the strengths and weaknesses of selected past assessments in the following areas:

  • Establishing clear rationales and appropriate institutional structures;

  • Designing and scheduling assessment activities;

  • Involving the scientific community and other relevant experts in the preparation and review of assessment products;

  • Engaging the potential users of assessment products;

  • Accurately and effectively communicating scientific knowledge, uncertainty, and confidence limits;

  • Guiding plans for future global change research activities, including observation, monitoring, and modeling of past and future changes; and

  • Creating assessment products that are valued by their target audiences.

(2) The committee identified approaches (in terms of geographic scale, scope, assessment entity, and timing) and products that are most effective for meeting the CCSP’s stated objectives for assessments.

climate and made some climate projections into the twenty-first century that in many ways still hold true today (SMIC 1971, NRC 1977, 1979).

As a consequence of the many reports on the topic, Congress established the National Climate Program in 1978, as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and charged the program to conduct climate impact assessments and study policy options for reducing human-induced climate change. This program was reviewed in a report of the National Research Council (NRC) and judged to be producing significant scientific achievements but falling somewhat short in terms of policy options. The NRC report Toward an Understanding of Global Change: Initial Priorities for U.S. Contributions to the International Geosphere–Biosphere Program (NRC 1988) called for expansion of the program to include disciplines that could study the socioeconomic impacts of various policy options.

The 1985 Villach report (WMO 1986b) by an international climate change conference renewed the interest of policy makers internationally

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