the vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation research base, fill gaps, and build research capacity, while meeting increasingly urgent and unfulfilled public needs for expertise and decision support.

  • Strengthen coordination of research efforts with the vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation research community, and across working group research areas and communities, including organized involvement in scenario development exercises already under way in anticipation of the next assessment report process of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

  • Identify gaps in existing knowledge about climate impacts on individual sectors and policy areas.

  • Emphasize the broader context of adaptation to draw on prior research on sustainability, development, and multiple stressors.


The IPCC has accomplished a great deal, including building linked scientific and political consensus, communicating scientific findings to decision makers and the public, stimulating the development of an international climate change research community, facilitating science-based policy development, and protecting science from political distortion. Other assessment processes have followed its format as precedent.

Despite these important successes, some IPCC contributors wish to offer constructive criticisms. Some of the criticisms concern the IPCC process, which is seen as increasingly ponderous, expensive, and bureaucratic. Other criticisms are that the IPCC moves by virtue of inertia, without sufficient strategic planning or capacity for change, so that time and energy invested in the process may begin to show diminishing returns. Process evaluation mechanisms are sorely needed to channel such criticisms and foster organizational learning, so that the process can be strengthened from within and in full communication with its leadership. Workshop participants identified quite a few options for improving the IPCC process, including the following:

  • Formalize a regular self-evaluation process, perhaps including stakeholders.

  • Increase attention to what is not known as well as what is known.

  • Address structural obstacles to an integrated assessment of mitigation and adaptation, including:

    • Incorporate a synthesis effort in the beginning process stages of future assessments.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement