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Climate Science and Effects

Science assessments provide the state of a science for climate effects in agricultural, forested, and rural systems. They are written by diverse teams of multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral experts. Assessments draw from the peer-reviewed scientific literature and undergo extensive review by experts, stakeholders, and the public. USDA is a contributing member of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which conducts the U.S. National Climate Assessment and other climate-related science assessments. USDA also contributes expert authors, reviewers, and editors for reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Climate Indicators for Agriculture
The USDA Climate Change Indicators for Agriculture report provides national, regional, and local information to support effective decision making by U.S. agricultural producers, resource managers, and other agricultural system stakeholders.  This set of 20 indicators identifies high-priority agricultural and climate data products while providing the basis for tracking climate change as it plays out across American working lands, toward devising adaptive operational responses.

4th National Climate Assessment
The National Climate Assessment (NCA) assesses the science of climate change and variability and its impacts across the United States, now and throughout this century. USDA experts contribute as authors and reviewers of the NCA.  Our program managed USDA’s participation in the report, as well as in decisions regarding its scope, communications, and ongoing assessment activities.  Agriculture, forests, and certain natural resources are mandatory sectors that are considered under the NCA.  The 2018 NCA4 concluded that climate change effects include “Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States,” “…more frequent extreme weather events will increase the frequency and magnitude of severe ecological disturbances, driving rapid (months to years) and often persistent changes in forest structure and function…,” and “Residents in rural communities often have limited capacity to respond to climate change impacts, due to poverty and limitations in community resources. Communication, transportation, water, and sanitary infrastructure are vulnerable to disruption from climate stressors. Achieving social resilience to these challenges would require increases in local capacity to make adaptive improvements in shared community resources.”  The NCA4 breaks down effects for each of these sectors by region, where additional information can be found.

2nd State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR2)
The 2nd State of the Carbon Cycle Report was completed in November 2018. SOCCR2 provides a current state-of-the-science assessment of the carbon cycle in North America and its connection to climate and society.

Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System
This USDA report examines how changes in climate affect agricultural production, food processing/packaging, wholesaling/retailing, storage, transportation, trade, consumption, and disposal in the globally-integrated food system, and how those changes influence food security domestically and abroad.

Climate Hubs Vulnerability Assessments
The USDA Climate Hubs have produced vulnerability assessments based on regional agricultural and forest ecosystems. 

Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation
This 2013 report by USDA is a comprehensive syntheses of the scientific literature on climate change effects and adaptation strategies for U.S. agriculture.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The IPCC prepares comprehensive Assessment Reports about climate change causes, effects, and response options. The IPCC also produces Special Reports, which assess specific issues, as well asMethodology Reports, which provide practical guidelines for the preparation of greenhouse gas inventories.

Effects of Climatic Variability and Change on Forest Ecosystems: A Comprehensive Science Synthesis for the U.S. Forest Sector
This 2012 report by the Forest Service is a scientific assessment of the current condition and likely future condition of forest resources in the United States relative to climatic variability and change. It serves as the U.S. Forest Service forest sector technical report for the National Climate Assessment and includes descriptions of key regional issues and examples of a risk-based framework for assessing climate-change effects.