The CCSP oversees and coordinates research on climate and associated global change at 13 federal agencies and is responsible for responding to the GCRA of 1990. The GCRA mandates periodic assessment of global change impacts on the United States (see Appendix B). Therefore, the CCSP proposed in its 2003 strategic plan to conduct the assessment by producing 21 synthesis and assessment reports, each addressing a specific part of the five main goals identified by the program (CCSP 2003; see also Box 1.2). Three objectives of assessments were identified in the strategic plan: (1) to help shape the research agenda in climate change science, (2) to inform efforts for adaptation to climate change, and (3) to support decision making and policy formulation.

Eleven of the reports are intended to address specific unresolved issues related to the understanding and simulation of the climate system. Four reports focus on impacts of climate change on ecosystems and three address direct human impacts (i.e., health, energy, transportation). Three reports deal with decision support (see Appendix C). These reports tend to be narrowly focused on specific issues and thus can be characterized as process and impact assessments. At the time of this writing there is no plan to integrate across the 21 synthesis and assessment products or to produce an integrated assessment of impacts similar to that of the U.S. National Assessment in terms of scope or sectoral and geographic focus.

To date, only the first report, on temperature trends in the lower atmosphere, has been completed (CCSP 2006). A number of others are in review, are available in draft form, and should be officially released in the coming months. The remaining reports are scheduled for release in late 2007 and 2008. Because only one of the products has been completed, the committee has included a description of the approach and some of its strengths and weaknesses, but considers it premature to evaluate its effectiveness. Nevertheless, some valuable lessons can be learned from this approach.

The CCSP developed guidelines for the production of its assessment and synthesis reports (Appendix D). The guidelines call for using an “open and transparent process for soliciting user input, author nomination and selection, expert peer review and public comment, as well as publication and release” (CCSP 2004). Oversight for report preparation, release, and publication rests with the CCSP Interagency Committee.

The initial stage in the process involves the development and approval of a prospectus. The lead agency is responsible for drafting and finalizing the prospectus, which must be approved by the CCSP Interagency Committee. Experts and stakeholders are provided an opportunity to comment on the prospectus in an open process involving an announcement in the Federal Register and posting of the prospectus on the web.

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