Climatic Change

, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 9-42

First online:

Understanding Climatic Impacts, Vulnerabilities, and Adaptation in the United States: Building a Capacity for Assessment

  • Edward A. ParsonAffiliated withJohn F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  • , Robert W. CorellAffiliated withAmerican Meteorological Society
  • , Eric J. BarronAffiliated withPennsylvania State University
  • , Virginia BurkettAffiliated withU.S.GS National Wetlands Research Center
  • , Anthony JanetosAffiliated withWorld Resources Institute
  • , Linda JoyceAffiliated withU.S.DA Forest Service
  • , Thomas R. KarlAffiliated withNOAA National Climatic Data Center
  • , Michael C. MacCrackenAffiliated withU.S. Global Change Research Program and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • , Jerry MelilloAffiliated withEcosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory
    • , M. Granger MorganAffiliated withCarnegie-Mellon University
    • , David S. SchimelAffiliated withMax-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry and National Center for Atmospheric Research
    • , Thomas WilbanksAffiliated withOak Ridge National Laboratory

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Based on the experience of the U.S. National Assessment, we propose a program of research and analysis to advance capability for assessment of climate impacts, vulnerabilities, and adaptation options. We identify specific priorities for scientific research on the responses of ecological and socioeconomic systems to climate and other stresses; for improvement in the climatic inputs to impact assessments; and for further development of assessment methods to improve their practical utility to decision-makers. Finally, we propose a new institutional model for assessment, based principally on regional efforts that integrate observations, research, data, applications, and assessment on climate and linked environmental-change issues. The proposed program will require effective collaboration between scientists, resource managers, and other stakeholders, all of whose expertise is needed to define and prioritize key regional issues, characterize relevant uncertainties, and assess potential responses. While both scientifically and organizationally challenging, such an integrated program holds the best promise of advancing our capacity to manage resources and the economy adaptively under a changing climate.