Letter from John H. Gibbons Print E-mail


January 8, 1998


Dr. Robert Corell
Assistant Director for Geosciences
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Blvd., Suite 705
Arlington, VA 22230


Dear Dr. Corell:

It is my pleasure to formally initiate the first U.S. National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts by charging you, as chair of the Subcommittee on Global Change Research to lead this effort.

The National Assessment will be prepared under the auspices of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) during 1998 and 1999. As you well know, the Assessment is mandated by Congress in the authorizing legislation of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Over the past year, the USGCRP agencies have devoted considerable energy in planning this endeavor. Our hope is that you will involve the best and brightest minds from government, academia, and the private sector, in order to ensure that the final product represents the best possible assessment of the impacts of climate change. Along these lines, I strongly encourage you to seek an independent review of the Assessment Reports.

The NSTC will provide oversight of this critical USGCRP process through its CENR. I have asked Rosina Bierbaum, Co-Chair of the CENR, to serve as the lead for CENR's participation in the Assessment process. Among other tasks, I expect the CENR to serve as a review committee to assure that the USGCRP fully addresses all comments received during the government and independent review process. I would recommend that you brief the CENR monthly on the assessment progress, or more frequently if necessary.

The first task for the USGCRP is to complete a draft Assessment Plan for approval by the CENR and NSTC. Because the time line for the Assessment is so short, the Plan should be drafted within the next 4 weeks, and describe how the Assessment report will cover regional, sectoral, and national concerns. It should also lay out a schedule for completion and publication of the final report by the end of 1999. The plan should describe how the Assessment will address a series of key questions (see attached list).

We would like to circulate the plan for NSTC review in late January or early February. We recognize that this is a highly ambitious schedule, yet we feel it is justified by the urgent need to better inform decision-makers at all levels about the potential implications of climate change for the U.S. and about the range of adaptation and mitigation options available to manage this environmental challenge.

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding the terms of reference for this activity, please call either me or Rosina Bierbaum, Co-Chair of CENR, at 202-456-6202.


John H. Gibbons
Assistant to the President
Science and Technology




Questions for the Assessment

  • What are the current environmental stresses and issues for the United States that will form a backdrop for additional impacts of climate change?
  • How might climate change and variability exacerbate or ameliorate existing problems?
  • What are the priority research and information needs that can better prepare policy makers for making wise decisions related to climate change and variability? What information and answers to what key questions could help decision-makers make better informed decisions about risk, priorities, and responses? What are the potential obstacles to information transfer?
  • What research is most important to complete over the short term? Over the long term?
  • What coping options exist that can build resilience to current environmental stresses, and also possibly lessen the impacts of climate change? How can we simultaneously build resilience and flexibility for the various sectors considering both the short and long term implications?
  • What natural resource planning and management options make most sense in the face of future uncertainty?
  • What choices are available for improving our ability to adapt to climate change and variability and what are the consequences of those choices? How can we improve contingency planning? How can we improve criteria for land acquisition?