Aspirations and common tensions: Larger lessons from the third US national climate assessment

Susanne C. Moser, Jerry M. Melillo, Katharine Jacobs, Richard H. Moss, James l Buizer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The Third US National Climate Assessment (NCA3) was produced by experts in response to the US Global Change Research Act of 1990. Based on lessons learned from previous domestic and international assessments, the NCA3 was designed to speak to a broad public and inform the concerns of policy- and decision-makers at different scales. The NCA3 was also intended to be the first step in an ongoing assessment process that would build the nation’s capacity to respond to climate change. This concluding paper draws larger lessons from the insights gained throughout the assessment process that are of significance to future US and international assessment designers. We bring attention to process and products delivered, communication and engagement efforts, and how they contributed to the sustained assessment. Based on areas where expectations were exceeded or not fully met, we address four common tensions that all assessment designers must confront and manage: between (1) core assessment ingredients (knowledge base, institutional set-up, principled process, and the people involved), (2) national scope and subnational adaptive management information needs, (3) scope, complexity, and manageability, and (4) deliberate evaluation and ongoing learning approaches. Managing these tensions, amidst the social and political contexts in which assessments are conducted, is critical to ensure that assessments are feasible and productive, while its outcomes are perceived as credible, salient, and legitimate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpringer Climate
Number of pages15
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Publication series

NameSpringer Climate
ISSN (Print)2352-0698
ISSN (Electronic)2352-0701


  • Assessment designer
  • Assessment process
  • Author team
  • Climate service
  • Sustained assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Aspirations and common tensions: Larger lessons from the third US national climate assessment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Moser, S. C., Melillo, J. M., Jacobs, K., Moss, R. H., & Buizer, J. L. (2016). Aspirations and common tensions: Larger lessons from the third US national climate assessment. In Springer Climate (pp. 187-201). (Springer Climate). Springer.