Prepare The Nation For Change Print E-mail
What Is Adaptation and Mitigation?


An adjustment in natural and/or human systems to a new or changing environment that exploits beneficial opportunities and moderates negative impacts.


An intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases and other climate warming agents. This intervention could include approaches devised to:

  • reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere
  • to enhance their removal from the atmosphere through storage in geological formations, soils, biomass, or the ocean

How do we prepare for global change?

Global change is affecting many aspects of society, livelihoods, and the environment. Across the United States and around the world, people are making decisions to effectively minimize (mitigate) and prepare for (adapt) global change.

When considering options to reduce the risks of global change, decision makers need timely access to accurate and relevant information. Decision makers need science to understand and envision a range of potential impacts, risks, vulnerabilities, opportunities and trade-offs that are key for effective adaptation and mitigation actions.

USGCRP's work on understanding the causes and consequences of global change has created a strong scientific foundation for informing and enabling timely decisions on adaptation and mitigation. The Program aims to help decision makers apply scientific information to the strategic choices they face in the context of global change.

Scientific knowledge is only one part of a much broader decision process, however. Information may be scientifically relevant without being decision relevant. USGCRP works to ensure its science is made available through tools, information, and practices that decision makers can understand and use.

Flooding Roadway

USGCRP Efforts

USGCRP strives to ensure that the best-available global change information and tools will be delivered to support public and private sector policy, planning, and decision making.

The Program identifies information gaps articulated by decision makers, develops options for filling these gaps through a use-inspired Federal research agenda for global change adaptation, and explores pathways for improved integration of science to inform adaptation actions. Key elements of USGCRP’s role in informing decisions are to:

  • Facilitate meaningful engagements between scientists and decision makers with emphasis on assessing decision maker needs, capabilities, and science requirements; identifying critical gaps in knowledge and options for a use-inspired research agenda; and establishing new pathways for sustained dialogue.

  • Provide access to relevant and accurate science through an integrated set of user-friendly global change information and tools that leverage effective partnerships for multidirectional information sharing across and within scales (from local to international) and sectors.

  • Guide and coordinate Federal science efforts through USGCRP to ensure they are useful and focused on relevant and beneficial societal outcomes.

  • Inform Federal responses to global change through close, ongoing interaction with Federal agencies and departments as they develop and implement climate change adaptation plans, as well as mitigation measures and policies, built upon sound scientific understanding.

USGCRP will pursue its goal to provide the scientific basis for timely decisions on adaptation and mitigation through three objectives. Collectively, these strategic objectives will enable public and private leaders to routinely access and integrate USGCRP information, research findings, and assessments into their analyses and overall adaptation and mitigation decisions. Click on the buttons below to learn more about these three objectives:

Objective 1: Improve the deployment and accessibility of science to inform adaptation decisions

USGCRP recognizes the need for sustained dialogue that enables information exchange and feedback among scientists, decision makers, and practitioners throughout the processes of adaptation research, planning, implementation, and evaluation. Key components for facilitating an effective engagement between the science community and adaptation decision makers include:

  • Assess and address decision maker needs and science requirements by establishing sustained pathways and partnerships for continuous identification of the needs of adaptation practitioners, ensuring that these needs are addressed through a use-inspired Federal science agenda, and learning by experience what information is most beneficial to decision making.

  • Identify and communicate relevant information by developing and deploying a “map” of existing Federal science and services in support of adaptation.

  • Develop new information exchange approaches through efforts such as the creation of an online clearinghouse, or knowledge-management network, for global change adaptation and knowledge sharing.

  • Support public and private sector responses to global change through close, ongoing interactions as a means to provide readily accessible and timely data and information streams on global change risks and uncertainty. Particular focus will be on supporting Federal agencies and departments as they develop and implement climate change adaptation plans, as well as mitigation measures and policies, built upon sound scientific understanding.

USGCRP and its member agencies work with state, local, and tribal governments, and other Federal agencies to build the capabilities for engagement and support needed by all decision makers, especially in key areas of vulnerability.

Objective 2: Improve the deployment and accessibility of science to inform decisions on mitigation and the mitigation-adaptation interface

To make informed decisions about mitigation options at multiple spatial scales, decision makers desire improved capacity to understand the effects of policy options on greenhouse gas emissions, the costs of reducing emissions, and the benefits of avoiding greenhouse gas emissions and associated changes in climate.

Tools to inform mitigation decisions will be built on new research aimed at improving understanding of carbon storage in the Earth system, the development of scenarios of possible changes and impacts, and the identification of the social and ecological thresholds that help define limits to adaptation. The key components in facilitating an effective engagement between the science community and mitigation decision makers include:

  • Explore and address decision maker needs and science requirements by serving as an interface between the science and decision making communities, including initiating new engagements for specific mitigation research issues and building the capacity for translating science for specific decision contexts, particularly risk management frameworks. Learn by experience with decision makers what information is most beneficial to decision making.

  • Identify and communicate relevant scientific information by analyzing and documenting current Federal capabilities for identifying, visualizing, and communicating existing environmental data to support management and mitigation science and service capabilities.

  • Integrate Federal agency data and estimates of greenhouse gas emissions and sinks at multiple scales for all sectors and regions and make available such information to decision makers in an appropriate manner. Pilot new information products and tools for mitigation decisions, including tools and metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of mitigation actions and tradeoffs (e.g., local land-use impacts to ecosystems vs. global impacts from greenhouse gas emissions reductions).

  • Coordinate Federal agency research to inform the analysis of the impacts of greenhouse gas mitigation approaches, provide transparent models and projections along with associated uncertainties to inform assessments of potential impacts of policies, laws, and societal challenges over time, utilizing results of research to measure, report, and verify greenhouse gas emissions.

Objective 3: Develop the tools and scientific basis to enable an integrated system of global change information, informed by sustained, relevant, and timely data to support decision making.

The local-to-global-scale impacts of climate variability and change have fueled a growing public demand for global change information. Easy, intuitive access to science-based information can assist people in making informed decisions to support economic growth, reduce risks to lives and property, and manage natural resources.

A key task for USGCRP is to apply what has been learned from engagement with decision makers regarding the development and timely provision of information products, including forecasts, based on accurate observations and model results that help people make informed decisions. Key components for creating an integrated system of global change information include:

  • Continually improve observing systems, data stewardship, and global change monitoring.
    USGCRP agencies will collect, preserve, and analyze the global environmental record for continuous global change monitoring and develop periodic assessments in support of informed decisions. This readily accessible, long-term archive will serve the Nation’s need for trusted global change-related information about the past, current, and changing state of the Earth system and provide the basic foundation for decision makers. The Global Change Information System will be an important step in this direction.

  • Translate global change predictions and projections.
    USGCRP global change predictions and projections will provide information on impacts from shorter-term climate variability and longer-term changes. Experimental analysis and translation tools will be developed with stakeholders to transform model projections into useful information at relevant spatial and temporal scales.

  • Provide timely, relevant, and integrated global change information and decision support.
    USGCRP and its member agencies will provide timely and relevant global change information to other Federal programs that address global change-related issues on various scales, from local, regional, and national to international. In addition, USGCRP will deliver data and information streams (designed to support specific decisions in regions and sectors) to the public and to climate service providers that develop decision-support tools and other applications.

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