The Climate Impacts Group was created in 1995 on the basis of a contract with the Office of Global Programs (OGP) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is the first of the Regional Integrated Scientific Assessment (RISA) Program's evaluations of the impacts of climate variability and climate change on specific regions of the United States. The idea underlying our approach was conceived as a result of Edward Miles' participation in Working Group II (Impacts) of the second assessment conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 1993-1995. As a result of his experience, Miles thought that while global assessment of the impacts of climate change could provide a broad picture of general trends which were likely, information which could be used for policy development would require assessments at much smaller space scales. Miles further assumed that ecologically defined regions, like large river basins, would prove to be much better suited for policy relevant assessments intergrating the natural and social sciences and law in a tightly coordinated series of investigations.
At that time, the initial emphasis was on climate change and eight sectors
were identified for analysis. It proved to be very difficult to secure
the funding for a project of so large a scope, but negotiations with OGP
led to a shift in emphasis from climate change to climate variability
and a narrowing of the scope to four sectors rather than eight, i.e.,
hydrology/water resources, forests and forestry, aquatic ecosystems, and
the coastal zone. These sectors were all assumed to be highly sensitive
to changes in climate on different timescales.
A key characteristic of CIG's assessment approach is that we use our analysis of past variations in climate to develop a solid intellectual foundation for evaluating the potential impacts of future climate change. Past climate variations provide real world examples of the consequences of altered climate conditions - for both natural and human systems. By specifying the processes through which natural variations in regional climate were manifested as impacts on natural and human systems, we establish a basis for suggesting how the same systems may respond to future climate change. By evaluating how human systems can adapt to better cope with or respond to climate variability, we can suggest how these same systems might adapt to future climate change.
For more information about our Integrated Assessment research approach, please visit the Integrated Assessment Theme Page.