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SCAN's Initiatives and Assessments

SCAN works in partnership with a network of practitioners, scientists, government agencies, nonprofits, and businesses. SCAN's goal is not to take on projects independently, but add to the existing capacity of organizations involved in this work. As a result, all of the projects below are jointly occurring with or through these partnerships. This page is just getting going and will be updated frequently! 


Assessing Climate Information Based on its Use

Typically climate information is evaluated based on its 'quality' (does it represent the real climate system well [accuracy], or is it objective and unbiased). And often climate assessments focus on our understanding of how the climate works and what impacts it may produce under different future scenarios.


However, rarely do we evaluate climate information based on how we need or intend to use it. For example, what climate information is more or less useful for flood management or for building design? How do we use scenarios for those purposes and how do we understand 'quality' in these cases. The ultimate goal of this project is to better assist practitioners in a range of circumstances better decide what climate information meets their needs. 


This project is joining forces with the Aspen Global Change Institute to host a series of initial, virtual workshops to design how we might usefully evaluate climate information for use in planning and implementation of climate action.


Coastal Preparedness

SCAN has been working with partners to develop and launch a coastal resilience 'community of practice'.  Dr. Richard Moss, while a Fellow at the Andlinger Center at Princeton University, has been working with a coastal adaptation and assessment advisory committee to develop a project that will engage both practitioners and scientists. The goal is to better specify information needs related to coastal inundation and to evaluate use of modeling and scenarios that integrates sea level rise, surge/wave action, local and inland storm precipitation/runoff, and other factors that affect the feasibility of current land use and settlement patterns. The team has been invited to submit a full proposal for part of the project to NOAA.


Ecosystem-Based Adaptation

This project is awaiting final word for funding by the US Department of the Interior/Climate Adaptation Science Centers, and is joint with the University of Arizona. More details soon!


Independent Advisory Report on Sustaining Assessment

This project concluded in 2019 and resulted in national guidance on broadening and sustaining climate assessment so that it might serve a broader array of stakeholders with credible and usable information. The reports resulting from this work are below. See also the 'History of SCAN' page on this site:


Practice of Assessment Working Group

SCAN has been working as part of an informal group beginning to assess the variety of climate assessment activities and approaches for cities, states, regions and beyond. There is a limited amount of guidance for states and cities to consider their options and make decisions for how to conduct assessments and what information resources to rely on. SCAN intends to be part of providing more resources for those looking to conduct sub-national scale assessments. 

Urban Competitiveness 


On May 20th and 27th, 2020, SCAN and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) hosted a two-part meeting on Exploring Economic Competitiveness in a Changing Climate: Emerging Considerations for Cities.” Participants from local government and industry shared perspectives and experiences on how climate change can impact cities’ economic competitiveness. 


A industry panel that included Nora Wittstruck and Paul Munday from S&P Global Ratings, Katharine Burgess, from the Urban Land Institute, and Greg Lowe, from Aon was followed up by breakout sessions on real estate, tax bases, and bond ratings. And on the second day of the workshop, city representatives discussed how their communities have taken a proactive role in managing climate risk to increase competitiveness. A panel discussion included  Andria McClellan from the City of Norfolk, Daniel Hamilton from the, City of Oakland, and Chris Castro, City of Orlando. 


Many issues were raised during the workshop, including data needs to inform ratings agencies, the concerns of lending institutions of physical exposure to underinsured assets, and the benefits and difficulties of properly pricing climate risk in real estate. A full summary of the workshop will be forthcoming and we’ll link to it here next month. 


C2ES is conducting research on this topic that will incorporate input from this workshop. When the outcomes of the research are published in a few months, we will share it here as well. SCAN is planning to co-host follow-up discussions to explore priority topics around competitiveness, adaptation financing, and climate assessment needs

Community Science


'Citizen-' or 'community science' refers to public participation in the scientific process, usually in an open collaboration. Community roles can include large-scale data collection, local contextualization of data, quality assessment and assurance, and co-creation of research questions and projects. There is enormous potential for 'real world' community science to lend innovative and broad-scale applied knowledge to the climate challenges of adaptation and mitigation. SCAN, with its partners, has done fairly extensive investigation into the potential for community science to expand and improve applied climate assessment with the goal of improving information quality and utility for practitioners. SCAN hopes to share early insight via articles in the near future. 



Identifying and using key Indicators are critical to supporting planning and to evaluate the effectiveness of climate-related actions, particularly at the local level. The need for such indicators is only growing as investors and other decision-makers seek to understand the effectiveness of potential interventions. 


To support existing applications of indicators (e.g. USEPA 2016, USEPA 2017, STAR Communities 2019, ND-GAIN 2019), research is needed to determine what indicators are useful to local communities for aiding adaptation and to explore whether these indicators can be scaled up (aggregated) to provide useful information to support national scale assessments and decision-making. Research could evaluate local capacity for developing and using indicators, depending on city/community size and other factors, and how that affects the number and type of indicators prioritized and selected, as well as their ultimate usefulness for supporting adaptation decisions. Likewise, research would help to determine the usefulness of national-scale indicators for providing information on vulnerability and adaptation effectiveness at local and regional scales. The assessment process could also play a role in supporting data collection and aggregation, once useful indicators are identified. Methods for evaluating the scalability of the indicators need to be developed.


SCAN intends using the applied assessment process to examine the need for and use of locally-developed indicators, and to identify potential convergence between national and local to regional scale indicators that could shape the future direction of a National Climate Indicator System. One option is to focus on urban infrastructure indicators as an initial test case, given their widespread relevance and potential for application, as noted above. This pilot activity could include: 

  • Take stock of existing climate indicator efforts for urban contexts to evaluate current applications and outcomes, capacity requirements, lessons learned, constraints and opportunities, what indicators are important but missing, and other questions;

  • Extend ongoing work on indicators and partner with local communities of varying sizes and contexts to establish a shared framework for further research and assessment;

  • Conduct pilot urban infrastructure indicator studies using the shared framework, focusing on feasibility, applicability, and potential for integration across local, regional, and national scales;

  • Analyze results from pilot studies and other ongoing initiatives to identify useful and feasible approaches for different local and regional settings, and to inform changes to the NCIS with the objective of linking and integrating local, regional, and national scale indicators and supporting their transferability to different areas across different scales, to the extent feasible.


Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) offers opportunities to change how society responds to climate risks. As cities, social systems, and infrastructures grow more complex, and as climates continues to change, AI can reveal impacts, insights, and options that would be difficult to otherwise discover. Recent advances have touched three broad areas of climate: earth-systems science and modeling, assessment and management of risks and adaptation, and mitigation. Along with the advances, are of course risks and challenges, including public perception and transparency of data and processes, and these will need to be thoughtfully explored and addressed, including development of ethical principles in the application of AI. 


In climate science, ‘big data’ come from satellite remote sensors and large-scale numerical models and are often owned by government agencies or laboratories and openly shared. Adaptation-specific data, such as those for critical infrastructures and key resources, may be spread across government agencies as well as public and private sectors, often with privacy or security concerns.  Research in AI is only beginning to get translated to real-world applications, which in turn are becoming more prominent as tools for community and regional resilience. This emergence is likely to have profound implications for our ability to improve translational climate science, manage climate risks, and inform mitigation policy. However, it is important to continually assess where AI tools are most effective, practical, and sustainable, and where and why gaps remain unfilled. SCAN proposes to pursue a number of opportunities for the applied assessment process:

  • Convening and developing partnerships that include academia, the private and public sectors, and other groups to map and support the key integrators of technical, application, and data science that are related to climate risk management;

  • Assessing actual usage in decision contexts by conducting a thorough evaluation of the current applications, risks, and opportunities for AI in climate adaptation, including the perspective of practitioners and citizens;

  • Identifying applications that can be conducted in a test-bed mode to provide the greatest advancement in shared, scalable, actionable information; and 

  • Preparing a special report, potentially produced jointly with the federal National Climate Assessment process, to synthesize knowledge and identify productive frontiers for further development and deployment of AI in climate risk management.

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