By: Allison Crimmins
Director, National Climate Assessment
Climate impacts like wildfires, extreme heat, and violent storms are no longer things we think of as future worries. The signs of our changing planet are all around us, happening here, now, to us—in our communities and homes, to our families, friends, and neighbors.
Worldwide alarm bells went off last year when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued their first volume of the sixth assessment report, which included findings the head of the U.N. called a “code red for humanity.” As important as this global report is, it is also critical to understand what these impacts mean in our own neighborhoods and backyards, to understand how these risks may vary across the United States. To meet this need, the United States has been producing our own National Climate Assessment since 1990. This report provides Americans with information on the accelerating impacts, vulnerabilities, and response to the climate crisis.
Development of the fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5) is underway and kicking off this new year with a series of public engagement opportunities. Once again, we want to hear from you.
Beginning today, the draft annotated outlines of each chapter of NCA5 are available online for a 45-day public review period. In addition, a series of 32 public engagement workshops in January and February will allow anyone to discuss the scope of an NCA5 chapter directly with the chapter authors.
The engagement opportunities allow the public to share with NCA5 authors what is most important to them. Each workshop will facilitate a conversation with the authors on the proposed scope and approach, allowing participants to discuss how the chapter can best meet their needs. Gathering public feedback on the direction and content of the assessment early in the process means that NCA5 will be shaped in a way that makes it useful to readers.
No matter where you live, work, learn, or play, there is a chapter in NCA5 on the impacts of climate change on your region. From Maine to Hawai’i, from the Caribbean to Alaska, the ten regional chapters in NCA5 provide a local perspective on climate change. The authors of these chapters—who also hail from all corners of the United States—want to hear from you. Are these chapters capturing the threats of greatest concern to your home? Are they also capturing the steps that you and your community are already taking to mitigate against and adapt to climate change?
Public participation is vital to creating a useful and usable NCA5. The 450+ authors of both the regional and national chapters are looking to hear from you how climate change is affecting the people, places, and activities you love:
- If you are a medical professional, public health official, social worker, children’s health advocate, or hospital manager, the authors of the Health and Air Quality chapters want to hear from you. What information do you need to best protect your patients?
- If you are a farmer, rancher, land manager, or someone who enjoys hunting, fishing, or other outdoor recreation, the authors of the Agriculture, Forests, Land Cover and Land Use Change, and Ecosystems chapters want to hear from you. What information do you need to prepare against disruptions to your livelihood and the places you roam?
- If you are an urban planner, a city official, an engineer, a transportation or utility worker, the authors of the Built Environment, Water, Energy, Transportation, and Adaptation chapters want to hear from you. What information do you need to understand the risks that must be built into your designs and plans for a thriving future?
- If you are a community organizer, an environmental justice advocate, part of a frontline community, or someone who cares deeply about the inequities compounded by the impacts of climate change, the Human Social Systems and Tribes and Indigenous Peoples chapters’ authors want to hear from you. Are you, your community, and the threats you face represented in these chapters?
- If you are a surfer, a sailor, a beach lover, in the shipping, fisheries, or tourism industry, the authors of the Oceans and Coastal Effects chapters want to hear from you. Do their chapters demonstrate both the risks of sea level rise and the opportunities for natural mitigation solutions?
- If you own a business, if you are in the military, if you work in the financial sector or on international development, if you are part of disaster response around the world, the Economics, Mitigation, International, and Complex Systems chapter authors want to hear from you. Do these chapters report on the sector interactions, multiple stressors, and shifting landscapes ahead?
- And if you are a teacher or a student, if you are a young person troubled by the future you see ahead of you and working to make your voice heard: this is your chance. These workshops are an opportunity to speak up about the impacts that concern you and to be a part of developing NCA5. If you are not ready to speak, then you may comment in writing. If you are not ready to write, then come listen and learn from others in your region. This is an excellent forum to experience civic engagement and scientific discourse, and to hear from authors who may have careers you are interested in.
No matter where you live or what you do, whether you participate as a representative of an organization or contribute your own personal experience, NCA5 will be improved by your valuable input.
The National Climate Assessment is meant to be an atlas that helps us understand risks and move forward into uncharted territory, knowing that we have the best available science at our fingertips. By incorporating input from diverse voices across the country, we can develop a National Climate Assessment that is accessible and relevant to everyone. Your voice can help us achieve that goal.