Engaging the public in assessing climate change impacts and risks in the United States
Strong engagement efforts help ensure that USGCRP assessment products are relevant and accessible to users.
USGCRP recently finalized the fourth installment of the National Climate Assessment (NCA4). Volume I (the Climate Science Special Report, see Highlight 16) was released in November 2017, and Volume II (Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States) was released in late 2018. A technical input to the sustained assessment process, the Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR2), was also released in late 2018. To ensure that these assessments provide relevant, usable science for stakeholders, USGCRP agency representatives, working groups, staff, and authors implemented an extensive engagement plan to gather public feedback during the development, drafting, and review phases.
For NCA4 Volume II, these opportunities included a call for public comment on the draft prospectus in July 2016, a public call for author nominations (Sep. 2016), a call for submission of technical inputs to the assessment (Aug. 2016–Jan. 2017), a description of public engagement opportunities (ongoing), a public call for review editors (Jul.–Sep. 2017), and an opportunity for the public to review the draft report (Nov. 2017–Jan. 2018). For SOCCR2, opportunities included a call for public comment on the draft prospectus, technical inputs, and nominations for technical contributors (Feb.–Mar. 2016); a description of public engagement opportunities (ongoing); a public call for review editors (Jul. 2017); and an opportunity for the public to review the draft report (Nov. 2017–Jan. 2018). These calls led to hundreds of author nominations and technical inputs and thousands of public comments, which will be available online upon release of each report.
Unique to NCA4 Volume II, a series of regional engagement workshops allowed for the gathering of regional input to the report. In early 2017, USGCRP staff and representatives from USGCRP member agencies worked with regional authors and collaborators to host a series of regional engagement workshops in each NCA4 region (see figure). These workshops used a hub-and-satellite model to better enable participation from individuals who may have otherwise been unable to attend. For example, the Midwest regional engagement workshop hub was held in Chicago, with nine total satellite locations in seven of the eight Midwest region’s states, including two each in Ohio, Michigan, and Minnesota. In total, NCA4 author teams gathered input from more than 1000 participants in 46 cities. Each regional engagement workshop was followed by a one-day author team meeting to discuss how feedback received could inform chapter development.
Throughout the development of both NCA4 Volume II and SOCCR2, report authors, agency representatives, USGCRP staff, and stakeholders from academia, state, local, and tribal governments, as well as the non-profit and private sectors spoke at and participated in sessions at professional society meetings, web-based seminars, community meetings, and other events aimed at providing an overview of the respective assessment processes and opportunities for engagement. As the sustained assessment process moves forward, agencies, staff, and authors continue to provide the public with information about upcoming events as well as opportunities to provide feedback on the process and products, and seek venues to disseminate findings from USGCRP’s assessment products.