Climate assessments for local action
Global and national climate assessments are comprehensive, authoritative sources of information about observed and projected climate changes and their impacts on society. These assessments follow well-known, accepted procedures to create credible, legitimate, salient sources of information for policy- and decision-making, build capacity for action, and educate the public. While there is a great deal of research on assessments at global and national scales, there is little research or guidance for assessment at the US state scale. To address the need for guidance for state climate assessments (SCAs), the authors combined insights from the literature, firsthand experience with four SCAs, and interviews with individuals involved in 10 other SCAs to identify challenges, draw lessons, and point out future research needs to guide SCAs. SCAs are challenged by sparseness of literature and data, insufficient support for ongoing assessment, short timelines, limited funding, and surprisingly, little deliberate effort to address legitimacy as a concern. Lessons learned suggest SCAs should: consider credibility, legitimacy, and salience as core criteria; happen at regular intervals; identify assessment scope, resource allocation and trade-offs between generation of new knowledge, engagement, and communication upfront; and, leverage boundary organizations. Future research should build on ongoing efforts to advance assessments, examine the effectiveness of different SCA approaches, and seek to inform both broad and specific guidance for SCAs.