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Jorgenson Chosen to Co-Author National Climate Assessment

Renowned environmental sociologist Andrew Jorgenson has been chosen by the United States Global Change Research Program to write the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5). 

Jorgenson, who is also a professor and chair in the sociology department, will work alongside other interdisciplinary researchers both in the social and natural sciences to write the report, which will analyze the impacts of global climate change on the United States. 

“I focus on the drivers of climate change in the research I do,” Jorgenson said. “In the National Climate Assessment, we are not doing new research. We are summarizing and synthesizing a large existing body of research as researchers ourselves.”

Jorgenson spoke about the lengthy three-year process required to write the NCA5. 

“We dedicate a lot of resources to this three-year long process, due to all the iterations that are involved,” he said. 

The research will begin with the team creating an outline of the chapters, which will then be submitted to federal agencies for feedback, he said. They will then send the report back a second time to get comments from various other researchers, respond to them, and send the revised outline back again. This third time, according to Jorgenson, is particularly significant. 

“The third time is really interesting because it is open to feedback and comments from the general public,” Jorgenson said. “The intended audience for this is everyone. It is not just policy makers and politicians in D.C.”

One of the main goals for Jorgenson and his fellow researchers is to get the public involved in this report.

“We want to make sure we are making these accessible for the general public,” he said. “But all these things were just for the outline. We go through this process for every draft.”

Because the process for writing this report is lengthy, Jorgenson said he hopes to ensure the research continues to remain relevant. 

“It is important for us to be familiar with how the science and research is evolving to make sure we are keeping this document as up to date, thorough, and comprehensive as possible,” Jorgenson said.

The goal of this report, in addition to making climate research more publicly accessible, is also to shape policy decisions based on the state of the environment. 

“We’re very clearly tasked with synthesizing the state of the science so policy can be more informed by it,” he said. “We hope it better informs policy in the public sector as well as policy in the private sector.”

Jorgenson specified, though, that the researchers are not allowed to make policy recommendations in the article. 

“We hope we will be a big part in helping them make solutions, so they may think about how they can do things differently,” he said. “We, however, are not supposed to make policy recommendations in the document. We are supposed to leave that to policy makers and stakeholders.”

With his background in sociology, Jorgenson emphasized the unique perspectives that he and other social scientist researchers give to this report, as well as the necessity of having social scientists contribute. 

“We are tasked with thinking about the justice dimensions of this, grounded in the research,” he said. “What are the implications and unequal distributions of the consequences of climate change for different populations? Not everyone has equally contributed to the climate crisis, but also the impacts of the climate crisis … are unequal and unjust.”

Featured Image by Nicole Vagra / Heights Staff

October 28, 2021