Indicators of Climate Change
Indicators are observations or calculations that can be used to track conditions and trends. For example, businesses might look at the unemployment index as one of a number of indicators representing the condition of the economy. Similarly, indicators of climate change—whether ecological, physical, or societal—can help communicate key aspects of the changing environment, point out vulnerabilities, and inform decision making at local, state, and national levels. Indicators are an important part of the vision for the sustained National Climate Assessment (NCA).
A proposed National Climate Indicators System, currently in pilot phase, will go beyond documenting climate changes to encompass climate-related impacts, as well as adaptation and mitigation responses for natural systems and human sectors. Uniting and building on efforts from across several USGCRP agencies, it will provide scientific data to decision makers that will help them understand and respond to climate change.
The proposed Indicators System will be:
- Informative for climate-smart decisions in management, research, and education.
- Intended for use by a wide variety of decision makers in the public and private sectors, and in the scientific community.
- Designed to assess impacts at multiple scales across the United States, as well as key global climate change indicators.
- Focused on sectors and systems that are nationally important, including information on trends and current state.
- Customizable by providing trustworthy data, methods, and sources that users can adapt for specific needs at regional and local levels.
- Built upon existing indicator efforts by integrating data from across Federal agencies, NGOs, academia, and the private sector into one system.
- Regularly updated and evaluated to identify opportunities for indicator research and development as a part of long-term sustained assessment activities.
Over 150 scientists and managers from 9 Federal agencies, the public and private sectors, and academia have been involved in the system’s development. A pilot set of indicators will be launched in 2015 through USGCRP’s Global Change Information System as a prototype to be tested and evaluated by both scientists and user communities, with lessons learned used to inform the system’s development. The next phase of the Indicators System is intended to be a dynamic information service, ultimately including over 100 indicators.