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Beyond climate impacts: Knowledge gaps and process-based reflection on preparing a regional chapter for the Fourth National Climate Assessment


Michael Chang
Meghan Dalton
Scott Lowe
Christine May
Gary Morishima
Philip Mote
Alexander “Sascha” Petersen
Emily York



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Pacific Northwest Research Station


Weather, Climate, and Society. 12(3): 337-350.


The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) provided the most up-to-date understanding of climate change and its effects on the Earth system and on consequences for the United States, including impacts and associated risks, along with approaches to coping with these effects. It is intended to provide guidance to decision-makers in governmental sectors while, in practice, providing guidance for nongovernmental actors. Its regional and topical chapters highlight current knowledge, uncertainties, gaps in knowledge, and emerging threats. The current knowledge and gaps can help set a research agenda to inform future national, regional, and local climate assessments and thereby support better decision-making. The evolution of the assessment, including greater diversity in participation, and more grounded research in the Northwest represents a growing and deepening engagement with more diverse participants. This shift emphasizes the importance of diversity, inclusion, and a greater acknowledgment of multiple ways of knowing, including local and Indigenous knowledge. The Northwest chapter reflects the broader shift in framing from NCA3 to NCA4 to better understand how climate impacts pose risks to things of value in each sector or region. It considers climate impacts through five broad ways in which humans relate to the environment: natural resource economy; heritage and quality of life; water, transportation, and infrastructure; health and social systems; and frontline communities. We reflect on the assessment process and identify three recommendations to improve the assessment outcomes and processes: seek new ways to 1) engage diverse authors and stakeholders and 2) value and integrate epistemic plurality and different knowledge systems, and 3) when gaps are identified, promote research or data collection efforts designed to fill those gaps. Done well, the assessment can build support and knowledge to facilitate community action, leading to broader resilience.


Roesch-McNally, Gabrielle; Chang, Michael; Dalton, Meghan; Lowe, Scott; Luce, Charlie; May, Christine; Morishima, Gary; Mote, Philip; Petersen, Alexander “Sascha”; York, Emily. 2020. Beyond climate impacts: Knowledge gaps and process-based reflection on preparing a regional chapter for the Fourth National Climate Assessment. Weather, Climate, and Society. 12(3): 337-350.


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