U.S. Global Change Research Program
The U.S. Global Change Research Program’s mission is “to build a knowledge base that informs human responses to climate and global change through coordinated and integrated federal programs of research, education, communication, and decision support.” The Program produces assessments of climate change and its implications, connects producers and users of the National Climate Assessment, and provides educational materials to support climate literacy and educational development.
The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was established with the passage of the Global Change Research Act in 1990. The USGCRP is charged with coordinating scientific research within the Federal Government on global change and its potential implications for natural environments and communities. Federal departments and agencies that participate in the USGCRP include:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Defense
- Department of Energy
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of the Interior
- Department of State
- Department of Transportation
- Environmental Protection Agency
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- National Science Foundation
- Smithsonian Institution
- Agency for International Development
Members from each of the aforementioned departments and agencies are on the Subcommittee on Global Change Research within the National Science and Technology Council.
Among the main activities of the USGCRP are the provisioning of assessment and educational materials for use by the public and private sectors.
As part of its mandate, the USGCRP produces global change impacts assessments every four years. The first—National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change in the United States—was completed in 2000. The most recent—Fourth National Climate Assessment—was released over two volumes in 2017 and 2018. These assessments include impacts by geographic region and economic sectors, along with potential adaptation responses and case studies where available. As part of this effort, the USGCRP created NCAnet, a network of over 225 organizations and agencies that serve as both users and producers of information for the National Climate Assessment.
The USGCRP maintains the Indicator Platform, which aggregates climate-related indicators from federally-supported, peer-reviewed data sources that track how conditions are changing and may inform management efforts. Example indicators include sea surface temperatures, terrestrial carbon storage, sea level rise, ocean chlorophyll concentrations, and Arctic sea ice extent.
In addition, the USGCRP (formerly the U.S. Climate Change Science Program) led the production of 21 Synthesis and Assessment Products (SAPs), released between 2004 and 2009, concerning climate trends, impacts, and management options. The SAPs concerned with climate change adaptation include:
- SAP 4.1 – Coastal Sensitivity to Sea‐Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid‐Atlantic Region
- SAP 4.2 – Thresholds of Climate Change in Ecosystems
- SAP 4.3 – The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources and Biodiversity
- SAP 4.4 – Preliminary Review of Adaptation Options for Climate‐Sensitive Ecosystems and Resources
- SAP 4.5 – Effects of Climate Change on Energy Production and Use in the United States
- SAP 4.6 – Analyses of the Effects of Global Change on Human Health and Welfare and Human Systems
- SAP 4.7 – Impacts of Climate Variability and Change on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure
The USGCRP created the Climate Change, Wildlife, and Wildlands Toolkit for Formal and Informal Educators in order to aid educators in communicating how climate change will affect the environment and how people can become “climate stewards.” The 2009 version of the Toolkit contains background information on climate change science, a video on projected climate impacts on wildlife and habitats, and 11 case studies in eco-regions throughout the U.S. containing regional impacts and adaptation strategies. The eco-regions include: Western Forests and Mountains, Western Coastline, Eastern Coastline, Gulf Coast, Pacific Islands, Caribbean, Great Lakes, Eastern Forests and Woodlands, Polar/Subpolar, Desert Arid, and Prairie Grasslands.
The USGCRP also released a guide called Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science, which contains details on climate change science and impacts and mitigation and adaptation strategies. The guide was developed through collaboration between federal agencies and non-governmental organizations.
Outcomes and Conclusions
The USGCRP is mandated to coordinate federal research on climate change and to assess global change in national assessments; the fifth National Climate Assessment is in development. In addition, the USGCRP participates in international collaborative efforts such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments, the World Climate Research Programme, and the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research.
Gregg, R. M. (2021). U.S. Global Change Research Program [Case study on a project of the U.S. Global Change Research Program]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: https://www.cakex.org/case-studies/us-global-change-research-program (Last updated October 2021)