Aligning Climate Assessments with Adaptation Decisions

Leader: Richard Moss
Wednesday, October 10, 12:00pm – 1:30pm

About the Reading

The reading was a draft chapter of the advisory committee report that Richard Moss has been working on with the Independent Advisory Committee on Applied Climate Assessment. The chapter focused on adding a component to the US National Climate Assessment that evaluates applications of science in specific adaptation (and mitigation) actions being contemplated and taken by states, cities, and other parties. The reading was distributed only to those who RSVP-ed.   

Discussion Summary

While the research community has produced a great deal of information about the causes and consequences of climate change, as it stands now, there is no scientific consensus on how people should use climate information to incorporate climate risk in investments, planning, and management. Following the release of the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this reading seminar focused on what Richard Moss described as an “assessment gap” in the approach to sustainability. While organizations like the IPCC and the US National Climate Assessment have monitored and analyzed research on climate change for some time, they have not yet undertaken the challenge of assessing the “state of practice” in how that knowledge is being used in climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. In preparation for the seminar, attendees read a chapter about this assessment gap from a larger manuscript being drafted by Moss and the Independent Advisory Committee on Applied Climate Assessment.

Attendees agreed that there is a need for greater interactivity between sustainability practitioners and climate scientists during the decision-making and implementation process.  One way to facilitate communication could be to convene long-term interdisciplinary “communities of practice” to explore commonalities in information needs and methods being used in adaptation and sustainability planning– challenges such as redesigning storm water infrastructure or improving preparedness for catastrophic wildfires. Such an approach would create understanding of information needs and obstacles confronted by practitioners, and increase confidence of users in how to apply climate and impacts science in processes such as engineering design, financial analysis, and monitoring results. Doing so could establish tested practices and help decision makers employ the different tools and practices available to them. Within the context of this new assessment framework, there will have to be a richer understanding of who exactly qualifies as a “practitioner.” Though private firms are often reluctant to disclose their environmental risk and modeling, they play a significant role alongside governments in the implementation of climate risk management practices.

Attendees also agreed that moving science upstream in the decision-making process would be useful in helping communities and governments take advantage of current climate knowledge as well as identifying use-inspired research gaps. There are opportunities for universities and research centers to engage in the process and help establish technical communities of practice and contribute expertise in other ways. Establishing this new process will not be easy. It will require some degree of capacity-building and professional training. Another challenge is establishing incentives that reward researchers to transition their work towards more locally-focused, applied science. Sustaining the production of an effective applied assessment may require funding that supports a portion of these researchers’ time as most in the academic community are funded to conduct traditional curiosity driven research.

Questions for Consideration

  • Does the idea of a “state of practice” assessment seem sensible and feasible?
  • What might the process of developing such an assessment look like, what questions should be asked within it, and who should be involved?
  • Where would the financial support come from to encourage greater scientific involvement in the way that climate-related practices are being implemented?