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Assessments and their related research play an integrative role across the USGCRP programmatic areas. They assemble and synthesize scientific results, increasing communication between scientists, the scientific communities, and the public and private sectors of our Nation, and identify gaps in knowledge, helping to incorporate user needs into the research agenda. Assessments are increasingly being viewed as an important vehicle for disseminating information to public policy and decisionmaking communities. The assessments of specific global environmental change issues, and related research, are designed to obtain the best possible understanding of such matters as:
  1. How global environment change is the result of natural and/or human events.
  2. How these changes potentially lead to consequences for societies and nations in such areas as food and agricultural production, water resources, human health, communities, or critical natural systems such as forests, grasslands, and fisheries.
  3. How environmental, ecological, and resource changes will affect society and how, in turn, society will affect these systems.
    The USGCRP participates in both international and national assessments.

    International: The U.S. participates in a number of international assessments of the impacts and consequences of global environmental change, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments and the scientific assessments of ozone depletion, biodiversity, forests, and desertification. The USGCRP facilitates U.S. scientific participation in most of these assessments. The third IPCC assessment, scheduled to be completed early in FY 2001, will be a major international focus for the USGCRP well into the year 2000. USGCRP research programs and USGCRP-supported scientists provide scientific and technical input to these assessments. For example, a U.S. scientist serves as co-chair of the IPCC Working Group II on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Further, the USGCRP provides the venue, resources, and scientific and technical personnel to support this international Working Group. Most importantly, a substantial number of U.S. scientists will serve as lead authors, co-authors, contributors, and reviewers for the many chapters of the Third Assessment Report. The U.S. Government’s scientific and technical review of the products of this international assessment process are coordinated by the USGCRP, and in so doing, the program invites input from a wide variety of sources, including many nongovernmental organizations and entities. While other international assessments will command some U.S. participation and resources, the IPCC Third Assessment Report will be the major effort well into FY 2000.

    National: What are the risks and opportunities for the United States — its people, its environment, and its economy — associated with climate variability and climate change? This and related questions are being addressed in a National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change for the United States being conducted by the USGCRP, as mandated by the Global Change Research Act of 1990. This assessment involves a broad spectrum of stakeholders in the Nation from government, business, academia, and other interested parties. This first national assessment includes a set of regional assessments (20 regions throughout the U.S.), assessments of the consequences of climate change on five important societal and economic sectors of our nation (water resources and availability, agriculture and food production, human health, forests, and coastal areas), and a synthesis that draws together the regional and sectoral assessments in a summary for policymakers. The National Assessment will be completed and documented early in FY 2000.

    Assessment-related research, while a new component of the USGCRP still in its early stage, has the potential to link research results to the needs identified by the assessment process, and focuses on users' needs (e.g., applications of El Niño predictions to societal needs in such areas as agriculture, forest management, water resources, public health, etc.). During coming years, this type of research will likely be an increasingly important part of the USGCRP. Applications-oriented research efforts are being developed by several agencies and will be integrated into the ongoing USGCRP efforts in FY 2000 and beyond.


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