U.S. Global Change Research Program
The United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) coordinates and integrates federal research on changes in the global environment and their implications for society. The program began as a presidential initiative in 1989 and was codified by Congress through the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-606), which called for “a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”
Thirteen departments and agencies participate in the USGCRP, which was known as the U.S. Climate Change Science Program from 2002 through 2008. The program is steered by the Subcommittee on Global Change Research under the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Sustainability, overseen by the Executive Office of the President, and facilitated by a National Coordination Office.
During the past two decades, the United States, through the USGCRP, has made the world’s largest scientific investment in the areas of climate change and global change research. Since its inception, the USGCRP has supported research and observational activities in collaboration with several other national and international science programs.
These activities led to major advances in several key areas including:
- Observing and understanding short- and long-term changes in climate, the ozone layer, and land cover;
- Identifying the impacts of these changes on ecosystems and society;
- Estimating future changes in the physical environment, and vulnerabilities and risks associated with those changes; and
- Providing scientific information to enable effective decision making to address the threats and opportunities posed by climate and global change.
These advances have been documented in numerous assessments commissioned by the program and have played prominent roles in international assessments such as those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Program results and plans are documented in the program’s annual report, Our Changing Planet.
Definition of global change
The Global Change Research Act of 1990 defines global change as: “Changes in the global environment (including alterations in climate, land productivity, oceans or other water resources, atmospheric chemistry, and ecological systems) that may alter the capacity of the Earth to sustain life.”
National Climate Assessment (NCA)
The USGCRP have produced four National Climate Assessments: NCA1 entitled “Climate Change Impacts on the United States: the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change” in 2000, NCA2 entitled “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” in 2009, NCA3 entitled “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” in 2014, and NCA4 in two volumes—Volume 1 entitled “Climate Science Special Report” (CSSR) released October 2017 and Volume 2 entitled “Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States” released on November 23, 2018.
The USGCRP Strategic Plan for 2012-2021 maintains an emphasis on advancing global change science and research, but it also calls for a new focus on ensuring our science informs real-world decisions and actions. Moving forward, the strategic goals of USGCRP are to:
- Advance Science (Study Climate and Global Change)–Advance scientific knowledge of the integrated natural and human components of the Earth system
- Inform Decisions (Prepare the Nation for Change)–Provide the scientific basis to inform and enable timely decisions on adaptation and mitigation
- Conduct Sustained Assessments (Assess the U.S. Climate)–Build sustained assessment capacity that improves the Nation’s ability to understand, anticipate, and respond to global change impacts and vulnerabilities
- Communicate and Educate (Make Our Science Accessible)–Advance communications and education to broaden public understanding of global change and develop the scientific workforce of the future
The USGCRP has been guided over time by the following strategic plans.
- 2012: National Global Change Research Plan 2012-2021
- 2008: Revised Research Plan: An Update to the 2003 Strategic Plan
- 2003: Strategic Plan for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program
- 1989: Our Changing Planet: The FY 1990 Research Plan
- 1989: Our Changing Planet: A U.S. Strategy for Global Change Research
In 2003, the program undertook a series of “listening sessions” with a variety of stakeholder groups around the country to gain a better understanding of the emerging needs for climate information and ways in which federal research might be shaped to meet those needs. Stakeholder engagement that is a central element of the program’s national assessment
The USGCRP’s thirteen participating agencies coordinate their work through Interagency Working Groups (IWGs) that span a wide range of interconnected issues of climate and global change. The IWGs address major components of the Earth’s environmental and human systems, as well as cross-disciplinary approaches for addressing issues under the purview of the USGCRP. The IWGs are composed of representatives from federal departments and agencies responsible for activities in each area. The IWGs are overseen by the Subcommittee on Global Change Research.
Interagency Working Groups:
- Integrated Observations
- Process Research Coordinating Committee
- Communications and Education (ICE-t)
- Interagency Group on Integrated Modeling (IGIM)
- Carbon Cycle
- Social Science Task Force
- Adaptation Science
- International Research and Cooperation
- Global Change Information System 
- Interagency National Climate Assessment (INCA)
- Interagency Crosscutting Group on Climate Change and Human Health (CCHHG)
Decision support activities—including the development of assessments and other tools and information to support adaptation and mitigation decision making—are coordinated in a distributed fashion across the program and are part of the mandate of all IWGs and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research.
National Climate Assessments have been integral components of USGCRP since its inception. Along with its strategic role as coordinator of Federal global change research, USGCRP is required by the Global Change Research Act of 1990 to conduct a National Climate Assessment (NCA). The NCA is an important resource for understanding and communicating climate change science and impacts in the United States.
- “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on February 18, 2013. Retrieved May 7, 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- “US Government Agencies Participating in the USGCRP”. Agencies. USGCRP. 20 October 2008. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
- National Assessment Synthesis Team (2001), Climate Change Impacts on the United States: the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (PDF), Report for the US Global Change Research Program, Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, p. 541, ISBN 0521000750, retrieved November 23, 2018CS1 maint: Date and year (link) The report was submitted in October 2000 and published in 2001.
- Karl, Thomas R.; Melillo, Jerry M.; Peterson, Thomas C., eds. (2009). Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States (Report). Cambridge University Press. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-521-14407-0.
- Melillo, Jerry M.; Richmond, Terese (T.C.); Yohe, Gary W., eds. (2014). Climate Change Impacts in the United States (Report). The Third National Climate Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program. p. 841. doi:10.7930/J0Z31WJ2.
- Wuebbles, D. J.; Fahey, D. W.; Hibbard, K. A.; Dokken, D. J.; Stewart, B. C.; Maycock, T. K., eds. (October 2017). Climate Science Special Report (CSSR) (PDF) (Report). Fourth National Climate Assessment. 1. Washington, DC: U.S. Global Change Research Program. p. 470. doi:10.7930/J0J964J6.
- Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States (Report). National Climate Assessment. 2. November 23, 2018. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
- National Global Change Research Plan 2012-2021: A Strategic Plan for the U. S. Global Change Research Program
- 2008 Revised Research Plan: An Update to the 2003 Strategic Plan
- 2003 Strategic Plan for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program
- 1989 Our Changing Planet: The FY 1990 Research Plan
- 1989 Our Changing Planet: A U.S. Strategy for Global Change Research
- USGCRP Listening Sessions
- Link to First National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change
- Ma, Xiaogang; Fox, Peter; Tilmes, Curt; Jacobs, Katharine; Waple, Anne (2014). “Capturing provenance of global change information”. Nature Climate Change. 4: 409–413. doi:10.1038/nclimate2141.
- U.S. Global Change Research Program, GlobalChange.gov – Official Site